Trip Hawkins compares hardcore gaming to owning a plane.
While game sales are down across the board, which is either down to an aging console generation or the implosion of the global economy depending on who you ask, the industry is still growing at a phenomenal rate. A series of reports from DFC Intelligence reckon the global market for games will grow from $67 billion in 2012 to $82 billion in 2017. Despite that growth, EA founder Trip Hawkins thinks the console dominated era may be drawing to a close.
"The console market is always going to be with us, because there's always going to be a hardcore segment, a segment that likes innovation," Hawkins said. "But it's going to become a smaller market, and it's going to be more like a hobby market."
Hawkins founded EA after leaving Apple in '82, which he then left to form 3DO in '91.
"You look at airplanes," he added. "Most of us just want to be a passenger, but there's a hobby market for people who are really into aviation and want to take flying lessons and maybe someday have their own airplane. I think that's what's happening to the console market."
Now, the word "hardcore" is fairly nebulous, and there's still debate as to whether casual games will erode the core gaming market or enhance it, but Hawkins does have a point. In 2008, consoles were the driving force of the industry, pulling in nearly twice the revenue of the PC game market. That lead is shrinking - console game sales wax and wane with hardware cycles, but the PC market has seen growth year over year. PC game revenue is expected to match, then beat, that of the console market in 2014.
The haughty PC gaming snob in me would love to imagine that's down to filthy console plebs developing a taste for dense, brutally difficult strategy games and high skill-ceiling shooters, but in reality, the rise of casual gaming has made a huge contribution to the platform's popularity.
"In the old days I'd go down to the basement to play Grand Theft Auto," Hawkins continued. "But the Facebook gamer is able to play at work, at home, in a hotel on a PC. They can get access to a browser just about anywhere. People are thinking about convenience first."
The question is: Are casual titles actively pulling users away from core gaming, or are they attracting completely new players?