Strange question to kick off with, but there's a reason to start with this. Trip Hawkins
, the man who founded EA
, brought out during an interview with IGN the principle that the console market, the very market that EA had a hand in building, was about to collapse.
Hawkins' remarks suggested that the console market wouldn't disappear. A portion of it would always remain, as there would always be a "hardcore" gaming marketing that would be served by consoles. But Hawkins believed that this market would steadily fall apart until it was merely a shadow of its former self, little more than a niche market, to be replaced by PCs and mobile gaming.
As soon as I stopped laughing, I got to work framing a response. Let's bear in mind that this is EA we're talking about, the same people who can't tell a secured gift code from a money pit from three feet out with both hands and a flashlight. While Hawkins raises an important point about the rise of mobile hardware in gaming, the importance of smartphones, and the value that PCs have been bringing to gaming for decades, one very important point has slipped his mind: the evolution of the console market.
Those who watch the console market know that it is no longer simply a tool for gaming. Microsoft
--and to a somewhat lesser extent Sony--has been pushing to make the Xbox 360 not just a gaming tool, but rather a complete whole-house entertainment package. The addition of streaming apps and video tools have given the Xbox much more than just gaming status, but rather a complete package. Nintendo has been working to push the envelope as a gaming experience since the Wii, with great success.
To say that the console is going to become a niche product is simply ignoring the fact that the console has been rapidly evolving to become more than a niche product.
However, there is one point that may make Hawkins correct over any other, and that's the matter of games. Where the developers go, the gamers will likely follow, and in this case that's no exception. If there is no console development beyond the Xbox 720, or whatever it's finally called, then gamers will likely turn to their mobile devices and their PCs. But if the game designers stay with consoles, there will be more consoles, and plenty of them.
The future of anything is seldom clear, and the future of gaming is just as much a tricky environment as any other field. Whether Trip Hawkins or I am proven ultimately right, only time will tell. Still, there are plenty of possibilities in the future, and seeing which ones come to pass is always worth watching.