It's all doom and gloom for home consoles at the moment, and Maxis' Will Wright has lent his voice to the debate. According to the Sims creator, emergent publishing models (such as free to play and cloud gaming) are eroding the foundation of traditional platform holders, and will continue to do so over the next few years - making room for the "little" guys.
“I think all the console guys are running scared. Not so much because of the hardware, but because of the business models, free-to-play and that kind of thing, have shifted underneath them,” Wright told GamesIndustry, before suggesting that the rise of mobile and cloud gaming will eventually kill off the need for home consoles. "People have so many devices they carry around. They have their tablets, their smartphones, their PC at home, their Xbox - I think that having a game that's accessible on all these devices at any time is going to be much more sticky than something you have to go home and play on your PC or only play on your iPhone. I think in that general sense, it's going to hit a much broader group of players than dedicated games."
Wright continued by stating that, as double and triple-A declines, smaller developers will have the financial freedom to experiment with low-risk concepts and different platforms.
"It used to be big companies doing triple-A titles on consoles is where all the money is. It’s shaken things up quite a bit with all these platforms. In some sense all the little mammals – small developers, new companies – have an opportunity right now to fill new niches that are expanding rapidly. They might be small opportunities now, but they very well could be huge opportunities in the not-too-distant future.
The rise in smaller, more interesting and cheaper games will actually benefit us consumers, he argued. "On the plus side there’s very little risk in trying something new, as opposed to spending 40 bucks on a game and maybe you’ll like it and maybe you won’t,” Wright elaborated. “I think people were a lot more risk-averse under the old model, the shrink-wrap model. It has its pluses and minuses; it is bringing in a much wider group of players than we had before. The demographics are expanding, which long-term I think has to help.”
Even EA believe that they have to adopt a digital-only model in the near future to escape a "burning platform," suggesting that even platform leaders are preparing for the worst. Will 2012 herald the last console generation?