While gaming company higher-ups aren’t always the best bellwether for the direction the industry is taking, they do tend to view the sector as an RTS commander views his troops and resources. What they tend to lack in taste and on-the-ground wisdom, they make up in sobriety and larger trends. So it’s no surprise that Frank Gibeau, head of EA Labels, has a relaxed view of the console race.
The way the business used to run where you had these big console transitions just isn’t happening anymore. They’re much longer, the online capabilities are making the way customers interact within the audience very different from when we went from PSOne to PS2. I think that [the age of] big, abrupt change in consoles where we all pile in on top of each other and everything changes overnight is just gone.
I don’t see consumers right now banging on the walls for a new platform. They seem to be very happy with their PS3s and 360s. They love the online connectivity, they have great communities and great libraries.
This Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood version of the console wars is a little detached from the blood-soaked ground of exclusives, franchise whoring, and rampant fanboyism. But really, it’s hard to argue with. The consoles are in more or less their final generation of games, which is to say there isn’t too much more for developers to discover. This is the period in which many standout games are made, and every year the consoles increase in value and decrease in price. Developing a major game is already hugely expensive and time-consuming; the benefits of a Playstation 4 or what have you would likely be offset by the long gestation period and low frequency of games for some time.
We’ve heard that some studios are already developing for the new console, but the truth is usually more complicated. There’s no way Microsoft or Sony has a ready-to-go console prototyped right now, but they’re probably testing parts and sharing some of that information with partners. In the meantime Gibeau is right: the current consoles offer a monstrous value at a ridiculous price, and that’s not going to change for a while.
And if you’re really jonesing for a new console, well, there’s always the Wii U. That might not really be the right follow-up to a few years on the 360, but hey, it’s new.