Console gaming industry needs to adapt to meet mobile challenge

Today, almost everyone you know will have a smartphone and one of the main activities taking place on smartphones isn’t talking to people; it’s playing games. As a society, we’ve embraced the possibility of being able to game wherever we are, whenever we want, thanks to the huge range of games that can now be played on a mobile phone.

From puzzle games like Candy Crush through to bingo games online that can be played on a mobile too, we make use of a few minutes here and there to enjoy gaming wherever we are. For many people, the mobile remains the gaming device of choice even when you’re at home. A survey by comScore last year revealed that of the 20 million mobile gamers in the UK, 54% of them were playing in their living rooms.

So what does the increase in mobile gaming mean for the console gaming industry. Does it signal the end of console gaming? Opinion is divided, and there has certainly been a downward trend in the amount spent on console gaming. In 2009, 68% of video games revenue was accounted for through disc-based games. A forecast from Strategy Analytics predicts that this percentage will fall to 41% by the end of this year. In 2013, only 28 million consoles were sold globally – that’s half the volume that was sold five years earlier.

In 2014, mobile will account for 28% of video games revenue – two and a half times the share it represented five years ago. Online gaming is predicted to account for 31% of video games revenue – an increase of 21% since 2009.

The rising popularity of online games, including real money games at sites such as Winner, Paddy Power and bgo, and the increase in mobile gaming, has led to a drop in traditional video gaming. The shift away from console gaming is said to be linked to the convenience of playing on a mobile; a device that you have with you almost all the time. The games are also cheaper on a mobile.

However, we shouldn’t forget that there is a difference between mobile gaming – which tends to be fairly casual – and core gaming that is done on consoles. People may be happy to game on their mobiles for some of the time, but that doesn’t mean they’re ready to abandon their console gaming just yet. Following the release of PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, it’s expected that the number of consoles shipped in 2014 will increase by 14% to 32 million units.

There’s a large enough contingent of core gamers who would not find the mobile games engaging enough to not have an alternative platform to game on. Also, while smartphones and tablets may be taking a greater slice of the market share, they are introducing many people to gaming for the first time. There are some ‘mobile first’ gamers who then move into console gaming, and help to sustain growth in that market.

Console gaming will also go through a transition period where the disc is gradually phased out. Console manufacturers did consider making the latest generation of consoles disc-less, and switching to download-only, but it was deemed that the market was not yet ready for this.

However, looking forward, it’s likely that the next generation of consoles will have downloadable games only, as download speeds improve and storage space increases. But it will take years for all console gamers to switch to purely digital downloads, so the death of the game disc is not imminent by any stretch of the imagination.

So far, Sony and Microsoft console sales have remained strong; it’s the weak sales of Nintendo that are bringing 8th generation console numbers down. There are also new ways to play – like the Oculus Rift VR and Android-based micro-consoles – so whatever way you like to play, now is a great time to enjoy video gaming. The industry will keep innovating to make sure it keeps its audience engaged and satisfied with the gaming options that are out there.


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