Long Console Lifecycle: Biggest Mistake Ever
Posted on Tuesday, July 10 @ 10:04:18 PST by Anthony Severino
Square Enix is no stranger to mistakes: Final Fantasy, arguably one of the most beloved and storied franchises of our time, has been run into the ground by mismanagement and unnecessary Westernization. Final Fantasy XIII and XIII-2, while not terrible games, aren't revered as were past iterations. Final Fantasy XIV... it's difficult to describe in words the extent of that blunder. But Squeenix's technology director, Julien Merceron, believes there is a much larger mistake made during this generation—by Sony and Microsoft.
This morning Julien was quoted as saying that Sony and Microsoft keeping their current console lifecycle going onward of six, seven, even eight years is "the biggest mistake they've ever made". Bold claims, and I'm sure many will disagree, as I know there are plenty of people perfectly happy with their PS3s and Xbox 360s—just as many not yet ready for the next generation jump.
But from an industry standpoint, not bringing console successors out sooner have allowed new and emerging platforms to take hold in the market, and many consumers may not come back to the home console.
Going back as far as the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1985, the next generation traditionally arrived every five years, give or take a year. In 1989, the SEGA Genesis hit the market, with the SNES shortly following in 1991. Both the SEGA Saturn and Sony PlayStation were released in 1995, with the N64 coming out in 1996. Then the PS2 arrived in 2000, with the original Xbox and Nintendo Gamecube tailing by a year. The Xbox 360 launched in 2005 and is nearing its seventh year on the market. The PlayStation 3, its sixth.
Six, even seven years on the market isn't totally unusual; even the PlayStation 2 still sells considerably well given its eleven years at retail. But the fact that a release date for new consoles hasn't been set and that new technology hasn't even been announced is worrying. It's going to be at least Holiday 2013 before we'll see a new console from either Sony or Microsoft, possibly longer.
The PlayStation 2 easily bested the original Xbox and Gamecube by having a full-year head start. The Xbox 360's one-year lead over the PS3 has served Microsoft well. Coming out of the gate first with new hardware helps—there is no denying that. And that's exactly what's happening again, right now, but from unexpected competitors.
The recent emergence of iOS games, tablet games, Facebook games, and more—the free-to-plays. The 99 cent downloadable games that make for easy impulse purchases are equally enticing to developers who don't have to sink substantial financial investments into creating titles for these platforms. Development costs of PS3 and Xbox 360 games are higher than ever, with decreasing returns because hardware and software sales are down in stark contrast to where it was only a few years ago.
The industry peaked in 2008. There were new, exciting consoles, and consumers were ready to spend their money—even though budgets were tight from a poor economy. The economy hasn't become significantly better, or worse, yet the video game console industry has been in decline ever since.
By not releasing new consoles until 2013 or beyond, Sony and Microsoft are continuing to let these other non-console platforms grow. They're continuing to let sales decline. And they are indeed making the biggest mistake ever.
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