“The PC has won.”
The gaming market landscape today is dramatically different than it was just a decade ago- back then, home consoles were a market that were seeing meteoric growth, thanks to the rise of Nintendo and the Wii, handhelds were the most profitable segment of the gaming market, because of the DS and PSP, PC gaming was in danger of disappearing, thanks to the collapse of the PC retail market (Steam, and digital distribution in general, had not caught on yet), and mobile gaming being less than a blip on the radar.
Today, this is all changed- the PC gaming market is the biggest it has ever been, consoles are suffering due to the underperformance of Xbox One and Wii U, handhelds are a highly contracted market, with a struggling 3DS and an irrelevant PS Vita, and mobile gaming is one of the most important pillars of the market. Things have changed, in other words. And console makers need to adjust to these changes.
This is something that Alienware CEO Frank Azor believes, according to an interview he had with VentureBeat– he believes that the OC market has won, and the console manufacturers all need to adapt to the new reality and respond to it, though he does credit Microsoft with trying to adjust their strategy.
“The PC has won,” he said. “To continue to fight that, I think, will severely limit, if not negatively impact, the traditional [console] model’s ability to survive and succeed. Microsoft is aware of that. They’re demonstrating their awareness and their foresight in the announcements they’ve been making, like Scorpio and UWP and bringing content to both Windows and Xbox.”
Going forward, it is clear he sees a market of homogenized high end hardware- no differentiation between consoles and gaming PCs as one might think traditionally, although specialized consoles will certainly continue to exist. At the same time, though, he believes that exclusives will be a thing of the past, and games will hit all hardware at once. It is the kind of future that Valve envisioned with Steam Machines, and that has admittedly not caught on yet.
“I encourage the rest of the console makers out there to focus on what makes them special, which is the games, the franchises, the stories they tell, the characters they’ve built,” Azor said. “The hardware space is an opportunity for less and less differentiation when it comes to what you can build for $300 or $400. That’s okay. Moving forward, we have an opportunity to do incredible differentiation when you have $600, $700, $800 to invest.
“In the future there will still be appliances, still room for guys to go out and build these subsidized boxes at lower price points with limited scalability and limited feature sets, as compared to what some of these more premium, scalable PC architectures have been delivering and will continue to be able to deliver. But the content should be ubiquitous across everything, in my opinion. As much as I want console-exclusive franchises to come to the PC, I want PC-exclusive franchises to go over to consoles as well. It’s not a one-way street. Gamers are going to benefit from that.”
Now, personally, I am not sure if I buy into the second part of his argument, though I definitely buy into the first one- I do think that smartphones and PCs have changed the market, and that consoles need to adjust to that new reality. I also do think Microsoft and Sony are both responding to this change in their own way. That said, I don’t think that this blurring of the lines between consoles and PCs will happen, not any time soon, in any case.
We’ll see how it all turns out. The next few years ought to be interesting.