Are Console Games Dying?

Are Console Games Dying?

Peter Vesterbacka, the owner of Rovio and by extension the big daddy behind Angry Birds, claims that console games are “dying.”

Automatic response: No, they’re not.

A more careful response crafted after observation of recent console sales: No, they’re not.

Vesterbacka made his declaration on a panel at the South by Southwest Interactive conference in Austin. Innovation, Vesterbacka said, belongs to the mobile platforms, where developers can move “nimbly,” draw up cool new ideas, and get them out to audiences quickly. The lumbering, difficult-to-upgrade $50 dollar game is supposedly on its way out.

Steel yourself for a low blow: It’s difficult to listen to rants about innovation from the creators of a game that’s essentially Crush the Castle and Castle Clout with adorable targets and ammunition. Angry Birds is a hugely fun game to be sure, but it’s built off an idea that’s not new by any means. Rovio is looking to make Angry Birds the next Pac-Man or Super Mario Bros., but both those games deserve their place in game history because they offered experiences unlike anything else that had been imagined at the time.

Rovio does have potential to pioneer innovative digital games, however, which makes Vesterbacka seeming ignorance of the industry he works for that much more disappointing. There’s a time to get your gaming fix by squinting at a small screen (we recommend a bank queue), and there’s a time to flop back on the couch and play Call of Duty, Halo, or Zelda. Smartphones have helped converge many of our everyday tasks and pleasures into one handy device, but as far as gaming goes, mobile games are an alternative. They’re not a replacement, least of all for big-budget blockbuster games.

Vesterbacka, you are worthy of admiration, and we appreciate that your birds fling themselves into solid objects and stacks of pork for our amusement. But Rovio has a long way to go before we can confidently look at the company and say, “That’s is it. That’s the future of the games industry right there.” We recommend that you head to the drawing board, draw up a cool new idea, and lay off reselling old properties as movie tie-ins.

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About Nadia Oxford
Nadia is a freelance writer living in Toronto. She played her first game at four, decided games were awesome, and has maintained her position since. She writes for 1UP.com, Slide to Play, GamePro and other publications, and is About.com’s Guide to the Nintendo DS.

11 Comments

  1. Antony Johnsons

    Vesterbacka, in a few years, portable devices will be as powerful as consoles now. You will end up into the bunch of “flash games” while the people that have been doing games for years will shift you into the place you deserve.

    Meanwhile, you can just copy and paste old games and pretend you made them and go arround the world spreading your wisdom.

  2. how dumb is this guy?! first of all, angry birds SUCKED. second, there is no way console gaming is going anywhere, if anything MOBILE while on the rise, will be first to go. then PC, and 100 years later, console. NPD sales show console gaming is far from dead. look at black ops, now i’m not sure if thats ALL platforms or just the HD ones but its the highest selling. also, look at madden and fifa (both god awful) sell millions-upon-millions every damn year! same with mario! both EXTREME console games! you want angry birds to be the next mario or pacman? try making a game that doesn’t suck!

  3. Hmmm well though I agree that consoles are not dying, I still want to bring in a different perspective here.

    If you are the CEO or whatever public face of any company you want to show that you are the one going in the right direction. This is good for company morale, and might attract shareholders and keep them. Making bold statements is what drives innovation: sure it doesn’t always pan out. But alot of CEO’s from major companies have made bold statements that after some time turned out to not be true. Let’s say Bill Gates’ statement about how much memory a machine would ever need. It did not make MSFT stop growing and stick with their phylosphy they moved on and I bet Bill sometimes still gets comments about this.

    I think your post is a little one-sided and rather defensive. Maybe that’s the statement you want to make, but don’t blame Vesterbacka for speaking out what he believes is true. If the goal of his company is to make games that will eventually make consoles obsolete, then let’s just wait and see as good little consumers.

  4. I agree ! 100% !

  5. As long as there’s a hardcore gaming crowd (and we’re not going anywhere, right fellas?) console and PC gaming will prevail. There’s no way in any mind that I’d sacrifice experiencing the next iterations of my favorite franchises (such as The Legend of Zelda) for what amounts to being a simple arcade style mobile experience. Mobile games (at least they should) be designed for quick bursts of gaming, a filler in a way for just as you suggest waiting in line at the bank. Mobile experiences fail in design when they become console-like in nature and demand more than their user can or is willing to provide. Might I also point out the eyestrain I commonly get when I’ve focused on a small mobile device screen for too long. There is also the topic of necessary inputs for complex commands that on a console is possible via controller peripheral, but on a mobile device could never be replicated with a small keypad or touch screen. Those experiences are designed intuitively to utilize the input methods exclusively offered by consoles and PCs. These differences in design and implementation between mobile and console platforms assures me that it’ll be a very distant time when console experiences can ever be replicated on mobile, or when console experiences simply fade to make way for simpler, less mindful, burst-style gameplay.

  6. 1.Portable devices aren’t the ideal controller. The PSP works well but it still doesnt allow for hours of gaming because of comfort.

    2.PC gaming will die long before console gaming. I think spending $60 on a game that I know will play in my xbox is a much better deal than buying a $50 game and hoping my PC can run it when its a hardcore gaming PC. That fear shouldnt be happening.

    3.Setting, nothing is better than sitting on my couch and playing through Mass Effect or Halo with friends. I like the idea of mobile gaming where I can play anywhere but the opportunities don’t happen that much.

    Best case scenario is that in a few years Microsoft and Sony release some sort of handheld with the power of their game systems that allow for online play wherever they are. If I could carry around an iPad sized screen and a controller in a backpack and people to play with friends between classes, or on a plane ride that is when I would be impressed.

    Regardless though, you can do that on a laptop so I guess there would have to be huge innovation to try and break the mold of what mobile games really are. I mean the best iPad game is from Epic Games and the strides made are amazing, but it can’t even compare to most console/pc games.

  7. I think, like Wayne said, as long as there is still that crowd of gamers who stick with their console games, they’ll always be around. I know for a fact that when I have kids, they will be introduced to everything we have so far. They will be intrigued with the NES and the N64, and will love our Halo: Reach Xbox and our PS3 Slim, there’s no way they would give them up to go digital. We have a PSP, but we hardly ever use it (mainly because of the fact that it cramps up my thumbs). I fear the day where we’re paying $50-$70 for a digital copy of a game…mobile games are uncomfortable for me to play, unless it’s something simple like Bejewled or or another puzzle game. When it comes to playing something like Assassin’s Creed or Prince of Persia on a phone or iPod, that’s just where the fun stops and I need a controller and my LCD TV. Nothing on a hand-held console can give anyone the same experience as playing in HD on a big screen with surround sound and the works; it just can’t.

  8. The most ironic part of his rant is the fact that Angry Birds is much better on a big screen. Sounds like his ego has gotten the better of him, a sadly common occurance after someone does one thing right after a lifetime of uninteresting crap.

  9. Scott Steinberg
    Scott Steinberg

    Console games dying? No – they’re just becoming a trickier space to operate in as Darwinism takes hold. Successful retail video games have to be bigger, more polished and contain reams of online multiplayer elements. But it’s not like indie and smaller games can’t thrive either at budget prices, or as digital downloads.

  10. Scott Steinberg
    Scott Steinberg

    Some further thoughts here as well: http://mashable.com/2011/02/22/consoles-social-gaming/

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