Are Consoles Becoming a Dying Breed Because of Emerging Mobile Technology?


Peter Vesterbacka, the CEO for Angry Birds developer Rovio, made a bold statement this past week on an SXSW (South by South West) panel. To put it simple, he claims that video game consoles are a dying breed and that mobile devices are taking over as the new Alpha male. Luckily Tero Ojanpera, the EVP (Executive Vice President) of Nokia whom was on the panel as well, defended gamers by saying “there is still a place for consoles, because gamers aren’t going to plug tablet devices into their televisions.” Before I put in my 2 cents, I will defend Vesterbacka for a moment by saying that I think his comment was a rebuttal to Nintendo’s CEO Saturo Iwata’s comment at GDC (Game Developer’s Conference) stating that $0.99 games were “disposable.”

Now before I start my rant, here is what Vesterbacka had to say:

“I think the center of gravity [in gaming] has really shifted so it’s now clearly mobile. That’s where most of the innovation, most of the growth is. Consoles are really a dying breed, I think. And a good example — again, you can’t do one of these without mentioning Apple and the iPad. You see the lines outside the store here … They launched that a year ago, or less than a year ago, now you have the iPad 2, then 3, then 4, and so on. … The thing is, it’s very competitive. And then you have all of the other tablets, all of that. I think that tablets are killing the consoles. That’s where games will be played. … We will see probably see four generations of tablets before there is a new console, if ever there is a new console.”

That was his main comment, which he backed up with other points that I will address later on.

Being a fairly hardcore gamer myself, I will definitely side with Nintendo’s Iwata, as I do feel he is correct. Few and far between are 99 cent apps/games that stick around for a while. Obviously games like Angry Birds and Bejeweled will live on but I can’t think of any others that really stick out. Vesterbacka, in my opinion, couldn’t be further from the truth. Consoles are here to stay especially with household names like Call of Duty, Uncharted and Halo that are only available on consoles (and PC). Granted, I do agree that tablets and mobile technology is gaining a large momentum, but it won’t hinder the dominance that is the console market. So far this year, the Xbox 360 has sold 50 million units worldwide and Playstation 3 has sold 48 million unites worldwide.

Okay, let’s take a step back for a moment and indulge this claim. I have a Kinect and I don’t foresee a peripheral like that being integrated to use with tablet. Yes, I do know that some tablets have a forward facing camera, but seriously? What am I going to do, lean my tablet against the wall and try to play Dance Central on a 10in screen? I highly doubt that. Vesterbacka also stated that the price point of a console game being anywhere from $40 up to $60 is too much especially when compared to the price of a mobile game. Time to put it in perspective.

Angry Birds sells for $0.99 and cost around $140,000 to develop and had a return of around $70 million so far. Call of Duty Black Ops sells for and average price of $65, but cost between $18-$28 million to make (there is no exact amount made known to the public as of yet, but is rumored to be around this amount) and had an opening day return of approximately $420 million. Think about the time development each took and Call of Duty outweighs Angry Birds by a considerable margin. Now throw in game content, story and multiplayer and you can clearly see the reason that there is a distinct difference in price. Angry Birds is clearly a casual game while Call of Duty is more for the hardcore gamer, which brings me to my next point.

Vesterbacka argues that mobile games carry the incorrect connotation of “casual games” and states that hardcore gamers can also become addicted to these mobile games in a similar fashion to console games. I’ll let that sink in for a moment. First off, I’m going to throw it out there that he definitely is not helping the video game industry by claiming video games are addicting; an uphill battle that has and is still currently being fought. Secondly, just because a hardcore gamer is playing a game, does NOT make that game hardcore. When you think of hardcore games, titles like Killzone, Halo and Call of Duty (yes, I know I’ve only used FPS’s, but they’re the easiest to use as an example) come to mind. You spend hours upon hours grinding and honing in your skills. Games like Angry Birds and Bejeweled can never carry an association of being hardcore game for the fact that those types of games are used to calm down and relax to. After a long session of playing an actual hardcore game, players usually unwind with a simple, casual game.

All in all, Vesterbacka’s attempt to refute Iwata’s statement that $0.99 games are “disposable” doesn’t have a leg to stand on. He makes some interesting points, but clearly shows his ignorance to an industry that has been around for many years. In the end, Iwata is correct and that apps/mobile games will come and go, but the consoles are king and is here to stay.

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