SAN FRANCISCO — That lady standing in line at the store playing Candy Crush Saga on her phone is going to be a bigger industry influence than you may think. And the consoles we play on today? They may not be needed in a few years. Not because they won’t exist, but because they’ll have mutated into something else. And that will be great for everyone involved in games.
At least, this is according to famous game industry and financial analyst Michael Pachter, who opened today’s GamesBeat 2015 conference with his predictions and opinions on the market today.
For the sake of illustrating where the business is going, Pachter paints a picture of where it has been. “If there were a GamesBeat conference in 2000, we’d be talking about console games,” he said. “We’d be talking about the end of the PC. Everybody is buying console. That’s how we play games.
“Now fast forward 15 years and look at this [GamesBeat] agenda, and it is all either mobile … like, ‘What’s a Whale? They didn’t exist in the Western world back then. It’s how to monetize, how do you attract people to your free game?’ Giving a game away, that didn’t happen! That’s all crazy talk 15 years ago. Yet that’s where we are now.
“I don’t think there is one speaker in this room today that is primarily going to talk about console.”
One huge difference is the market’s focus on hardware, and perhaps that for some in the industry, according to Pachter, it shouldn’t be. “Some guys measure hardware, but, who cares? If you work in the games industry — unless you’re working for Sony, Microsoft, or Valve — you don’t care about hardware,” he said. “You care about people spending money on entertainment. And the money they typically spend is on software.
“The punchline is that console’s don’t need to exist. Those of you in mobile games know that. The current state of mobile games is very much like YouTube, and the console market is like a 100 million dollar Hollywood motion picture. So they’re different types of experiences.”
Pachter gives an accurate analogy about the current film industry. “The thing is, one group wants to see movies if they want to see movies, if they want the short form format they’ll go to YouTube. I think these two [mobile and console gaming] are going to converge [in a similar way].”
How will we sell these experiences? Pachter takes another brief trip back into the game industry’s past. “If you think about why the video game console was invented, the first game we played was Pong — 25 cents, pop it into the arcade machine. And, somebody said, ‘Let’s take the arcade machine … it’s got a monitor, a joystick, and the guts inside the box which comes down to a CPU and GPU … let’s take the CPU and GPU and hardwire it to a box, then have it hook up to the television in the house, hardwire a joystick to that and we’ll sell a home console!’
“Then they came up with a business model. We can’t get them to pay us 25 cents every time they play the game. Let’s charge them 50 bucks for the game and put it on a cartridge.”
He then moved to today.
“Now let’s fast forward 30 years later … we all have a monitor in our home. We all have a CPU and a GPU. It might be a tablet. It might be a laptop. It’s going to be the iPad Pro. It’ll be the Surface Pro. So once we have that, all we’re really missing is the controller and then wait for all that stuff to talk. And the way that stuff will talk is Chromecast. The AppleTV. So it is very easy to replicate the console experience with a CPU and GPU combo that is pretty damned competitive with current generation consoles. We won’t be there with the iPhone 6S, but we’ll be there with the iPhone 9.”
“So it strikes me that if you can remove the table stakes for consumers to play games. If you say, if you want the fast session, stand in Starbucks for three minutes and play a game: have a mobile game. But if you want to play Call of Duty, and you don’t want to buy a console because you can’t justify the investment to play one game, we’ll sell it to you a different way. It’s coming. That is happening.”
To me, we’re already at least toes-deep into that convergence point, but Pachter sees it a few years out, “When that happens … and I am calling it 2018 … I think you’re going to see the market for actual paid games explode. So that about now is around 12 billion dollars. Maybe a little bigger because PC is hard to track. The mobile market right now is probably, roughly, 20 billion. I think the console business, as soon as publishers go online, doubles or triples. So I suspect that is going to happen in 2018.”
According to Pachter, there is also a cultural shift in the audience that will be incredibly significant, “Everybody knows the opportunity to make small session simpler games is exploding. And the good news is, those two things are going to converge. So the Candy Crush Mom, the woman who never played a game in her life, but is really into Candy Crush, isn’t going to tell her kid to quit playing games and go out and get some exercise. She plays games, it’s OK.”
“We’ve all talked about NintenDads. It’s Candy Crush Moms that are the wave of the future. So I think that the market for selling games is probably going to double, in every aspect of it. Double the console market, double the mobile market, I think this is going to be the largest entertainment market on the planet. And I think you guys are at the right conference at the right time.”
This is definitely an interesting, and positive, outlook to the industry. And it’s not a bad way to kick off GamesBeat 2015.