Big-name industry figures mull the future of games consoles

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An ex-EA boss and former head of PlayStation have pondered whether the cost of exclusive games hardware might spell doom for consoles.

The recent spate of industry layoffs, and the sheer costs involved in making both games and hardware, seems to have left two of videogaming’s big-name executives mulling the future of the humble console.

First up, let’s go over to Peter Moore, who for years was a senior executive at Electronic Arts, and was also head of Xbox at Microsoft for a time. When asked by IGN whether the current generation of consoles might be the last, Moore replied, “I think it’s a real serious question that’s being asked I’m sure in Tokyo, in Redmond, Washington, in Kyoto. That’s what everybody’s working on right now, because when you start off that next generation, you’ve got to be ready to absorb billions of dollars in losses. And is the industry, given all the layoffs and everything we’re going through right now, is the industry ready for that?”

Moore then argued that, with most people owning a PC or Mac, or at least a mobile phone capable of running games, a growing number of people are likely to question whether they need to spend “$600 on a bespoke piece of hardware just to play games. So both the companies and gamers themselves are asking this question.”

The former games industry executive (he’s now CEO of Liverpool football club) also cited the growing clamour around AI as being a reason for hardware manufacturers to stop and ponder the future of consoles.

“The role of AI, what does that mean? You can’t look away from that. Are these companies willing to go another round of multi-billion? And at the same time you’re gearing up for another cycle where gamers may not embrace the console and just say, you know what? I don’t need this, times are tough.”

Former PlayStation boss Shawn Layden, meanwhile, has pondered the future of another pillar that helps keep consoles afloat: system exclusives.

Speaking to VentureBeat (via Eurogamer), Layden argued that the sheer cost of developing games meant that limiting a potential audience to just one platform is making less and less financial sense to studios and publishers alike.

“When your costs for a game exceed $200 million, exclusivity is your Achilles’ heel,” Layden said. “It reduces your addressable market. Particularly when you’re in the world of live-service gaming or free-to-play. Another platform is just another way of opening the funnel, getting more people in.”

Layden then went on to suggest that changing consumer tastes might also ultimately lead to the end of the system exclusive, whether it’s on consoles or even mobile platforms like Android and iOS’ respective stores.

“You have to decide, at what point do you murder your darlings?” Layden said. “At what point does having this chokehold on everything that comes across your platform – it’s been a lucrative marketplace for you, but consumer minds are changing. Consumers aren’t buying a new mobile phone every nine months or whatever it used to be… you can’t keep a stranglehold on the marketplace forever.”

As Moore admitted in his interview, the end of games consoles has been predicted before. But with sales of Xbox and PlayStation 5 falling below their companies’ expectations, it could be that we’re nearer to the end of dedicated games hardware than the beginning.

The industry’s still waiting for Nintendo to announce the release date for its long-discussed Nintendo Switch successor; ultimately, its success or failure could help define the future of consoles as a whole.

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