Will Microsoft and Sony be Irrelevant by the end of the Current Console Generation?

timthumb.phpNot too long ago, James Brightman published an article over at Game Industry where he asks if Sony and Microsoft will still be relevant by 2019. In it, he talks about how in the future the PC and Mobile segments will grab a bigger share of the gaming market, that traditional gaming consoles are losing relevance, and that everyone should jump into the PC and Mobile bandwagon. If it had been five years ago, I would have called this a ridiculous piece. In fact, not too long ago I wrote a piece arguing that there would be at least one more gaming console. However, given the current gaming landscape and the qualifiers used by James in his question, I can’t help but thing that Sony and Microsoft will, indeed, become irrelevant by the end of the current console generation.

Let’s consider the current gaming landscape for a second.

Out of the 352 X Box One games currently available or announced, only 37 are X Box One exclusives, with the others being available on other platforms. The list includes titles such as Forza 5 / 6, the Halos, and Killer Instinct alongside Kinetic Sports and X Box Fitness. Overall, the list of exclusives, of which 1/4th was just listed, is at best underwhelming. The PS 4 seems to fare a bit better, with 45 exclusives which include Bloodborne, Disgaea 5, Uncharted 4, and Gran Turismo 7. Again, the rest of the available games on the PS 4 are available in other consoles, including the PC.

Gaming consoles have been inching closer towards becoming “livingroom media centers” arguably since the Sega CD brought to consoles the ability to read music CDs. With the PS 2 being able to read DVDs and the PS 3’s ability to run Netflix and other apps as well as run blue ray discs, gaming consoles are becoming less and less gaming consoles and more integrated media devices. A few years ago I made the argument for the gaming console based on game exclusivity, but console exclusives are few and far between, and when they are released they are a bit lackluster. The broad majority of console games can be purchased on the PC, which – it seems to me – gives consoles no great benefit beyond that of convenience, that of playing from the couch with a comfortable controller.

The convenience element, I think, is more than enough to warrant a console over a PC despite the PC having STEAM sales and bundles, but the current sales of consoles – possibly because of the lackluster roster of titles – have been underwhelming. Players are not buying the eighth generation consoles with as much vigor as the industry would like. With a relatively small number of sales, games that are mostly re-releases or multiplatform titles, and seemingly no indication of negotiating for more exclusives for their consoles, it seems to me that Sony and Microsoft might indeed not hold much power over the gaming industry by 2019 – 2020 (the likely end of the current console generation).

This brings us to Nintendo.

I think Nintendo might be the sole survivor as console makers. Nintendo keeps a close handle on their IPs. They recently licensed some of their IPs to a mobile games maker DeNA, famous for Final Fantasy Record Keeper, but… we have seen Nintendo license out some of their IPs before and the results have been… not good. Even if DeNA succeeds in porting Nintendo’s IPs to mobile, it is likely that Nintendo will continue to make consoles and console exclusives. It is likely that Nintendo will still be relevant on 2019 – 2020 because of its IPs. It is likely that Nintendo “wins” the console wars, and that when the WiiWii (or whatever they call the next console) is released, most gamers will rely on the Nintendo console for its exclusives and the PC for the multiplatform games.

Of course, Microsoft and Sony can prevent this. They can step up their game, make new exclusive IPs that are only released on their consoles, and give players a reason to buy their consoles. But it’s easier to put HD-er textures on already HD games and re-release them, so it seems unlikely.

Oh well.


About Quijano

Johansen Quijano is a professor of English in The University of Texas at Arlington, where he is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in English. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in the Teaching of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL), a Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Development focusing on TESOL, and a Master’s Degree in English Literature. He has published and presented on a variety of topics including video game studies, popular culture studies, education, teaching methodology, language acquisition, romantic poetry, and victorian literature. His research interests include the above-mentioned topics, narrative, interactivity, simulation, new media in general, and 18th century literature. He also enjoys creative writing (fiction, historical fiction, and poetry), and reading all kinds of epic literary works - from the Epic Poem of Gilgamesh to Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series.

Posted on April 23, 2015, in Video Game Commentary and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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