You’ve done it before playing Deathmatch. You’ve come upon two enemies shooting it out while you hang back to pick off the victor, now hanging on to life by a thread. This image continues to spring to mind whenever I hear a mobile developer or console platform holder sniping back and forth about the true impact of iOS and Android gaming. That guy hanging back? That’s the PC market. You thought it was dead, put it out of your mind, but it’s the one that’s gonna get ya.
Of course, just like real war, there is no winner here. There are only losers, and most of them are the people that actually pay for the games. This isn’t the first time someone in the mobile segment (and, let’s be clear that it is all the same industry) has predicted the death of the home console. Each time I hear this, I wonder how these people can’t see how counterproductive the infighting is.
“Traditional games have become more core. They require an expensive console, use a controller which laymen are afraid of, and their interfaces are not always the easiest to use.”
This statement assumes a zero sum approach. Nintendo has already defied that logic with the Wii, introducing thousands of new households to gaming and, in direct contrast to this statement, console gaming specifically. There is room in the world for social and mobile gaming alongside console gaming. Sure, the Ven diagram shows some overlap, but that doesn’t mean that it has to be an either/or proposition.
Additionally, this argument still neglects the third, looming presence. PC gaming is alive and well, and frankly, if the number of buttons on a controller scare a layperson, manipulating a keyboard and mouse must be the stuff of nightmares. It seems, though, that many people are conquering their fears. According to the PC Gaming Alliance report issued in March 2012, that segment of the market grew by 15% over 2010 to $18.7 billion. In fairness, approximately $500,000 of the $2.44 million growth is represented by Zynga, the remaining almost $2 million is largely due to core games like Star Wars: The Old Republic, Battlefield 3, Skyrim and other marquee titles. It is also important to remember that the PC Gaming Alliance is a trade association, so while the statistics may be correct, be aware of bias in the way they are framed. Furthermore, according to a BBC report, Zynga’s acquisition of OMGPOP! (Draw Something) could be blowing up in the mobile giant’s face.
WebMediaBrands, a company that monitors Facebook connection to mobile apps, has stated that based on their analysis, Draw Something’s daily usership has dropped from 14.3 to 10.4 million people. It’s likely that a combination of growing anti-Zynga sentiment, and the harsh words of OMGPOP!’s CEO toward a member of the staff who opted not to follow the company after the buyout, have contributed to the exodus.
There are a lot of moving pieces in the industry, and we’re in a state of transition. One console generation is coming to and end, with the next set to begin this fall. Nintendo has already been working to increase a touch-based and, reportedly, mobile element to their next home console. It would be unsurprising if Microsoft and Sony didn’t acknowledge the growing mobile audience in some way, much like they’ve done to broaden the appeal of their platforms as entertainment devices. Put simply, it’s too early to pronounce any platform dead on the scene. Just ask any of the growing number of PC gamers.