OPINION: 2013: The year of the console comeback

New systems will prove the naysayers and doom mongers wrong, writes Rob Crossley

The most alarming aspect of the so-called "death of the games console" is the number of articulate and intelligent industry professionals who subscribe to this viewpoint.


Some say that the imminent arrival of next generation home systems will not turn the tide for console companies. They suggest that the success of the current cycle will not be matched and this aspect of the business is in an inescapable downward spiral.

It reminds me of those revered philosophers and poets, from Homer to Thales, who in the most articulate and convincing fashion had told their peers that the earth was flat.

The impending demise of home systems is, ultimately, an industry myth stirred in a pool of short-term statistics and trends.

Take a look at today's latest figures, for example. The UK games market value fell 17 per cent in 2012, at a time when the mobile gaming sector recorded significant growth for the fifth year straight.

It sounds bad for the likes of Microsoft and Sony, and throughout 2012 we have been subjected to such statistics - in fact, NPD physical sales continue to fall on a monthly basis - but there is a danger that those who debate these trends don't see the wood for the trees.

Sales declines are an inescapable tradition of the end-console cycle, and in fact were even more acute in the last generation. In 2004, for example, the UK console market fell by 30 per cent as the industry awaited new systems from Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony.

A total 17 per cent decline at the end of a seven-year console cycle is not a dead canary in the mine. Some could argue it's quite a success, all things considered.

"Clearly the industry is desperate for new systems to stimulate innovation"

Longer-term statistics paint a different picture: some 240 million games consoles have been sold worldwide already this generation, compared to the 210 million consoles in the last cycle and the 150 million the year prior. This generation's numbers will only increase as Xbox 360s and PS3s are discounted further.

But clearly, the industry is desperate for new systems to stimulate innovation, new IP, new business models and partnerships. It's why everyone who has faith in consoles should be looking forward to 2013; the year that both Microsoft and Sony reveal their long-awaited new systems.

There is no doubt that the console industry is not evolving fast enough. It must embrace new models - and yes, especially free-to-play and cloud gaming - instead of continually pretending these don't exist.

But let's not forget how suddenly this industry moves, and how fast business picked up the last time a trio of new consoles arrived.