A new survey shows console sales are down! Suggesting that the US gaming audience is shrinking, with a mere 211.5 million people playing video games in 2012, as opposed to 223 million in 2012.WHAT? How is that possible??? Video games are destroying our society! Well it turns out that instead of hogging the console, everyone is twiddling on their electrical dingus now:

That is, the number of mobile gamers (those who usually play on phones and tablets) and digital gamers (those who like to download their games) have increased in the last year, with mobile gamers growing by 9 percentage points to 22 percent of the total game-playing population, and digital gamers up 4 percentage points to 16 percent of the total.

That means that mobile gamers now outnumber the so-called core gamers (avid gamers who play especially on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3) — which is something of a landmark moment considering it’s the core gamers who have traditionally been the most devoted and numerous game enthusiasts out there.

More demographic info and analysis in that link and this one.

Interesting to note that as the mobile device becomes our primary interface with our entertainment, for the first time, comics are ALREADY a very important part of that platform. For this reason alone, I think the future of comics is sound. You can quote me on that.


  1. Mobile devices are definitely having an impact, but also information is coming out about the next generation of consoles so I think people are probably waiting for those.

    Also the current gen (Xbox 360, PS3, Wii) have been out for 5+ years. At some point, there has to be saturation.

    I think sales of Xbox’s Kinect, especially with the recent price cut, would probably be a better metric to judge the health of the market.

  2. These studies are always designed to get headlines. If you honestly believe that 5% of “gamers” disappeared in the last 12 months, I have a bridge in NY to sell you.

    You would be shocked, or not, at how data is manipulated by survey factories (I worked at one) to foster interesting results pretty much each and every day depending on who the client was, what they wanted to say and whether or not we wanted publicity for the results.

    When the golf club asked patrons if they wanted to switch from a walking course to a golf cart course (which the club wanted because of speed and $$$), do you think they got a final report that said golfers wanted carts or walking?

  3. It’s hard for me to buy a new console when I already have an Xbox 360 Elite (bought it to replace my original release RROD machine), a PS3, and my third Wii (it was a housewarming gift after my first Wii broke and I bought a second one to replace it – I let Mom keep it for the Wii Fit).

    So yeah, I’d say we’ve probably reached a saturation point.

  4. Alex is right. 5% or so gamers (which equals millions of players) did not evaporate in a matter of months. Pop out a new console version and those numbers would jump up again.

    Unlike Apple’s yearly roll out of a new OSX and iOS / iPhone, et. the consoles market has sat still for a long time. Software, MMOs, downloadable content and mobile games are now part of the mix. Some of these are the same gamers not *replacements*. As noted by others, the headlines in the link are only “suggesting” a change. The truth is a sea of money is still rolling through the game industry and not just in North America.

  5. Yeah, this is the longest the market’s ever gone without a new generation of consoles.

    Among other things, though, that’s because technology is beginning to plateau. While obviously the PS3 is a big improvement over the PS2, it’s not nearly as big a change as, say, the NES to the SNES some 20 years ago.

    Improvements to processing are, of course, ongoing, but they’re not the single driving force in new console adoption anymore.

    We’re definitely seeing some big experimentation in the user interface — starting with Nintendo’s DS, then the Wii, then into the iPhone and the phones and tablets that followed, and more recently MS’s Kinect for the Xbox 360 and Sony’s PS Vita. (And the PlayStation Move, but near as I can tell nobody cares about the PlayStation Move.)

    Comics makes for a very interesting parallel, actually, because we’re looking at much the same conundrum the comics industry’s been dealing with over the past couple of decades: do you pursue your existing core audience, knowing that it demands a very specific type of product and may contract over time, or do you pursue a broader but much more fickle audience?

    You could say that MS and Sony have gone, primarily, for the equivalent of the people who show up every Wednesday and buy superhero books, while Nintendo has sought out the more casual audience — like the people who’ve read Watchmen, Maus, and Ghost World, and maybe the occasional Batman book, but don’t follow the medium.

    The result was predictable: Nintendo had a huge victory out the gate but couldn’t sustain it, because casual gamers, by definiton, are much more numerous than “core” gamers but much less reliable as customers.

    And then, of course, you get into phones and tablets and you’re talking about another thing entirely: they’re not dedicated gaming devices, they’re general-purpose machines that happen to play games (and display comics). There’s certainly some overlap with Nintendo’s “casual market” strategy, but obviously it’s even broader, with an even bigger potential market of even more fickle customers.

    And, notably, the consoles themselves are becoming multipurpose machines. Sony kicked that off by making the PS2 double as a DVD player; now all 3 major consoles work as video streaming boxes.

    Things are definitely changing. I think game consoles are going to be around for awhile yet, but we’re also going to see an increasingly blurry line between game console, media center, PC, and phone.

  6. I don’t know if a new console will bring back sales as big as the current generation…the Wii sold to a LOT of people who played it for 6 months and then packed it away to gather dust. The casual gamer is becoming bigger, especially as console games get more and more difficult with a steeper learning curve, pulling in less of general public as they cater to the hardcore gamer.

    I also think that the measures Microsoft is said to be putting into their new console that won’t allow the playing of used games will drive numbers WAY down.

  7. Among other things, though, that’s because technology is beginning to plateau. While obviously the PS3 is a big improvement over the PS2, it’s not nearly as big a change as, say, the NES to the SNES some 20 years ago.

    This is completely untrue. Please don’t post things regarding technology with which you are unfamiliar on a technical and engineering level.

  8. This is completely untrue. Please don’t post things regarding technology with which you are unfamiliar on a technical and engineering level.

    The technical/engineering level is one thing, but from a marketing standpoint, the user experience level is what matters. Of course, that is also a lot harder to quantify.

  9. I play puzzle games on my Samsung Galaxy S.
    (Jewels Legend, Block Puzzle 3)

    When I get bored or finish all of the screens, I erase it and load something else, for free.

    I don’t own a television. I don’t play games on my laptop (either via the web or a disc). The last game I purchased was either Sim City 2 or Starship:Titanic, six years (?) ago.

    Casual? No, more like a lookie-loo. I was part of the pioneering generation of video gamers (Pong-Space Invaders-Pac Man) and I still enjoy them, but most of that interest was superseded by comics in 1984.

    As for technology:
    (source: Wikipedia)
    PS1 (1994) = 32-bit, 33.8688 MHz “MIPS R3000A-family R3051”
    PS2 (2000) = 64bit, 294-299 MHz (.3 GHZ) “Emotion Engine”
    PS3 (2006) = 3.2 GHz “Cell”

    So, that’s a 10x increase in Hz with each console.
    According to Moore’s Law, a six-year gap should show a 16x increase in computing power.

    Wii (2006) IBM Power PC “Broadway”
    32-bit 729 MHz
    GameCube (2001) IBM Power PC “Gekko”
    32-bit 486 MHz

    Not much of an improvement. (1.5x)

    NES : SNES?
    1985 : 1991
    8-bit : 16-bit
    1.79 MHz : 3.58 MHz (2x)

    What’s in the latest iPhone 4S?
    800 MHz dual-core ARM Cortex-A9
    (32-bit multicore processor)

    Samsung Galaxy S III
    1.5 GHz dual-core Krait (NA and JP versions)

    Top of the line?
    “3rd Generation Intel core i7-3370), a 3.1 GHz dual-core processor”

    But you can’t really compare Apples to IBMs unless they use similar processors. CPU speed is just one indicator.

    Want true computing power? Mad scientist stuff?
    Network some old PS2s ($50 each) together.
    Or use PS3s. ($200 each)

    Then develop an innocuous @home app that people download, which allows you to use other PS3s to process your mad schemes when people aren’t using their consoles. Hide the true purpose behind some granola project like protein folding or dolphin translation. (Back in the 1980s, screen savers were used for this purpose.)

    If space is a premium, you can network old PC motherboards together, rack them with some wood, and toss the entire structure in a refrigerator for cooling. Game consoles are better, as they have graphic cards which operate as secondary CPUs.

  10. I’m not a gamer of either kind, but if I was a console gamer, I’d be a bit insulted that I’m being compared to the person who plays “Angry Birds” on their phone.

  11. @Glenn As a console gamer, that doesn’t insult me. What does insult me is that Angry Birds is actually getting a console release. $39.99 for the 360 and PS3 $29.99 for the 3DS.

    Nothing can justify that price point.

  12. @Johnny: “This is completely untrue. Please don’t post things regarding technology with which you are unfamiliar on a technical and engineering level.”

    Cute. Lifelong gamer with a CS degree here, and I stand by what I said.

    While something like Crysis 2 is most assuredly a thing of beauty and as good a justification for a $400 video card as you’re going to find, on a fundamental gameplay level it’s not a revolutionary change from a late-era PS1 game.

    More polygons, better shaders, higher resolution — those things are all great. But if they were the primary driving force for game purchasers, the PC gaming market would be top of the heap, followed by PS3, Xbox 360, Wii, Vita, 3DS, and phones, in (roughly) that order.

    What makes the Wii sell? Its interface. What makes the 360 sell? The network. What makes the PS3 sell? Okay, I’ll grant THAT one’s probably down to its superior hardware. But if it were all about the hardware it would be doing a lot better than it is.

    As I said, graphics, processing power, and storage capacity continue to improve, because yes Moore’s Law is still a thing that exists — but that hasn’t been the catalyst for a massive paradigm shift in how games are actually designed and played since the switch from sprites to polygons.

    …crap. I just posted a four-paragraph response to a condescending two-sentence post. I got trolled, didn’t I.

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