Deathblow!

or, Ben Cousins was Too Gentle

On Wednesday of GDC, Ben Cousins of ngmoco delivered easily one of my top talks of the show, “When the Consoles Die, What Comes Next?”  This succinct talk painted a clear picture of the collapse of the Cinema relative to TV and a similar collapse of Arcade relative to Console.  Cousins’ hypothesis stated that a transition is already underway; Console is rapidly giving way to Mobile, and in the near future Gree will be to Nintendo what Nintendo is to SNK.

This picture was painted using a variety of data sources: historical data on market capitalization for key companies, year-over-year market size of Arcade vs. Console, losses of Microsoft’s Entertainment and Devices division, etc.  In one slide on comparing annual arcade revenue to console revenue, Cousins highlighted two years where the markets were roughly equal as the tipping point from which Arcade would never recover.

Cousins’ talk implies that Console isn’t dead, but Mobile will overtake them soon.  Based on the evidence presented, I felt like he was underselling the case.  Mobile has already delivered the deathblow, and just like Bill after the Five Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique, Console only has a few footsteps left before the market has deteriorated drastically relative to Mobile with no chance of recovering its former glory.  It is inevitable.

In early job interviews, I enthused that Mega Man 2 at the age of 6 is why I became a game designer. I fear the impending day when I interview a college grad who tells me how Jetpack Joyride changed her life forever.

During Q&A, I asked “if these market shifts happen due to a change in hardware enabling a change in the market, and Mobile has already happened, what comes next?  If we accept that Mobile is going to overtake Console, what will overtake Mobile?”  His answer was ubiquitous, cloud-based gaming, of the sort pioneered by Gaikai or OnLive.  The problem, he said, is the bandwidth to pull this off is maybe 20 years off.

Again, I think he was underselling.  With the pace of technological evolution, we will be playing high fidelity, multiplayer Call of Duty executed on servers and sent to low power devices over the air.  It is inevitable.

I am not a technologist and am sure it is mountainous challenge.  But, consumer demand for ubiquitous, wireless broadband will motivate a solution in fewer than 20 years.

I have another theory as to what will kill touch based phones as the gaming platform of the present.  Sunglasses.   They are too cool.  I want them too badly.  We will ditch the inconvenient bricks we carry in our pockets for fashionable computers we wear.  We will enjoy heads up displays which enhance everyday life.  It is inevitable.

The first game of Snake for Sunglasses may be as rudimentary as the Snake packaged on the ubiquitous Nokia phones early 2000’s.  But if I had my choice of dream projects today, I would choose that version of Snake over Half Life 3.