On Tuesday I wrote about Peter Vesterbacka, CEO of Angry Birds developer Rovio, declaring that videogame consoles were dying because of mobile innovation. My post was based on coverage of of Vesterbacka's discussion at VentureBeat. There was some question of whether or not Vesterbacka was taken out of context; the @RovioMobile Twitter operator claimed Vesterbacka was talking about the death of physical media in favor of digital downloads.
Now Nokia has posted the video on YouTube (the talk was at a Nokia event). Vesterbacka's comments on the death of consoles start at the 10 minute mark:
VentureBeat was kind enough to transcribe that section of the talk. I've added a bit of dialog left out of the VB transcription:
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. Much more performance, you plug it into your HDMI TV or whatever. But I think we will see probably four generations of tablets before there is a new console, if ever there is a new console.
I'm not sure how you can say Vesterbacka's comments were taken out of context. I didn't hear any mention of delivery mechanisms. I do think we're seeing a lot more innovation in the mobile space and in the indie gaming space than we are on AAA blockbuster titles, but those indie games are on PC, Xbox Live, Playstation Network and WiiWare. As for the rapid iteration of hardware in the mobile space; I have no idea how that relates to the death of consoles. Tablets are great at delivering some kinds of gameplay, sure, but until we have physical controls and feedback on a tablet, they're never going to replace a console for certain popular game styles, such as First-Person Shooters. Then there's the cost difference. A $200-$300 console that'll last 5-10 years is a much more attractive buy to a lot of people than a $500-$800 tablet that will be obsolete in 12 months (if that). I also found it astounding that Vesterbacka would imply there may never be another console when Nintendo's 3DS is shipping in less than two weeks, and Sony's NGP will ship in Europe before the end of the year. So maybe Vesterbacka meant non-portable consoles? Well interestingly there's a rumor that Nintendo is going to announce the Wii 2 at E3. The rumor comes from an IndustryGamers conversation with EA Games label head Frank Gibeau. Gibeau referred to the Wii as a "legacy platform" and said "...and it [the Wii] faded away. Now, they’re [Nintendo are] coming back with a second act." At the same time, Microsoft is talking about selling 10 million Kinects (and earning a place in the Guinness Book or Records for "fastest-selling consumer device") since launch [Mashable] and the NPD numbers for February show the industry grew by 4%, excluding PC sales. Microsoft sold over 500,000 Xbox 360 systems in February, only the second time it's hit that number in a non-holiday month. Overall, hardware revenue was up 9.5%. Hardly sounds like a dying industry to me. (For more details on the NPD numbers, see NPD: Behind the Numbers, February 2011 .) No one is going to argue that mobile gaming isn't huge; it clearly is, and I think devices like the iPhone and the iPad are growing the number of people who play video games. But by contrast the gamers (ie, those of us who self-identify as such) are still out here and while we might be playing games on our handsets and devices, that doesn't mean we're abandoning our consoles. If any sector should be worried, it's handheld devices like the upcoming Nintendo 3DS and Sony NGP. The 'stay at home' consoles aren't dying and don't have anything to fear from mobile gaming; at least not yet. When we get a console that pairs with a physical controller and outputs to the TV and has a few hundred gigs of storage space, then console makers should start to worry. Assuming they stand still until that happens. Gaming consoles are here to stay, just like PC gaming is here to stay. Vesterbacka should stick to making great mobile games and stop trying to spread fear and doubt about the viability of consoles.