This past Thanksgiving, the strangest thing happened to me: I got to witness the potential growth of a fledgling gamer. One of my family members (a 60-year-old aunt) is a passionate mobile gamer, Facebooker, and overall social media fiend. Like, the kind of gamer who's on her phone 24/7, playing anything that looks like Bubble Bobble or Bejeweled. Over the break, I stuck a Xbox 360 controller in her hands to play a game of Geometry Wars, and I'm pretty sure her brain exploded. Her excitement wasn't from the strobing, stroke-inducing lights of the game--it was from pure, unadulterated fun. Even though it took some time for her to acclimate to an input device that wasn't a touchscreen, I could see the seed had been planted. My aunt--like so many gamers who got their start on casual fare--seemed to be in the market for a new, richer experience. The kind that the Xbox One and PS4 could provide.
Today, MCVUK reported that the Xbox One and PS4 have already far surpassed the UK launch sales numbers of their respective predecessors. The PS4 sold a whopping 250K units and the Xbox One passed 150K within the first two days of their launch. The previous generation consoles took weeks to reach those numbers in the UK. That's a gigantic jump.
But how could this be? Where did all of these gamers come from? Haven't all of those games industry analysts and crystal ball-gazing mystics predicted that console gaming would be on the decline, and mobile gaming would rule all? Well, it doesn't look like it. And it seems that the 60 year-old gamer at my Thanksgiving table, and all the other folks like her, might've had something to do with the boost in next-gen launch sales. Could it be that the surge in last-gen's casual and mobile scene is finally helping console gaming?
Well, yeah. Even the PlayStation brand president said he wants casual games to succeed. Newer gamers are finding their way to the mainstream from all corners of the pastime, and it seems the expanding market is also increasing hardware sales. If a 60-year-old woman can pick up a 16 button Xbox 360 controller and successfully play a console game, that's one more potential console customer. These greenhorn gamers are finally starting to discover a world of gaming beyond the mobile and casual realms. The record launch sales of the next-gen consoles suggests that these gamers, too, want to play the next best thing.
Let's look at what happened over the last decade. The seventh console generation hit. The Wii opened up the floodgates and swept over just about every age bracket you could imagine (bowling grandpas and all). Mobile gaming exploded, pushing casual experiences nonstop until they eventually became the norm. Hardcore gamers continued to buy and love games, as usual. Then, the next gen consoles launched, and, holy shit, we're all surprised everyone wants one.
Before the last console generation happened, the gamer market was limited to a pool of mostly hardcore fans that were dedicated to getting the latest and greatest games and hardware. But now, the market's expanded to include older folks, mothers, even more girl gamers, and any other person that has a phone and a free minute on the crapper. Now, with the launch of the next-gen hardware, there's these new devices that hook into the TV, are easily accessible (seriously, you can just talk to them and they work), and let you access movies, music, and Skype, all from the comfort of your couch. Why wouldn't a casual gamer want one?
All of these new gamers are beginning to look forward to what's next, and it's apparent that Sony and Microsoft's latest consoles are catching their attention. What is also clear, is that the bite-sized mobile experiences and microtransaction-fueled "baby games" molded casual gamers, who then grew up to be console buyers. Finally, after years of watching mobile sales skyrocket and the casual market expand, companies like Microsoft and Sony can reap the benefits.