Friday, March 30, 2012

The Next Video Game Crash?

Rumors are beginning to circulate all over the place in regards to the next generation gaming consoles from Microsoft and Sony.  The big rumor buzz isn't necessarily about the hardware, even though we all love hearing speculative tech specs.  The real rumor buzz floating around is how Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo are going to be approaching New vs Used game titles.  Why should the average consumer care?  That all depends on your family budget.

The buzz on the web is that Sony and Microsoft are going to make it so that the games you purchase for your console of choice will be locked to  your system.  How this will work exactly is uncertain, but the fact remains that these two companies do NOT want the consumer base to have the option between purchasing titles new or used.

The impact here is that many budget conscious families would be limited to what they would be purchasing per year when it comes to games.  Currently, new PS3 and Xbox 360 titles sell between $50 to $65 per premium new releases.  Titles that have been out for more than a month or two tend to float around the $50 price range.  Titles over six months old tend to drop as low as $40, depending on popularity and demand.  However, after a mere three months, these very titles on the used shelves at Gamestop, and other used video game stores sell quite lower.  The problem developers, and Sony and Microsoft, are looking at is they get a 0% cut of any and all used game sales.

Used game stores may be a bane for the industry when it comes to their bottom dollar, but a savior to the consumers that don't always have the bucks for the bang.  For years, the savvy game shopper has looked at used game stores as a way to make their gaming dollar stretch.  Why buy one game for $65, when they can buy 2 or more games for that same amount?  It makes sense.

The one thing I am wondering about is if we are already being primed for such an occassion with mobile titles?  These are games that we purchase, and can NEVER resell for "in store credit" for more games.  What is more interesting, we are completely fine with this business model.  Why?  Perhaps it is due to the fact that we get some great original titles at extremely reasonable prices?  Look at Gameloft's Modern Combat series.  You pay $6.99 for the game, and it provides a great experience very similar to that of the Modern Warfare/Call of Duty/Battlefield series, all of which of those three sell for significantly higher premium prices.

The another big deal that may have an impact to the console gaming industry is the complete lack of backwards compatibility, as well.  We were first introduced to the concept with the Atari 7800 providing full backwards compatibility with Atari 2600.  The Game Boys provided backwards compatibility all the way up to the 3DS supporting the previous system.  The PS2, AND the PS3 (yes, the PS3!) have backwards compatibility to the PSone (This is done thanks to the fact that the PSone processor is used to handle the USB ports of both the PS2 and PS3).  However, the PS3 has not had PS2 compatibility since updated releases of the console after its original release.

Gamers have been posting an issue about this since the PS3 and Xbox 360 first came out.  Many gamers, including myself, have a significant library of titles that we still enjoy playing.  The problem we have is not wanting dozens of consoles cluttering our living rooms.  It is bad enough for those that have each of the modern consoles, let alone having all of our previous ones out as well.

Some gamers that have been gaming since the early 80's are predicting another Video Game Crash, just like the one back in 1984.  Will this happen?  I highly doubt it.  Gaming has become an integral part of our daily entertainment.  Will the console market begin to die off?  No, but it will evolve.  Expect to see next generation consoles incorporate larger, possibly removeable, hard drives that allow for us to download the games rather than have physical media.  Another possibility is that consoles, and their portable counterparts become one and the same thanks to shinking hardware sizes, and greater processor power.  The iOS and Android platforms are already proving that possibility.

Regardless of the speculation, consoles are not going anywhere anytime soon.  They are evolving.  In the mid-90's, Sony was attempting to make the original PSone a multimedia experience, but that never took off.  They tried again with the PS2, and Microsoft attempted this with the Xbox.  Now, look at the PS3, Xbox360 and the Nintendo Wii.  They not only play video games, but they provide streaming video through Hulu Plus and Netflix.  The next generation consoles will provide the same experiences, but more indepth, and ready out of the box.  The evolution of the console is not extinction, it is the onset of the true Multimedia Set Top Box.  These devices are what the VCR was to the Television in the 80's.  An indespensible piece of technology that extended the use of what the television can provide.

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