Monday, 2 July 2012

Free to Play, Freemium, and Future Speculation Part 2

Perhaps it's all just pointless doom-saying, but what happens if there is something to all this?

Before the weekend I talked a little about the speculation that in the future we could see a majority of games on both the PC and even possibly the console coming out as free-to-play software. While this might seem outlandish, it's not entirely unfeasible. Certainly the way the market currently works would not be very accomidating towards such a paradigm shift, but if it were gradual then perhaps.

Of course, that speculation almost serves as a sort of what if best case scenario. Other people from other companies -- in this case namely Ben Cousins, the general manager of Ngmoco -- have a less then steller picture to paint about the potential future of gaming, at least when it comes to PC and console enthusiasts.

In a keynote presentation that Cousins gave at GDC Taipei, he spoke in no uncertain terms about where he believed that console gaming would be in the next five to ten years: it'll be dead.

Cousins cites that mobile gaming has a potential to, "kill console gaming, I'm talking about a significant reduction of market share with no chance of return." His reasoning for this lies in the idea that as more people get mobile devices said devices will replace consoles as the platform of choice for gaming. Leaving aside for the moment as to whether this speculation is correct, he further states that,

"I believe that sometime during the next console generation, globally, both the revenue and the marketshare for games will be larger in mobile than it is for console," he added. "I believe Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo won't produce dedicated hardware past the next generation. ... Further, I believe traditional game companies like EA will be purchased by existing digital companies, or close entirely."

Quite the claim. Cousins further believes that freemium games will eventually be the market to turn to for the most substantial profits, citing Japan's shift from console to mobile gaming as a prelude to Western audiences making the shift as well.

Now, could this happen? Yes, it could. However it's hard not to take into consideration the substantial amount of bias that Cousins has in this matter towards the mobile platform that he's thrown in with. Certainly we've seen great strides in IOS gaming and it's true that when out on the go that people are often just as apt to play Angry Birds or Fruit Ninja as they are to check their email or read a book I think that believing that mobile gaming will entirely usurp console and even PC gaming as the dominant platform of choice is a somewhat ridiculous statement to say the least.

It is true that a lot of people do play mobile games now more than ever, but I believe that when it comes to games that have actual substance that it still takes an actual console, handheld, or PC for the most part to deliver on that experience. I've already also made my stance clear in regards to freemium games that either have you paying to win or just to play at a pace that doesn't rival a sloth that's on Valium. Freemium can be used well, but at the moment rarely seems to be.

Again this is just speculation. It's somewhat darker then what I covered on Friday, but it's still a possible future, one that I think I'd like to avoid if at all possible, but still.

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