Lauren Goode

Recent Posts by Lauren Goode

Console Makers at E3 Weigh the Impact of Casual and Mobile Games

Free. Mobile. Casual. Zynga. These words are likely to draw the ire or outright disgust of core gamers at an event like E3.

MobileGames

But, like it or not, there’s plenty of evidence that consumers’ mobile habits (or obsessions) are causing a shift in the traditional game industry. Last month, U.S. retail sales of videogame hardware, software and accessories fell 10 percent from a year ago, according to the NPD group, extending a slide spurred by gamers moving to mobile gadgets.

With this in mind, we asked executives from the “big three” console makers this week — Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft — for their thoughts on the mobile shift. Here’s the gist of what each had to say:

Sony: Sony president Jack Tretton dismissed the notion that mobile is drawing gamers away from console gaming. In a five-question Q&A with AllThingsD, Tretton said: “The one thing I think our announcement did was quell any notion that the console was on its way out, which is what people who aren’t really into gaming think is happening. Turn to anyone, any of the gamers here in this crowd [at E3], and ask them if they’re turning to smartphones and tablets over consoles. And then run.”

Nintendo: Nintendo president Satoru Iwata was characteristically resistant to the idea that mobile is having an impact on Nintendo’s gaming audience. “I am not of the opinion that the spread of smart devices has been impacting the videogame industry,” Iwata said in a candid interview. He also doesn’t envision Mario, Luigi and the gang ever coming to, say, the iPhone. “Nintendo has no intention to provide smart devices with our games — at all. Our IP is the most important asset with which we can attract people to our own platform.”

Microsoft: Only Yusuf Mehdi, senior vice president of Microsoft’s Interactive Entertainment division, conceded that mobile games have been impacting the core game industry — but he insisted that it’s a positive thing. In an interview with AllThingsD, Mehdi said that, overall, “[Mobile] brings more people to games. Look at how long the tail of the Xbox 360 has been — I think now you have more people identifying themselves as gamers that just wouldn’t call themselves that before.” When asked whether he believes casual games such as Candy Crush, Words With Friends and the like could actually be gateway games to consoles, Mehdi said he believed they could be, and cited the success of Minecraft — which originated as a PC and mobile game — as an example.

And there you have it — straight from the mouths of the guys heavily invested in traditional console gaming.

In truth, core console gamers are still critical to the health of the industry. And they’re still outspending their mobile gaming counterparts, according to NPD’s recent 2013 Gamer Segmentation report (if only for the obvious reason that console games cost a lot more).

But the group that NPD calls “free and mobile gamers” is a rapidly growing segment that’s likely not going anywhere anytime soon.

But what do you think? Are casual, mobile games taking away from core gaming, or enriching the industry?

(Feature photo courtesy of Sofia Samme/Flickr Creative Commons)


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