Angry Robot

The New Console Wars

Interesting article on International Hobo, The Console Wars are Over

The notion of a Console War depends upon the need for dedicated devices that directly compete for the same pool of money. But it’s already the case that the only part of the home consoles that is unique to them is the controller, which is the cheapest part of the whole deal. Ship a Smart TV with a twin sticks gamepad and a one month trial of a cloud gaming service and see what happens… Even if no-one tries to bite that apple, the idea that Apple isn’t already taking a bite out of the console market is absurd.

Bateman rightly points out that “The Console Wars” are a construct. I’m not sure they were created on purpose by the industry, or whether they were a byproduct of how journalism covers business and tech. But I share his sense of their impending demise as Apple’s forces pour over the battlefield, to continue a metaphor well past its point of usefulness.

I wrote earlier in Portagame that iOS and to a lesser extent Android would destroy the market for portable game systems, and I think what I wrote there holds true (the 3DS is selling ok, but the Vita is in trouble). Bateman points out that the iPad alone is likely damaging the home console market:

Nintendo’s Wii – putatively the winner of the last round of the Console Wars – sold 97 million units over 6 years. Apple’s iPad has sold 84 million units in just 2.5 years, and about three quarters of those people use their iPad to play games.

But what would happen if Apple actually tried to dominate the consoles? I don’t mean building by dedicated games hardware, but making a generalized computing device for big-screen, living room use that just so happens to play games too.

Nintendo has just shipped its new console, WiiU. Sony and Microsoft have yet to announce their new hardware, but smart money is on fall 2013. The games industry tends to pre-announce far in advance, so such consoles would likely be announced at E3 in June 2013.

Even if all Apple did was open the current AppleTV up to third party developers, they could take the wind out of an entire industry. If they changed the hardware model (an actual TV set, or a dedicated controller of some kind), things would go even further. Whatever it is, they would announce it, and start shipping it, sometime between E3 and the ship date of the new Sony and Microsoft consoles. Invite a couple big developers on stage – Rockstar and Square Enix, say (who already both release their games on iOS), or Epic (what did happen to Infinity Blade: Dungeons, anyway?) – you know the drill.

Rumours have it that Microsoft will release 2 next-gen Xbox models, and one will be a cheap model dedicated to video streaming and casual games. That sounds like an AppleTV competitor all right, so perhaps they see this coming. The war continues in a whole new form.