What am I referring to? Well, The Fine Bros. have a neat concept for a Youtube channel. They show the reactions of some group of people (kids, teens, seniors, etc…) to a modern phenomenon (usually in entertainment). Here we have kids reacting to the console releases of PS4 and Xbox One:
The reactions I find most interesting is where a couple of kids saying something like, “they are making us buy the new consoles to play the new games. Whoever thought of that is going to make a lot of money.” The underlying feeling behind this is basically, “there is not a good reason for me to buy this console other than the console makers are making me do it.” The kids could play these same games on the current consoles if Sony and Microsoft allowed it. I find this interesting because kids have basically never reacted this way to new consoles. (I’ve heard plenty of parents react this way, but never kids.) Let’s look back at the past consoles, so that I can elaborate further.
Atari 2600 – This was the first home console. Everyone who bought this was excited simply to be able to play video games at home.
NES – This is the exception, because the conventional wisdom was no one wanted a video game console when it was released. Retailers had been too badly burned by the Atari crash, and most believed the Video Game Industry was simply dead. The NES came in quietly, marketing itself more as a toy rather than a video game system. It went out like a lion though, having built from scratch the biggest video game market up to that point. (In fact if you account for things like population growth, new territories, aging of the customer base, etc., then the video game market hasn’t grown at all since the NES days.)
Genesis/Super NES – Kids were so eager for these consoles. First of all, every kid wanted the better graphics from these systems. Secondly, the controllers had more buttons which were important for fighting games like Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat. Those were the hottest games at the time. It was easy for kids to see why they needed the new console.
Playstation (One) – This was the first console that played discs, in this case a CD ROM. Early on Sony really pushed Final Fantasy VII, which was just a humongous game. No console game that came before had ever been that big. (Also the graphics were impressive for the time.) No one who bought the PS1 thought, “they are just making me buy this console.” Instead they thought, “I have to play that game”, and then they went and bought the console.
PS2 – This console had huge sandbox games like “Grand Theft Auto III”. You could not play games like this on previous consoles. See, the weakness of the PS1 was it’s slow load times, which made their action games not as good. For the PS2 they improved the load times, so that now you could have huge games that were also action games.
Wii/PS3/XBox360 – People came out in droves to buy the Wii for its motion controls. There was no doubt why you needed to buy a new console. Likewise the HD graphics and online capabilities of the other two consoles made games like “Call of Duty” a new type of console experience. It obvious why you’d want a new console.
Basically what I’m saying is that every previous console had new types of games that wouldn’t have been possible on the older consoles. But now the Video Game Industry has plateaued in technology. New technology does not provide new game experiences anymore. What’s more, it’s obvious to kids that new technology no longer matters.
See a few years ago a game called “Minecraft” came on the scene. According to Wikipedia, the game has 33 million players. That is more players than any “Call of Duty” or “Grand Theft Auto” game. “Minecraft” is the hottest game around right now. It also has terrible graphics. It’s obvious to everyone now that it’s possible to make a fantastic game without the latest technology.
On top of that the Game Industry is basically not offering new types of games anymore. The kids are obviously excited about the new games, but they are sequels to games that they know. So the kids are developing resentment toward the hardware. The thinking is, “I have to buy the console just to get to games I could already play on my current console.”
The Video Game Industry is currently oblivious to this. The conventional wisdom is that new consoles always bring lots of new console sales. They aren’t stopping to think that maybe people are buying the new consoles to get at new types of games.
Personally I expect sales to be pretty slow for these new consoles. I think the Video Game Industry is in for a big surprise when they see the hardware sales in 2014. I’m sure a ton of early adopters came out to buy them for Christmas 2013, but I expect sales to be sluggish in 2014 for the new consoles. There is less motivation to buy a new console. (The bad economy of the past few years doesn’t help either.) Most people are going to wait for a significant price drop, before they pick up these new consoles. Until then a lot of gamers are going to remain content playing their Xbox 360 and PS3.