Rumours of gaming's death have been greatly exaggerated

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Console gaming is dead! The industry as a whole can’t survive! We’re heading for another crash! That’s pretty much the rhetoric that was being spewed by large sections of both the gaming media and the press as a whole earlier last year. Whilst I agree to a point with one of these (more on that later), the extremely successful launch of the new consoles from Microsoft and Sony has at least allayed some of these worries for the meantime. However, the new isn’t all rosy, and I’m going to take a look at why…

It would seem that the general feeling of “consoles are doomed” spun off from Nintendo’s rocky start with the Wii U. The console is floundering in many markets, and seems to be written off by an increasingly large section of the gaming community, in spite of a growing library of games ranging from “interesting” to “flat-out brilliant”. In fact, the Wii U had arguably the best lineup of games last Christmas, but was totally outsold by Microsoft and Sony’s consoles, to the point where there are now more PS4’s than Wii U’s in the UK. Console gaming is far from dead, it’s just had a lot of muddled messaging from confused people in the media for a while.

Let’s take the “flagging sales” of the 360 and PS3 that were oft-reported over the last couple of years. I said this at the time, and I’ll say it now; what’s surprising about this news? Both consoles were well into their life cycle. Their successors were obviously on the horizon (to the point where both machines’ unveilings were heavily rumoured at E3 2012). The problem, and all of the reporting, came when the Wii U failed to make the splash that it’s predecessor did. My question again, is why is this a surprise? The Wii was an unprecedented success that absolutely nobody saw coming. The kind of people who bought the Wii who saw it as a fad did not, sadly, get suckered into gaming like the majority of the hardcore crowd thought they would. When the Wii U was unveiled, marketplace confusion reigned supreme, and to some extent, it still does. Nintendo’s messaging was clear enough if you knew the industry, but it wasn’t as straightforward as “Wave this, the little cartoon dude does it on screen”. It really is a shame, the Wii U has a growing library of great titles. Nintendo’s first party output is consistently great, and it deserves to be a success.

Cut to almost a year later. The PS4 and Xbox One launched within a week of each other. They promptly sold over 7 million units combined in under 6 weeks. Console gaming’s dead? Not on your life. Microsoft’s disastrous pre-launch sideshow had still led to an impressive 3 million sales. That’s more than the first 6 weeks of the PS3 and Xbox 360 combined. Sony’s launch eclipsed even that, but not to the runaway extent that some predicted. I was genuinely surprised at the numbers that were posted by both companies, and it was heartening to see that interest in the industry is still sky high. Make no mistake, these consoles are going to sell bucketloads, and that can only be a good thing for consumers, and the industry as a whole. With the PC space seeing a huge resurgence thanks to the indie scene and the price/performance gap becoming smaller, it really is a great time to be a gamer.

So why did I say that I agreed with one of those statements above? Put simply, I think we’re due a crash. Not on the same scale as the horrific one in the 80’s, but something’s got to give. Companies are ploughing more and more money into games that have to sell ridiculous numbers to break even, and at the same time see no ill in closing down entire studios. Square Enix’s predictions for the likes of Tomb Raider and Hitman were wildly off the mark, and were ridiculed when they were made public. I’d really like to see companies taking a few more risks, but it’s going to be incredibly difficult now that game budgets are so high. I really do think we’re going to see something soon where smaller games become the main focus of consoles. We’re already starting to see the likes of Don’t Starve and Outlast being a major push for Sony through PS+, the former being able to provide countless hours of unique gameplay for a very low price point (Or indeed free if you’re a subscriber). I’m itching for the day that everyone stops pumping out annual sequels, but at the same time it’s a necessary evil to stuff the coffers with enough cash to hopefully find the next big thing. It’s an unwinnable situation for the big publishers, but I hope a way out can be found soon.

In the meantime, I’ll sit back and wait for my hobby to die, just like I have at the turn of each generation before. Because I feel like it’s got a lot of life left in it as yet!

(This is the first in what I hope will be regular pieces again. Once again, thanks to all of those who left comments and emailed back in September, things are finally looking up, and 2014’s going to be great! I’ve also got a few more interesting plans in the pipeline for content that should prove to be interesting for all!)

Editor-In-Chief - NGB. Started writing for NGB in 2013, 3 years later I was running the show. I love what we do here, if you want to get involved, get in touch! PSN/Xbox LIVE/Steam - Winstano

@winstano

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