Video games kind of suck this year. Sure, there's going to be another blockbuster winter full of Assassin's Creed III, Epic Mickey 2 and Halo 4, but is that all there really is? E3, the Christmas for gamers, turned out to be more like Columbus Day. Why has this year been so bad?
The answer is pretty simple really. People are tired of what we currently have. They want something new and flashy. We're still gaming on hardware that's now 6-years-old. People are also moving to mobile with the iPad and various smartphones. Mobile gamers get hardware updates every year which results in better and better games. Console gamers are still using the same old DualShock 3s and Xbox 360 gamepads from 2006.
All of these elements are combining to push gaming through a transition of sorts. Thanks to a lovely infographic from Statista, we can now see exactly how this transition is affecting gamers - console, PC and mobile alike. The results may just surprise you.
It should be noted that retail game sales are down to their lowest level since 2006. That was the year that the PS3 and Wii launched. The Xbox 360 had a year-long head start, but it didn't contribute to great hardware or software sales because everybody was still gaming on their old consoles. You see a massive spike in 2007 and 2008 mostly due to the Wii bringing in more people. The decline is due to people losing interest in the Wii and turning towards alternative methods of play.
Another encroaching factor is the rise of digital sales. Why go to the store when you can just buy the game online and download it at your leisure? It seems that everybody else had the same thought which led to digital taking up 31 percent of the games market in 2011. Sure, retail was still king, but digital made a 11 percent jump since 2009.
As for the household, it seems that consoles still remain the number one gaming device at 70 percent. That's followed closely by the PC at 65 percent. What's interesting is that the smartphone has now overtaken the dedicated handheld system with 38 to 35 percent respectively. It's not entirely dominating, but it's a sign that people are more willing to spend time playing a simple distraction on the iPhone over an engrossing tale on the 3DS or Vita.
Analysts expect the number of mobile gamers to rise to over 150 million by 2016. Of course, that number is people who play a game on a mobile device at least once a month. I wouldn't really call that a gamer, but the analysts do and they're the ones who call the shots.
Of course, the premium price demanded by console games means that they will still make more money than even the most popular mobile title for now at least. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 made $1 billion in sales after only 16 days on the market. Rovio only made $106.3 million in 2011 off of Angry Birds. That's still pretty good for a game that's free on one platform and only $1 on the other.
All of this is to say that gaming is growing and expanding beyond its humble roots. More and more people are entering the fold and finding the joy that games can bring. Are the core games that presumably you and I enjoy at risk of dying out? Of course not. There will always be a market for the Skyrims of the world. Mobile just means that more people get to enjoy the experiences that we've been enjoying for the past 20 plus years. It's a good thing, trust me.[Lead image: jeriaska/flickr] [Chart of the Day: Statista]