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Posted by Marianne Miller on Mar 14, 2013

Will This Year Mark The End Of Mainstream Consoles?

2013 has not been a great one for those interested in mainstream consoles.  The lackluster Sony press conference for the PlayStation 4 wherein they completely avoided showing the actual console they were announcing didn’t really get people excited for the next generation of consoles.  Granted, we all heaved a sigh of relief when we were told, not in the conference, but in an interview afterward, that the console would not require an always-on internet connection to function, nor would it block the personal use of used games.  However, most of the games shown at the conference were not PS4 exclusives (or if they were, they would be so only for a short time at launch).

It’s a bleak market for gamers right now.  The new Xbox has the same rumors of constant internet connectivity and blocking used games.  Microtransactions are appearing in more and more AAA $60 titles.  But on the flip side, the business side is just as dismal, with the WiiU and the PSVita competing to see who can sell less units per month.

Which begs the question—have gamers finally started putting their foot down?  Are they finally tired of all the bullshit?  And will this generation of consoles be the last one where Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo dominate the market?

Consumers will see no less than 4 new systems released by other parties that will each have their own independent marketplaces.  The OUYA, Valve’s Steam Box, NVIDIA’s Project Shield, and the Razer Edge gaming tablet.  With new console and handheld equivalents being released by third parties, two of which we know to be more gamer-friendly (Valve and OUYA), it’s entirely possible that these new contenders on the market could very well uproot the dominance of the three “big boys”.

While Valve’s Steam Box and OUYA would deal primarily in digital releases, we know for a fact that Valve has some of the more reasonable pricing available to PC gamers.  While at times the pricing of a Steam game can take a while to drop compared to the brick-and-mortar copies (since a game takes up no room on a digital shelf and doesn’t need to be cleared out as urgently), the multiple sales Steam has a year would quickly offset any negative there, not to mention any downside to not being able to trade in a used copy for store credit.  A gamer that spends less money on one game will continue spending money on more.

Similarly, OUYA has promised that any game available on its platform will be available for free in some capacity.  If not by means of the free-to-play business model, then by forcing the developers to make a demo available, which as we learned earlier this year, most are not too keen on doing so.  Forcing those who create games to make their games the best that they can so that gamers will actually bother purchasing their games could show a big push in the quality of games further down the road as long as the OUYA is able to survive the market, which could be hit or miss, given the fact that they have announced that they plan on releasing annual updates to their consoles.  No matter how affordable the equipment, most people don’t enjoy repurchasing hardware every year, Apple being the obvious exclusion. Not only that, it could possibly make things more difficult for developers, since they’d need to update developer kits every year for new games, as well as keep in mind the minimum system requirements for at least the last 2-3 systems released.

Is it possible for these “underdogs” to overtake Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo?  Or will OUYA and the Steam Box be competing with the WiiU and Vita for worst sales?  Only time will tell, but I have a feeling that this year’s holiday season will be very telling.

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