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We have traditionally published our "Predictions" column in the past years, but failed to do so for many reasons this year. The article itself was partly made, but its quality was somewhat below what I would like it to be. Even being in separate parts, it clearly lacked integrity, which is something demanded from a column of this kind. That was a problem I've failed to solve for months. Still, I believe that some of the things that we collectively foresaw some time ago very internally must made it to public. So, I start a family of news-stories called "Trends of 12" with some of the things that we expect to come alive this year. In many cases, stories in the series will rather emphasize trends, but not exactly predict something. In other, we will try to tell you something new.

UDATED: The article has been updated and extended.

In 2012 we will face the beginning of the end of game consoles as hardware assets. Gamers nowadays know how to use the Internet and how to take the most out of any device. Portable game consoles have already faced it: slow launches, degrading sales and hardware price-cuts. In 2012 we will feel a new trend: a decline in all game consoles sales, both portable and non-portable.

The Game is Changing

Slow starts and declining sales of Nintendo 3DS and Sony PlayStation Vita were followed by price-cuts despite of the fact that platform holders said in advance that games for them would be more advanced than titles for smartphones and tablets. The reality has proven that the claims by Nintendo and Sony were essentially incorrect. The launches were not accompanied by breakthrough titles and were not strong to say at least. In 2012, we will feel the same about home game consoles, such as Microsoft Xbox 360, Sony PlaysStation 3 and Nintendo Wii/Wii U. In fact, the launch of Wii U will show whether the consoles are on the decline or not.

The mass success of Apple iPhone/iPad as well similar devices like Samsung Galaxy-series smartphones and tablets with proper graphics hardware has proven that they are capable of supporting advanced games with near-HD quality of graphics. Indeed, those SoCs feature two Cortex-A9 general processor cores as well as PowerVR advanced graphics with leading-edge feature-set.

Current system-on-chips, which power Apple, Samsung and other devices, have a lot of capabilities (but sometimes lack elementary things for PC graphics like anisotropic filtration), but the next-generation of system-on-chips will support even more, Nvidia Tegra 3 as well as Apple A5X SoCs that support acceleration of full-HD 3D graphics are probably the best example of what advanced chips for smartphones and tablets can do and how powerful can they be.

In terms of hardware, it is relatively easy to install next-gen chips from media tablets and smartphones into TVs, Blu-ray disc players and other consumer electronics. The new Apple iPad  has screen with 2056*1536 resolution, which is beyond full HD – 1920*1080. Perhaps, the same A5x chip can be installed into potential future Apple HDTVs and thus provide it with ultimate gaming capabilities that no other TVs support.

Moreover, the costs of games for portable and non-portable video game consoles are incomparable to cost those for smartphones. For example, Prince of Persia Warrior Within Costs €2.99/$3.99 on Apple App Store, but it costs $15.50 for Sony PSP and $32.62 for Sony PS3. Loads of games, such as popular Creative Mobile’s Drag Racing, or Z2Live's MetalStorm: Wingman are simply free.

Powerful Hardware Becomes Affordable

With highly integrated and relatively inexpensive system-on-chips that can handle complex computations and high-definition 1080p graphics declines of pricing, it will be possible to integrate them into variety of electronics and thus make it competitive against video game consoles from major platform holders.

Samsung is a bit ahead of Apple when it comes to leading-edge chips, which is why the company can install its latest Exynos SoCs - including the Exynos 5250  with two ARM Cortex-A15 "Eagle" cores - into its TV-sets earlier than Apple releases its TVs. Why don't hardware makers with established platforms install Exynos-like hardware into its devices?

"I do not see any technological obstacles in terms of integration of high-performance chipsets into TVs," said a highly-informed source at a major consumer electronics company.

Bills of materials (BOMs) of contemporary tablets clearly show that display, touchscreen, battery, cameras, case, mechanical materials and building costs can account for around 60% of the whole BOM. Hence, key electronics of the new Apple iPad that allows to launch games and apps, according to EETimes estimates, costs just about $52.5. This cost can relatively easily be integrated into mainstream and high-end TVs.

TV-sets with integrated key chips, such as Apple A5X (eventually, A6 or A7) as well as Samsung Exynos 5250, from next-generation tablets and smartphones would be able to handle 1080p games. Given the fact that they will utilize iOS or Google Android-like operating systems, games and apps developed for those TVs will also work on smartphones and tablets, providing software designers ultimate installed base that will be comparable to those of major non-portable game consoles or even higher.

The World Is Changing

"I think that the future spans around mobile devices and social networks. Therefore, all apps compliant to these [major] platforms are ought to progress. The idea is that the apps for [mobile] devices/social networks, browser games should gradually merge into something united and, eventually, seize this world," said Serhiy Slyeptsov, chief executive officer at Creative Mobile.

In terms of hardware, Apple's third-generation iPad (and probably sixth-generation iPhone) supports just more than high-definition video output. During its launch, Mike Cappls, the president of Epic Games, already pointed out that the latest media tablet has more random access memory and higher resolution than the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.

Of course, it took Apple around six years to achieve that, but with the current progress of smartphones and tablets it is easy to foresee crossover in terms of software quality between devices and non-portable game consoles in the coming quarters or years.

The main advantage of video game consoles is their long life-cycle that can be six to ten years. TV-sets also have long lifespans and provided that they feature good enough SoCs inside that can handle advanced games, they will easily provide three-to-five years cycles, which will be just what the doctor ordered for game developers. For example, many of new iOS games are compatible with iPhone 3GS, which is three years old. Therefore, the same can happen with embedded video game platforms.

With improving quality of hardware and software as well as cross-platform compatibility of apps and games, mobile and embedded gaming platforms will clearly press special-purpose game consoles. But before that happens, many gamers will simply slowdown purchase of games for PlayStation, Xbox and Wii and will play them on tablets instead. This will happen already this year and will mean the beginning of the end for video game consoles.  

Tags: Xbox, Android, iOS, Playstation, Wii, Nintendo, iPhone, iPad, Sony, Apple


Comments currently: 19
Discussion started: 03/09/12 10:41:10 PM
Latest comment: 04/08/12 03:08:57 PM
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lol,ipad 3 has 16 Gflops of computing 6870 gpu alone has 1900 Gflops of computing power.greater the numbers better the experience,nothing handheld can beat out a 5 year old console or a mid range pc,maybe ipad 10 can run crysis with its hardware.forget onlive crap,it is not as good as dedicated offline gaming.until then ill stick with my xbox and pc
4 2 [Posted by: jacobz6  | Date: 03/09/12 10:46:52 PM]


is this why the 3ds is breaking records x/

because of degrading sales?
4 2 [Posted by: stealth  | Date: 03/10/12 01:37:19 PM]

show the post
2 8 [Posted by: stealth  | Date: 03/10/12 01:38:35 PM]

fyi the best game on ios isnt better than the worst game on the 3ds or vita, or original gameboy for that matter
6 2 [Posted by: stealth  | Date: 03/10/12 01:43:11 PM]

This article doesn't take into consideration the fact that modern consoles are not really modern at all. Xbox 360 is pushing 6 years old. At this point, anyone who wanted a home console has purchased one. It's understandable that the sales for Xbox360 and PS3 are going to plummet, especially since most consumers who actually want a new console are waiting for Wii U, Xbox Durango and PS4.

Finally, while it is true that the growth of software and hardware will be FAR greater in the smartphone and tablet space than in ANY other space (notebooks, desktops, laptops, etc.), that doesn't mean that consoles will be dead.

Sure, one can play games on mobile devices, but the experience is not comparable. If the majority of consumers are casual gamers who like to buy $1-3 iOS games, etc., well that just means less hardcore gamers as a % of the population.

The fact of the matter is more hardcore gamers will simply buy consoles for their exclusives only and play cross-platform games on the PC. A "hardcore" gamer in a traditional sense will become a niche segment as a % of the entire market, probably dominated by social media, casual games, Kinect, etc.

If more and more people just want to play casual games, well that just shows they aren't very intelligent. That's been the FAR bigger problem. Most consumers today just don't want to play games that involve thinking or doing something out of the ordinary.

Jonathan Blow: How Mainstream Devs Are Getting It Wrong

Assassin's Creed 3 creative director Alex Hutchinson believes aiming for graphical fidelity and scale will make AAA games "nothing more than the last of the dinosaurs."

What's killing modern videogames are:

1) Endless $ grabbing DLCs;
2) DRM and limits on # of copies installed;
3) Lack of innovation - just sequels and COD garbage style linear FPS games
4) Constant desire to make the best looking games, cinematic game (ME3) and complete avoidance of changing the fundamentals of what makes games interesting = gaining more knowledge, learning something new
5) The move from single-player dominant game industry to primarily multi-player gaming environment (COD, BF3) means less and less good single-player games. Multi-player gaming (specifically cookie cutter COD style FPS games and MMORPGs) has taken videogaming as an art form and changed it into mainstream garbage most of the time: "How to best waste your time after work killing people online?" That type of gaming requires 0 intelligence, creativity or thinking outside the box. Too few games like SKYRIM where you can create your own plot so to speak.

Basically, most videogames today are just mindless form of entertainment and have none of the magic of games released in say 1998 (Half Life 1, Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time, original Starcraft, etc.)

Most developers are too scarred to innovate or do something different. AAA games cost $200-300 million to develop + market, etc. Only indie developers are willing to take risks.

If next generation of consoles simply regurgitate current IPs, gaming as we've known it in the 90s it will be dead forever.

Still, with games such as Journey for PS3, Limbo, Braid, Trine 1 & 2, there's hope!!
8 1 [Posted by: BestJinjo  | Date: 03/10/12 05:00:45 PM]
- collapse thread

Too many unfortunate truths in your post.
If next generation of consoles simply regurgitate current IPs, gaming as we've known it in the 90s it will be dead forever.

Innovation and game "feel" has certainly gone down the drain. I remember when i purchased "Aliens" on tape, for C64 at a price of $4, and the damn thing kept me playing more than all later FPS games together, despite being horribly simple with instructions so short(one sentence) you didnt have a clue even how to win... ^_^
1 1 [Posted by: DIREWOLF75  | Date: 03/10/12 07:56:09 PM]
When I was young my parents used to say that "Oh back in the days, etc." I am not trying to imply that things only get worse with new generations. However, some things are definitely getting worse imho. The new generation of kids has such short attention span, that it's actually negatively affecting game development. Because they want instant gratification of picking up a game and playing, it prevents developers from putting things in a game that would make a gamer think hard to figure things out. Then you find yourself playing a game that "guides you by the hand" or you are "playing a movie".

Can you explain how Activision is able to keep releasing the same damn game over and over (MW1 was good and they should have stopped there!) and making millions of dollars? Rare took Goldeneye 64 and at least somewhat attempted to differentiate Perfect Dark from that, while retaining the same dynamics. COD on the other hand is like Madden of FPSers...

That would be like a famous singer only singing "OH baby, baby baby" the entire song and people are buying his CDs...oh wait.

Frank Synatra is turning in his grave right now.

I think if the next generation of consoles become more casual with even larger focus on motion gaming, then it's simply reflecting of the changing society.

When I speak to even 25+ year olds and ask them why don't they like a game with a 25-35 hour campaign, they say: "It takes too long to get into it. Why when I can just pick up COD and start playing right away?"

It's almost as if they don't enjoy overcoming struggle/adversity/not knowing what to do in a game. I suppose that explains the health regeneration of modern games. These kids wouldn't survive playing Contra. That's for sure
5 1 [Posted by: BestJinjo  | Date: 03/10/12 09:24:23 PM]
Desire to make the best looking games is not part of the downfall of modern games, in fact, lack of graphics and scale is a sign of downfall. As a person with experience in 3D modeling, all graphics starts out with thousands to millions of polygons with insanely high resolution textures. The problem, however, is that after this stage developers seem to be downsizing and deleting the originals, thus when it comes time to release the game on a system that could use this HD content, it's too late and we are stuck with muddy low res textures and low poly models, because some bozo got happy with the delete key or was too lazy to resize the original content to fit your system. Isn't that what we pay artists for? Artists don't make gameplay, they make your game look nice and professional. But since indie devs now make better looking games than most AAA devs, we can see who the real professionals are now. A lot of developers reuse engines so a 200-300$ million budget is well beyond the actual cost. It cost Valve many years and 200 million to make HL2, to use any more to make a crappy sequel or new IP is due to money being wasted. I mean, if we have many artists and a 200$ mill budget, why can't we afford to spend a few afternoons resizing properly to get those awesome graphics?
1 2 [Posted by: mmstick  | Date: 03/11/12 05:57:26 AM]
Agreed! I get so tired of hearing this bs! They only do it to justify their purchase, Then when we don't agree with them, we are Immediately downgraded to the "Vocal Minority". Tired of hearing that bs too. If you guys wish to be casual gamer's that's fine, just stop expecting everyone else to follow. Whats good for you isn't good for me? Thank god for flight simulators like DCS A10C Warthog. Play that on yer precious iPeds!
2 1 [Posted by: orcman314  | Date: 03/10/12 09:31:03 PM]
your generalizing too much.

The majority of games are still single player driven experiences...........

I could name hundreds, but I doubt I wouldnt get bored
0 1 [Posted by: stealth  | Date: 03/11/12 02:53:15 PM]
Hard core gamers are still on PC and they will ever be!
Console cannot die it cud only reintegrate and expand!
Technology is changing and war between Arm and Intel will emerge bat that cud more influence PC way of gaming.
The game industry is the hugest and most profitable part of entertainment industry so no one will stand down especially not Sony (Machusita) who now's how tough is to be no 1. even with a better product.
We all wanted a smarter games so everybody cried when Sierra bankrupted and we are still making polemic about trivial lobby...
1 0 [Posted by: Zola  | Date: 03/13/12 01:53:17 PM]
Excellent comments BestJingo. My own pet peeve is the move to multiplayer games: I have a job and not unlimited time for gaming. I like to play a well-done single-player game at my own pace. I don't care about all the social network fluff that has been grafted onto gaming.

My most memorable gaming experiences are in the past. I still remember the enjoyement of playing the original Tomb Raider on the first Playstation.

1 0 [Posted by: BernardP  | Date: 03/14/12 07:23:02 AM]

For me -- video game consoles died once I got a computer.
2 1 [Posted by: amythompson172  | Date: 03/11/12 11:41:28 AM]

show the post
0 4 [Posted by: stealth  | Date: 03/11/12 02:50:03 PM]
- collapse thread

It didn't mean to say it takes $100 million to "develop" a videogame. The entire budget is comprised of development costs (programmers, artists, writers) + marketing/advertising and packaging costs too.

To make a AAA game and get it out to the market would cost $50-100 million, easily. When it costs as much or more now to make a game as it does to release a Hollywood movie, do you expect developers to take creative or other risks? No sir. They have shareholders to answer to.

The question is WHY does it cost so much to develop and market a game from scratch? You have to start with that question. Think about the Call of Duty marketing campaigns with celebrities and actors? Was that necessary?

I bet at least 40-50% of COD's budget went into marketing. For us gamers, that $ would have been far better spent on actually making the game more innovative. But if you want to make $, and have a serious marketing campaign behind your game, it might be better to spend it on marketing rather than making the game better. With good marketing you can sell a bad product!
2 0 [Posted by: BestJinjo  | Date: 03/12/12 05:48:30 PM]
Usually a small and unknown group of developers actually develops game for a couple millions and then big corporation markets it and cash in! So the actual creators gets only the piti cash! May be free platform independent online distribution wold not be a such bed thing, Linux core and open gl - Cl base all wrapped in games ecosystem like in Dos days!?
1 0 [Posted by: Zola  | Date: 03/13/12 03:16:24 PM]

They are two different markets with little overlap.
Looks like Anton isn't a gamer.
2 0 [Posted by: user99  | Date: 03/12/12 08:59:32 AM]

Am I missing something here? Isn't the topic about what will be, not what is? What will be may be a 'Snow Crash' future, not next weeks release. What was that little box he sat in front of (about the size of an iPhone) that lasered his retinas into another reality? Had to be 5,000 teraflops minimum and some jollygood algorithms. That's not next week nor next year. You may not live to see it. Anton, is that what your writing about? - HyLite
1 0 [Posted by: HyLite  | Date: 03/12/12 10:32:32 AM]

Has anyone even considered the likes of a "Cotton Candy FX1" with an sd card as the new type console? These already have more computing power than any games console and plug into a usb port on the TV? WiFi able sd card readers Cheaper to produce an sd card with game than dvd etc.
0 0 [Posted by: tedstoy  | Date: 03/14/12 03:42:31 AM]


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