Are We Too Quick to Announce the Death of a Market?

Posted Monday March 11, 2013 at 9:19:39 am in Musings

Everyone is so quick to announce a market as a being dead....but are they ever right?

Part of me thinks this is part of sensationalist media jockeys trying to get page views. The other part of me thinks it's users that are so invested in a platform that they want to wish ill will on other platforms/markets (see: fan bois). And the last part of me  thinks that the world has been attaching itself to products for some time now, and this is just a bunch of sensationalism and rah-rah rants ruining technology writing today.

But guess what?

The smartphone/tablet market isn't going to kill the console market. There have been writers claiming this for years now ever since application stores started becoming popular on mobile devices. These writers claim that casual phone/tablet gamers will kill the market for console gaming. But I disagree. It's simply a matter of market saturation.

Flash back 6 years ago (prior to the iPhone launch), what gaming platforms were available? Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, desktop gaming, and some misc. handhelds (PSP, etc.). Yes, there were "app stores" prior to the iPhone, just not nearly as incentivized as Apple's App Store model. There was also mobile gaming on phones...just rather lackluster. Console and desktop gaming were king. On the go gaming was relegated to laptops and some handhelds. The market was pretty small.

Now it's 2013. And what kind of market do we have for gaming? Well, the 360, PS3, Wii and now Wii U are still here. Handheld gaming has expanded to include the Nintendo DS (and 3DS), PSP Go, PlayStation Vita, etc. There are future handheld platforms like Project Shield and what not coming out running Android. There seems to be a billion Android phones that people use for casual gaming. There's iOS (iPhone, Touch, iPad), Windows Phone, and any number of other tablets in between (Windows 8, Windows RT, Android, etc.). But guess what? Consoles are still selling. When people claim the 'death' of something is this just a wild exaggeration to claim that something just won't sell as well going forward? Isn't this just pure common sense when you expand the playing field to fill nearly every nitch out there?

Let's look towards the future of console gaming. At the end of 2013 we'll see the next Xbox, the PlayStation 4, Ouya, maybe some Steam Boxes (but who knows with Valve...), the possibility of a revamped/useful AppleTV for the masses as well as existing devices like the 360, PlayStation 3 and maybe even a cheaper Xbox. That's not even beginning to count Boxee, Roku, etc. Guess what people? The console market is not going to die. If anything it is going to expand.

Why is it going to expand? Because these devices haven't been dedicated gaming boxes for years now. Microsoft revolutionized the console market by making the 360 an entertainment hub. Other companies have been following in their footsteps. This is simply a matter of convergence. We're not quite there where the need for a cable box, a console, an HTPC, etc. are all available in one all inclusive device, but companies like Microsoft are trying to package them all into one device and sell the services. This has been happening for years. It's also why the living room is so damn important to Apple going forward. It's a market that's competitive with a lot of media.

So, yes...the console market is not dying. If anything, it is going to be expanding as the line between a "game console" and an "entertainment box" is further blurred. 

So, what about the other market that people claim is going to be killed or dead? The whole Post-PC phenomenon that Steve Jobs and Tim Cook love to harp on. While I don't think Jobs/Cook are serious that PC's are dead and tablets rule the world, I think outside of the marketing drivel that they spew...there is a real message here. It's the message that I was harping on above. The market is further becoming saturated and the lines between such devices as laptops, tablets, etc. is becoming blurred. 

Your typical desktop PC's may sell less, yes. The market has been moving towards more portable devices for years now. You may look to the Windows market and see that the market isn't selling as many as years ago. Well this is obvious. It's all a matter of market saturation. There are countless tablets out there now from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple, Samsung, HTC, Microsoft, ASUS, Sony, etc. etc. There are multiple OS's in Windows, iOS, Android, Chrome OS, OS/X, etc. There are multiple price points from anywhere from $99 up to well over $2,000. And then you have everything in between.

The market is saturated with these devices. Tablets are the craze, but people are (should) going to expect devices to converge. We can't reasonably expect companies like Apple to get away with selling (expecting) you an iPad and a Macbook. Of course that is simply a matter of capitalism, but that is being challenged by companies like Microsoft and Windows 8. Are we quite there yet? Well, for some devices and use cases we are. But for hardcore professionals? Maybe not quite yet unless you want to sacrifice battery life (Surface Pro). But we've progressed since 6 years ago. The Surface Pro (if it came out 6 years ago) would most likely be 4 pounds with a poor touch experience...and get 3 hours of battery life. Anways, the future of convergence when it comes to tablet (consumption) and productive (creation) device is here. It's just not perfect. But it is actually usable!

But back to the main point. Market saturation. Laptops, desktops, all-in-ones, convertibles, hybrids, tablets...and everything in between. This Post-PC era really just means we have a market with a ton of options for users.

But you know what it doesn't mean? That the tablet killed the PC (hell, the tablet existed well prior to the iPad). No, if anything what will happen is that the PC will eventually become synonymous with any of these devices as the funcitonality on these consumption devices starts improving. We're starting to see it with the Surface Pro and the media. And we'll continue to see it. 

So, next time you hear (or read) someone saying the console market is dead or the PC market is dead just understand that they're either wrong or just trying to get page views....and in some situations: both.

The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer’s view