The advent of online casual gaming has led at least one marketing expert to predict the ultimate demise of the game console at the hands of the internet.
Kevin Carney, who has previously worked for gaming companies including TEN/Pogo.com, Vivendi Universal and Ziff Davis Game Group, wrote in an article on ClickZ that gaming is undergoing a “major transition” from conventional console play to an online experience that is simultaneously more casual and social. Carney claims the current generation of consoles hasn’t offered any kind of real innovation beyond “the Wii’s delivery of a family gaming experience,” and claims that “Arguably, the consoles have taken a giant leap backwards.”
“The essence of gaming is the game experience it delivers. Unfortunately, in the race to overtake the film and music industries, the console sector has neglected this principle. Instead, it’s pushing enhanced graphics and physics into the same play spaces. And this isn’t good,” he wrote. “Sometimes there’s brilliance in simplicity. Sometimes realism, Hollywood voiceovers, actor likenesses, and cut scenes add nothing. Worse, they can diminish a game experience. As this is happening, many are struggling to comprehend how the glitz and glam of Hollywood aren’t adding value to our game experience.”
Perhaps most interesting, and contrary to conventional wisdom, Carney also claims that consumers are moving away from their well-appointed living rooms when it’s time for their gaming fix. “They’ve left the comfort of the living room, big-screen TV, and game console. They’ve tuned out of passive entertainment and tapped into interactive entertainment online,” he continued. “They’ve changed and consoles haven’t changed enough. Consumers are online, socializing and having digital experiences that meet their needs, connect them with others, and don’t cost a thing. They’re sitting at the computer, entering virtual worlds and social networks as the TV collects dust.”
The reason? Online gaming, which he attributes largely to the evolution of Flash, is now delivering “incredibly robust, rich experiences,” as well as massive communities that consoles simply don’t offer. Carney also believes that quick gaming sessions during free minutes on the PC, instead of long, dedicated sessions in the living room, will eventually become the dominant form of digital entertainment. “Time is short and so are online games,” he wrote. “A player can quickly and easily go from an Excel spreadsheet to any game experience imaginable online.”
He has some valid points, and his comments echo those of WildTangent Chairman Alex St. John, who said in July that he believed the Wii, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 would be the last successful generation of game consoles. On the other hand, as the definition of “gamer” grows ever more inclusive, it’s also foreseeable that casual PC gaming on the internet could grow to dominate the industry while hardcore console gaming remains a viable industry as well. Videogaming is still very much in its infancy, and the assumption that the growth of core and casual demographics has to be a zero-sum competition is a false one.