Electronic Arts founder Trip Hawkins has predicted that video game consoles will become a hobbyist market, with the vast majority of players moving towards PC and mobile for gaming.
Speaking to IGN, Hawkins said in part:
“The console market is always going to be with us, because there’s always going to be a hardcore segment, a segment that likes innovation, but it’s going to become a smaller market, and it’s going to be more like a hobby market.”
“You look at airplanes. Most of us just want to be a passenger, but there’s a hobby market for people who are really into aviation and want to take flying lessons and maybe someday have their own airplane. I think that’s what’s happening to the console market.”
“But there are billions of people now playing games. The gaming industry is finally becoming mass-market. It’s across two billion PCs and four billion mobile phones, and within a few years a billion tablets. In terms of total audience size, we’re getting into really big numbers.”
“…In the old days I’d go down to the basement to play Grand Theft Auto. But the Facebook gamer is able to play at work, at home, in a hotel on a PC. They can get access to a browser just about anywhere. People are thinking about convenience first.”
It is an undeniable fact that the video game console market is facing increased challenges from PC and mobile devices, however, I’m not so sure that the time is right to just write it off as a niche market.
The console market has faced hard times in the past, specifically when it crashed in 1983 only to be brought back to life by Nintendo and the NES. If, as Trip Hawkins suggests, the consoles are headed for another huge downturn I suspect that we will see them rise again when the right company introduces some innovative product that grabs the consumer’s attention.
It’s also a little more than ironic that Hawkins is naming the PC as one of the home console’s biggest threats, when we have been hearing for years that video game consoles killed PC gaming.
My guess is that the upcoming transition to the next generation of consoles will be a very difficult one, and there might be some players who exit for other markets. However, as long as home consoles innovate and have gaming as their core focus I suspect that there will always be a significant number of consumers who will support the platform.