So-nyr, and yet So-far…

Speaking of shifting to devices, there’s another industry teetering to massive change: Gaming.

The era of console dominance (and thus, a console arms race) was yesteryear; the industry now gets it.  Almost everyone in the target market has a small and/or mobile “device” (now part of some platform), which is nearing console capability with each rev.  The other side of the pincer is software publishing; a good 3D game is difficult (to make, and to market), and the number of game houses is consolidating toward unsustainability.  Something’s got to give, and startups plan on giving it to the established companies from both sides of the pincers.

On the hardware side, Sony admits this.  They felt they had to buy out Ericsson to form Sony Mobile, and compete with Samsung and Apple.  Meanwhile AppleTV is thiiis close to being a basic game console, and we don’t know how the putative ‘TV from Apple’ fits into this strategy.  More definite is Ouya’s miniconsole.  There are similar mini-ventures, and Valve’s ‘Steam Box’- not its final name, since there will likely be ‘Steam Boxen’ after the test units are returned.

Note that the Ouya and its kin are basically phone hardware on your coffee table; the AppleTV is also phone/tablet guts in your living room.  Valve’s various test units are all basically PCs in living-room packages.  I first noticed the issue with the PS3’s release price: WHOA.  Too steep for me, and most people: Sony was targeting hardcore gamers, but leaving most young families to Nintendo.  Sticking to phone/tablet technology, on the other hand, keeps the price down and the market large (which itself keeps prices down).

On the software side, EA is off its guard, and laying off people left and right.  The field is consolidating around a small number of franchises, each bigger and bigger.  The gains of GTA and Call of Duty apparently came at the expense of (actually) new titles.  Without fresh blood (behind the scenes, not on the screens) an industry stagnates, and eventually collapses on itself.  Those new programmers are increasingly heading to startups, focusing on simpler phone/tablet platforms with broader appeal and fewer barriers to entry.

I’ll demonstrate this by stating the PS4 release has been pushed back in Japan- its home market.  Not enough top-shelf, exclusive games in Japanese are ready to justify the new console.  Marketing to Japanese customers is the barrier that (temporarily) broke the camel’s back.

Of course, that PS4 will be released eventually, just like consoles will continue- no tech actually dies.  Rather, as above Sony will shift to multiple screens on multiple devices.  The Japanese market has the Vita TV, which we don’t- from this point of view it’s Sony’s benchwarmer.  And even though the Xperia Play didn’t get huge, Sony’s still trying other portables and smartphones, while developing for other makers’ devices.  They don’t plan on being the next BlackBerry.  The PS4 itself is claimed to be cheaper than the PS3 was at release, even before adjusting for inflation- sounds like someone’s learning.

Playstations- console or portable- won’t actually die.  But gaming, as an industry if not as a pastime, will get a lot more interesting, whether or not it will come from Sony.

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2 thoughts on “So-nyr, and yet So-far…

  1. Pingback: Leaving the Blind Cyclops | cableflux

  2. Pingback: Legwork Without Legs | cableflux

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