September NPDThe numbers:
Cumulatively, hardware sales are basically flat compared to last year. This is better than I expected, actually--I thought there would be a drop in the range of 10%.
Maybe that's more a reflection of my general enthusiasm for consoles right now, which is down over 35% year-to-year. Approximately.
Matt Matthews does his usual terrific analysis of the NPD numbers here: Behind the Numbers, September 2011. Matt noted that, overall, industry revenue was down 4% overall.
I don't think that's a surprise--the only surprise, to me, is that it's not worse. There are plenty of "excitement exhausted" platforms out there, the big companies have chosen to release fewer games (and fewer new franchises), and we're definitely in the "been there, done that" phase of this generation. That's one of the reasons, historically, that generations have usually lasted 5-6 years--by the time the enthusiasm has been exhausted, companies are already touting the next generation. And I do expect to hear a reveal next year from Microsoft for the Xbox 720 (or whatever it's called), but it may well be holiday 2013 before we see it in stores.
The next generation of consoles may be the last generation--as we've known them, anyway.
Someone (identity lost in a high-speed paperwork collision) e-mailed me last week and said why not have the "new" generation of consoles be portable devices with 1080P output?
That's an interesting idea. And with the power of the upcoming Sony Vita, it would have been the perfect device to try that approach. Sure, the Vita's screen resolution is closer to 480P than 1080P, but they could improve the hardware over time, and upscaled 480P with high framerates would still looked very impressive coming from a handheld. Eventually, it might've been possible to generate 1080p output internally, then downscale to fit the Vita's display resolution. That would make the high-quality 1080P output scenario entirely workable.
Sony, baffling is always, is not including a video output option. Well-played.
However, I think the scenario is a reasonable one, and it will happen at some point. There is much more research going into mobile processors at this point, and their power is improving rapidly. Use that research and take advantage of the technology curve. And if it's true that "we don't need" better graphics for consoles (I disagree with that, but this is for the sake of discussion), then wouldn't we be better off with mobile devices that we can play anywhere, then connect to an HDTV for display whatever we want?