Gaming Consoles Will Soon Be for Nerds Only

In the near future, videogame consoles will go the way of film cameras and wind-up watches.
Photo: Tony Case/Flickr

Some years ago — around the time that HD-DVD gave up the ghost, Blu-ray emerged triumphant, and thousands of Xbox 360 owners said, “Well, hell” — I made a prediction. I predicted that Blu-ray would never replace DVDs the way DVDs did VHS. I figured that Blu-ray would be the equivalent of LaserDisc, something AV nerds and consumer bandwagoneers would get into it, and that the next big media format would be digital downloads.

Well, it was revealed last week that sometime in 2012, movie downloads will surpass physical sales and rentals for the first time.

My prediction may sound like a slam-dunk now. (I almost wrote “slam-duck,” which is something else entirely and banned in the United States and all of its unincorporated territories except Guam.)

I mention my prediction for two reasons. First, I am available as a consultant and futurologist for mere scads of money. Second, now that I’ve established my incredible ability to see what was, in retrospect, completely obvious, it’s time for me to make another prediction about the future of media.

Here it is: Videogame consoles are about to return to the shadowy Nerd-Lands.

Back in the ’80s, videogames were for children (and for adults who put sunshine and fresh air in the same category as radioactive fallout and mustard gas).

In the ’90s, the PlayStation made console gaming acceptable. The PlayStation 2 and Xbox made it cool. And with the latest generation, consoles have become a staple of living rooms and rest homes across any number of nations.

Now, with tablets and smartphones invading homes, bags and pockets, all that’s about to end.

We’re not going to see the end of videogame consoles any more than we’ve seen the end of film cameras, phonographs and self-winding watches. But ask yourself: Who is obsessed with film, vinyl records and self-winding watches? Nerds, that’s who. Maybe not tech-nerds, but nerds in their own little realm of 3 a.m. eBay purchases and long-winded justifications thereof.

But there’s worse news for consoles: Nobody needs to write songs specifically for vinyl — you just press a few hundred and sell them to the “warmer and more natural” crowd. But modern console blockbusters like Skyrim require enough raw work from people of different backgrounds and skills that future generations will say aliens created them.

There’s only one reason games like that get made, and it’s the same reason I’m banned from six different riverboat casinos: money. $60 times a couple million copies pays for a lot of texture designers and velocity matrix engineers or whatever.

However, $60 also buys a lot of things that don’t cost $60. Including, for instance, 99-cent games. And while a $60 game may be more fun than a 99-cent game, to paraphrase Penny Arcade, it’s probably not 60 times as fun.

Look at it this way. You can pick up a large soda at a drive-through for 99 cents. Say you also have the option of buying a $60 soda. How large would that soda have to be for you to buy it? How delicious? I’ll tell you: That soda would have to actually be enthusiastic oral sex.

So consoles won’t disappear, but they’ll retreat back into the realm of the obsessed. Future prom-eschewers will search desperately on the web for enough people to get a deathmatch going while sneering at the socially adjusted people playing Draw Birds With Space Friends on Facebook. And, likely as not, the lavish productions of today will scale down the same way we started with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and ended up with South Park: Bigger, Longer Uncut.

By the way, whatever the medium, Snow White doesn’t cost 60 times as much as South Park to watch.

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Born helpless, naked and unable to provide for himself, Lore Sjöberg overcame these handicaps to become a curmudgeon, a curator and a curling iron.

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