Is Mobile Gaming a Threat To Next Gen Consoles?

With the highly anticipated Xbox One and PlayStation 4 next-gen consoles hitting the consumer market this month, many are speculating as to how they will fare in an ever-changing gaming industry. As the mobile gaming platform continues to rise, traditional gaming consoles have already started to suffer in its shadow.

One sector of console gaming that has already felt the blows of mobile is handhelds. During the second quarter of 2013, the game revenue generated by iOS and Google Play was four times higher than that of gaming-optimised handhelds. Similar effects were also seen with home console sales last year. Overall sales of video game consoles in the UK fell by 33.1% in 2012, with home consoles falling by 34.1%.

However, these statistics were gathered a long period of time after the initial release of the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, giving hope that the new releases will spark a boom in sales. “This comes at a time when the main established consoles are nearing the end of their lifecycles,” said Dr Jo Twist, the boss of UKIE. “We are actually seeing more and more people playing games on ever more devices such as phones and tablets, as well as traditional dedicated game consoles.”

Despite this though, experts are predicting that the release of Microsoft and Sony’s latest consoles will not reverse the shift in gaming platforms on a long-term basis. DFC Intelligence have estimated that the global video game industry will rise from $67 billion last year to $82 billion in 2017. Most of this growth is attributed to the mobile market.

“New console systems from Nintendo, Microsoft and Sony are expected to help the console segment regain some momentum in the 2014 to 2015 timeframe,” said David Cole, an analyst with DFC Intelligence. “However, the steadiest area of growth is on the PC and mobile side.”

The major console producers are facing an uncertain gaming future. The Xbox One and PlayStation 4 could possibly be the last conventional console that are manufactured. The lower costs of development and wider audience on the mobile platform means that cross-platform development will be the most economical infrastructure to invest in going forward.

But although the face of gaming is ever-changing, it is not necessarily a bad thing for software providers. Mobile offers opportunities for developers that simply do not exist with traditional consoles. Gaming sites, such as Royal Vegas Casino can now be accessed from anywhere in the world, while companies such as EA are seeing the benefits in the free-to-play structure of apps. “We like this new model. It’s a lot more like a life operation that you continuously build. It’s a lot more like a service,” said EA’s Frank Gibeau.

Other companies remain steadfast in the belief that consoles have a certain future, which can work alongside and even be supported by its mobile equivalent. Head of Overseas Operations at Ubisoft, Alain Coore said: “What we like in mobile gaming is that it’s bringing new people to games, which for us is a very good because it’s a teaching thing. At one point, some of them will feel a bit limited with the scope of mobile games and they’ll want to experience something different in gaming.”

It is yet to be seen what will happen after the new home consoles hit the shelves, but one thing is certain: the small screen of mobile will remain a dominant force in the gaming industry yet.

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