As the popularity of digital games continues to increase, there are some people who might wonder if consoles can survive much longer--just don't count GameStop President Tony Bartel as one of them.
Speaking to IndustryGamers in an interview published yesterday, Bartel acknowledged the importance of digital content in today's gaming industry, but said that over the next several years, it's hard to see a way in which consoles will lose their value in the marketplace.
"We continue to believe that the console is a strong platform and will continue to be the gold standard," Bartel told IndustryGamers. "People will begin to digitally download first a lot more downloadable content. Eventually, full games will become more relevant to some consumers who want to do that. Then we think that streaming will continue to grow. As you get additional bandwidth, we think that it's going to become more prevalent over time, which is why we've invested in it."
Beyond current bandwidth limitations, a simple numbers game might also be helping consoles stay so relevant. As Bartel pointed out in his interview, the console industry is a $50 billion market. The downloadable-content space, however, is "a $3 billion global category today," Bartel said, adding that GameStop believes digital gaming revenue will hit $6.4 billion by 2014.
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Bartel's comments on the apparently stable future for game consoles follows what former Microsoft Game Studios Vice President Shane Kim said in an interview with IndustryGamers last month. Discussing the impact mobile games that are delivered digitally to consumer smartphones and tablets have on consoles, Kim said that any idea that devices like the PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360 are in trouble is nonsense.
"So will there be some impact on console gaming?" Kim asked about mobile games in his interview with IndustryGamers. "I think it would be hard to say that there isn't any impact, but I would never say that it's going to go away completely. I think that the big console game manufacturers, they've all got plans for the next console generation. I think that they're all shooting to make sure that those next versions, whatever they look like, are going to be things that are going to be compelling for the kinds of gamers, especially hard-core gamers, who really enjoy that style of gaming."
Kim went on to say that "it's going to be awhile before" mobile platforms can even come close to matching the graphical and processing power gamers find in consoles.
The fact that game consoles appear to be necessary for consumers to continue to enjoy a full-featured gaming experience seems to play in Nintendo's favor. The game company announced earlier this year that it will launch a new console in 2012, called the Wii U. That device will boast improved graphics over its predecessor, the Wii, and work with a touch-screen-equipped controller.
Microsoft and Sony, however, have remain tight-lipped about their future console plans, though rumors suggest they might wait a few years to offer new hardware. Earlier this year, Kotaku, citing sources, said that the next PlayStation and Xbox might not even hit store shelves until 2014.