Thursday, January 31, 2013

Console Post: So Many Data Points

Let's take a quick look:
Nintendo cuts hardware sales targets
The new projection is 4 million in Nintendo's current fiscal year, down from the 5.5 million projection only three months ago. We saw this coming, though, so it's certainly not a surprise. The Wii U has sub-zero buzz going for it, unfortunately, although I'm personally looking forward to the  HD remake of The Legend of Zelda: the Wind Waker.

Microsoft's Xbox division has lost nearly $3 billion in 10 years
This is nothing new, but it certainly drives home how much money Microsoft has plowed into the video game space to gain a foothold as a content hub.

Sony Closer to Selling Tokyo Property to Raise Cash
It's a 25-story building in Tokyo that houses 5,000 employees. And once Sony sells the property, they're going to lease it back from the new owners. Oh, and Sony has lost even more money in this generation than Microsoft.

THQ Files For Bankruptcy

Atari U.S. files for bankruptcy

Disney closes Austin gaming studio Junction Point
That's Warren Specter's studio, by the way.

Overall, that's quite a lemon to suck on, isn't it?

So here's a question: if Microsoft and Sony had followed the traditional five-year console cycle, instead of stretching this generation out for eight years or more, would anything have been different? It's a tantalizing question, but I think the answer is "no".

Look at it this way. On the one hand, you've got a platform where it takes millions of dollars to develop a game--in most cases, many millions--and a game might have to sell over a million copies to break even. And since gaming companies decided to pursue a "AAA" strategy years ago, it meant there were a ton of great ideas out there with no place to go.

Well, they found a place to go.

If anything, next-gen consoles are going to ratchet up the AAA pain, not reduce it. And games are still going to cost $60, even though there is no market left for more than a handful of games at that price.

Oh, and even better:
Report: New Sony Patent Blocks Second Hand Games

Let me get this straight. Instead of increasing value to customers to compete with other platforms, Sony might actually reduce it? Good luck with that.

Here's the thing: if you think the ecosystem for gaming is unhealthy, you're incorrect. Parts of the ecosystem are extremely unhealthy--the big company parts--but other parts (that were dying previously) have never been healthier. Indie PC development? Absolutely booming. Non-dedicated mobile platforms? Booming. We've never had so many games to choose from.

It's ironic, really. The biggest gaming companies basically killed everything but AAA as part of their corporate strategy, but like weeds growing through concrete, everything else survived. And that survival has crippled the AAA strategy for everyone but Activision (and their day is coming).  

As a consumer, gaming today just requires an adjustment from the AAA mindset to something else entirely. And really, I don't even miss the AAA games very much. As long as Bethesda survives and can put out something grandly spectacular every few years, I'm good. I'm  happy to supplement with hundreds of smaller, inexpensive games made by micro-studios.

If you primarily game on consoles, then sure, life kind of sucks. Just look around, though, and you'll be amazed by what's out there.

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