We relish bad news like a kitten does catnip. As a species, it’s deep coded into our genetic makeup to pay utmost attention to the darkest parts of life and brush the positives under the carpet. Newspapers lead with murders rather than acts of bravery, television bulletins push cheerful clips to the tail-end of their schedules, and online gaming communities spend more time being downbeat about their preferred pastime than genuinely optimistic. It’s unsurprising, then, that the majority of the media has spent the past ten months writing off the hopes of the home console market – but are platforms such as the PlayStation 4 really a dying breed?
The infectious excitement that’s surrounded the launch of Sony’s next generation system over the past couple of weeks suggests that dedicated gaming devices are anything but on the way out. An elated platform holder announced earlier in the month that it had sold an unprecedented one million PS4 systems in North America alone, a figure that was toppled by Microsoft just seven days later with the Xbox One. Video clips seeping out of Europe over the past 48 hours or so indicate that we’re likely to see more record-breaking success stories soon – after all, these outstanding scenes in Germany don’t lie.
The argument that consoles are fading revolves around the idea that smartphones, social networks, and tablets are filling their space – but we’re not convinced that that discussion necessarily holds weight. There’s absolutely no doubt that the relatively new pieces of must-own hardware have changed the way that we interact with technology on a day-to-day basis, but have they also radically overhauled the way that we play? While there’s great content to be found on the iOS and Android app stores, we’re not convinced that the market as a whole is gravitating towards Angry Birds and Cut the Rope.
In some scenarios, the sceptics may feel like they have a case. The outrageous success of the Nintendo Wii was built upon the appeal of its casual software, and it’s certainly possible that those consumers may have scattered to the world that’s being forged out of microtransactions in social network smashes such as Candy Crush Saga. But the success of the Japanese company’s motion controlled console was always an anomaly, so why are we treating the abandonment of the mainstream market as supporting evidence for an otherwise imaginary trend? It strikes us that the addition of online distribution platforms and new revenue streams has allowed the industry to inflate, rather than collapse in on itself.
And that growth expands to the console market too, regardless of what the cynics may lead you to believe. In a year in which new consoles are breaking launch sales records, Grand Theft Auto V also flashed a middle finger at any suggestions of an oncoming malaise. The open world opus managed to accrue $800 million within 24 hours, smashing Call of Duty: Black Ops II’s previous record by some margin. The console title went on to accumulate $1 billion within three days of its release, making it the fastest selling entertainment product ever made. Not bad for a title that subscribes to an archaic model that’s purportedly on the cusp of being wiped out.
A critic may argue that the latest instalments in blockbuster brands such as Assassin’s Creed and Battlefield are trending down, but this data alone doesn’t necessarily paint a macabre picture for the future of console games as a whole. There are dozens of reasons why Ubisoft and EA’s newest hits may be struggling to match the performance of their predecessors, and it probably has more to do with Rockstar Games' abovementioned epic than the fact that the market is dying out.
Granted, it’s far too early to discuss of the success of Sony and Microsoft's machines when we’re only several days removed from their release, but unless the stream of high-quality software starts to slow, we can’t see the industry’s success suddenly coming to an end. Cynics may argue that the strong launch sales will slip once the early adopters are on board, but while a lull in the first half of next year is all but inevitable, there's no evidence to suggest that the sales will not pickup again. In fact, the feverish demand for next generation hardware indicates otherwise.
That's not to say that the console market as we know it will never change – but this is more likely to be a result of technological progress rather than a decline in interest in dedicated gaming machines. Sony’s high-profile acquisition of Gaikai was not an extortionate solution to the PS4’s backward compatibility conundrums, but more a long-term look towards a future where PlayStation lives in the cloud. However, we won’t reach that point until broadband speeds improve and bandwidth caps are eased – a progression that has crawled to a halt swifter than any system's sales. Until that day, we recommend waiting for the sector to cease smashing sales records on a regular basis before declaring it dead. Either that, or continue to bury your head in the sand.
Do you think that console gaming is dying out, or do you agree that the PS4’s early success has put paid to that presumptuous speculation? Are you concerned that this may be the last generation of traditional hardware, or are you excited about what the future may bring? Stave off extinction in the comments section below.
Do you think that dedicated gaming devices are dying out? (69 votes)
Yes, I think the PS4 is going to struggle once early adopters obtain the device
I’m honestly not sure what I think at the moment
No, I think the PS4’s early success shows the console market is alive and well
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