Peter Vesterbacka, head of Rovio spoke with a panel at this year’s South by Southwest Interactive conference and told the attendees that console games are dying. But then he would say that seeing as his company are behind the portable phenomenon Angry Birds. He claimed that innovation in gaming is no longer a found on consoles but has moved to the mobile and social space because of those developers’ ability to be nimble, easily updating their games and providing new content. Vesterbacka believes that while portable gaming is on the rise, traditional games are dying, mocking the existing format of $40-$50 titles and the difficulty to upgrade. Thankfully some sanity was on board in the shape of Tero Ojanpera of Nokia who said they will always be a place for consoles because gamers aren’t likely to plug tablets and mobile phones into their TVs in order to play.
It’s sad that a developer reaches a certain amount of fame and thinks it’s okay to crap all over an industry where he was no doubt inspired by. The concept of Angry Birds can be traced back quite firmly to console/PC beginnings but the success is down to the hardware and type of games found on it. These kinds of experiences are best suited for the pick-up-and-play mentality and while there are those who spend hours trying to beat the top score, console and PC titles for that matter offer a great deal more for people serious about gaming. And I’m not talking about how much you play in a week or your knowledge of the industry but if you want a game with competent controls, rich story, immersive worlds, engrossing gameplay and gorgeous graphics, chances are you’re not solely playing mobile games. Angry Birds delivers on some of those; the competent control – for the simplicity of its mechanics, great art and engrossing gameplay but it’s the depth which for me and a lot of gamers that is missing from mobile games.
Price points are equally a factor when it comes to the sudden popularity of the bite-sized game. Angry Birds can either be downloaded for free or costs 59p. Prices like that aren’t a major investment so when the game surpasses the 100 million mark, it a commendable feat indeed but not the beginning of the console downfall. And as Anthony Ha who wrote the original news story over at GamesBeat (part of VentureBeat), games with a $40-$50 price are more likely to have a greater return on investment. Publishers may start and in some cases already are looking at the mobile and social platform as an area for ‘easy money’ but will do so potentially to fund their bigger and more profitable ventures.
Another thing Vesterbacka has a problem with is the phrase ‘casual games.’ His argument is that we don’t consider films either casual or hardcore so why do it with games. He said that Angry Birds players are just as connected to the game as the so called hardcore are to theirs. I believe that, my wife is hooked on Angry Birds but the kinds of games she plays aren’t the sort I want to sit down with. I may not call her a casual gamer but the way she approaches her games are certainly on a more casual level then how I do.