Saturday, January 27, 2007

Generation 360

I caught an episode of South Park the other night which featured World of Warcraft. In the episode, the cast were gathered in a room pecking away on regular PC keyboards, yelling out key stroke combination to each other.

I enjoyed watching it, but more for reasons of nostalgia. Because when it comes to games, I’m not sure the PC has a solid future.

The numbers show that younger users are migrating to dedicated game platforms - in large numbers. A survey on the web site of ESA, the Entertainment Software Alliance, shows that people *under* the age of 35 are 33% more likely to use a game console (i.e. 360, PS3 or Wii) than a PC to play video games.

PC Games vs. Console
One reason things are moving in this direction is cost - as Dan Nicolae Alexa points out in his well-argued analysis on, the cost of upgrading a PC to match the rendering capabilities of a console can be twice the cost of just going out and buying the latest greatest game console. Given the extra cost, what makes more sense - owning a 360 and a cellphone, or investing in a hefty PC, plus the requisite hardware?

Aside from this cost efficiency, other factors pushing this change are processing efficiencies and time efficiencies. Travel on any subway or plane virtually anywhere in the world and you’ll see a generation that is becoming increasingly efficient when it comes to utilizing computing cycles, watching content - and making purchases. It’s a generation that increasingly uses remote portable computers (e.g. the iPod or cell phone) in combination with networked, centralized servers (e.g. iTunes or Limewire) to achieve these efficiencies.

For them, a single, all-powerful computer unit doesn’t cut it. This generation uses portable devices to talk and text informally, to shop, to play games, and to listen to music ripped from “fixed” collections at home, or on remote servers. At home, or at their parent’s houses, they use larger “desktop” devices such as game consoles to render CPU-intensive, graphically-rich environments, or to occasionally manipulate databases and online profiles, download and store content, and archive communications.

Live TV on your PC? In the super-efficient world, it’s not needed. As Guy Kawasaki’s excellent forum recently demonstrated, there is no guaranteed “intersection point” for broadcast television advertisers anymore - because watching TV shows containing ads is inefficient. 18-25 year olds Tivo the programs they like, skip the commercials, and avoid email in favor of content they can view on their own terms, and communication methods that are instantaneous.

The numbers don’t lie: Cell phones and hand-held and console game units will sell about a billion units in 2006 - almost 4x the forecast number of PCs. Which leads to the question - who will buy those 250 million PCs?

I suspect the answer is - business. The 35+ group. Sure, they’re still playing ad-supported games online, but mostly, this group is *all* about business. That’s not to say they’re not looking for greater efficiency - this group is also going mobile. They’re creating Powerpoints on laptops in the back of taxis. They’re building spreadsheets in the departure lounge. They’re writing sales proposals, complete with high-resolution graphics - on the airplane.

Try doing that on a cell phone or PS3.

No comments: