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November 2012 Retro Gaming Article

November 27, 2012 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Is interest in gaming consoles really dwindling or has Gen 7 simply dragged on incessantly?

From pop-culture pieces in USA Today to the gritty innards of game industry journalism, I keep hearing that game consoles are on the decline. Some have ventured to say that game consoles are (or already have been) on the way out. I'm not ready to give in to popular opinion, but when luminaries in the industry begin saying that consoles are in their final stages, I get worried.
Centuri and Atari Vanguard games
I spent countless hours in arcades and even more in front of the family TV with various Atari consoles, then marched forward with Nintendo. As a retro gamer, gaming has always been a console affair. I was never interested in PC games. Gaming for me was about the magic of a home console. How else could one play video games if not on a console?

Today that question has several answers from smart phones and tablets to web-based social games. The allure of 99¢ games is strong in a weak economy in which mobile technology still flourishes. I admit to enjoying Angry Birds and Stupid Zombies on my Android phone, but mobile games are quite different from console games. Their depth is far less than the average console game. This isn't to slight mobile gaming, but most of the nay sayers seem to think gaming is a single entity. It is not.

ipad Mini with Centuri Vanguard The advent of mobile gaming has broadened gaming as we knew it. Where we once had PC games and console games, the video game landscape is changing. I don't see mobile gaming overthrowing console gaming. It's a new form of gaming brought on by technology. Phones suck less than they used to and can now handle a wealth of media variations formerly relegated to computers and game consoles.

Computers are now gathering dust as consumers flock to get tablets - which seem to be more like cell phones with bigger screens and hobbled ability make a phone call. Who knows where all this will lead, but you can guarantee that technology will continue to march forward, bringing gamers more options.

So, we've seen the game industry spread from the dedicated consoles from Atari and Nintendo to multi-use devices like the PS2 and PS3 that had DVD and BluRay capabilities. Then we watched as mobile and social gaming took off. This leaves us in the 8th generation with the Wii U and expected updates from Sony and Microsoft. Let's look at the previous generation - seven.

Gaming Generations

The 7th generation began in 2005 with the PSP. Within a year we had new consoles from Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft. But what happened between 2007 and 2011? Um... not much. This leaves us with a new scenario in gaming - console fatigue. The Wii, PS3 and Xbox 360 have languished without upgrades or any new manufacturer coming on the scene. Up until 2012 there were new consoles coming out almost every year or two and new players coming into the market. Atari really got home console gaming going with the 2600. Then Nintendo came in with the NES, Mattel came in with Intellivision, Coleco with Colecovision and Sega. There were also a host of others from Vectrex to Turbo Grafx. That's a lot of activity compared with Gen 7 and the big three manufacturers with 5+ year old systems!

Gaming Convergence

In Gen 8 we now have the Wii U - which is damn exciting - and a host of mobile gaming options that some worry are taking gaming down a path toward inexpensive mini-game experiences. But wait - Ouya! The upcoming (March 2013?) Android gaming console dares to take the ease of mobile development back to the living room TV in console format. Mobile is a new extension of traditional gaming, but gaming's roots are in the power and focus of game consoles. They may expand in their multi-use (everything to everyone marketing strategy), but I feel consoles are here to stay. Of course I felt the same way about laserdiscs.

I think gaming is simply going through some growing pains as we wait to see where mobile gaming goes and a logical balance between mobile and console settles into place. I'm sure some more chaos will ensue. Strange things are afoot at the Circle-K and that works just fine in gaming.

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