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Don't ignore Wada's warning

So CEO Yoichi Wada’s comments to us last week about the potential death of the home console should not to be dismissed as outlandish.

He says the trade’s bread and butter sales and distribution forces will be hit hard by the oncoming tidal wave of browser games and online distribution.

That’s a given. The many discussions we’ve had in these pages over the last few months – and at the London Games Conference - certainly prove that the power and scope of online forces are clearly not to be underestimated.

But will the industry make an absolute transition towards social games and streamed titles?

No one is really sure – Wada himself told me that the specific timeline is a bit wooly, and said that there is never a perfect solution where an industry ‘switches cleanly from A to B’.

However a vision where ‘any terminal’ is a games platform isn’t unbelievable.

The opportunity for the industry lies during the switch over to that potentially purely digital era.

So the lion’s share of the industry in 10 years could be occupied by a TV with built-in Xbox Live, that disc-drive-less PlayStation Phil Harrison once fondly talked about, or a Wii HD – where the HD doesn’t mean hi-def, but a ten terrabyte hard drive.

Each would be served by a big, fat internet pipe – and maybe some memory stick-based purchases bought in-store at a GAME download kiosk.

Alternatively there’s plenty of scope for the smaller, scrappier upstarts to drive changes at the top level.

Only this week, GameStop bought UK-based Jolt to drive its digital strategy, after all. And arguably new streaming services OnLive and Gaikai generate headlines on consumer sites because they are new and exciting and challenge the establishment.

Wada himself admits it – and on our cover isn’t saying the industry is doomed, more asking how we rise to the challenge.

And I bet he isn’t alone amongst industry CEOs in wanting to find (and maybe buy) businesses that pioneer online gaming who are, in his words, based anywhere in the world. Just look at the big money swoop EA made for Kensington-based Playfish on the same day it said it couldn’t afford 1,500 of its workforce.

So while leaders like Wada can forewarn us of the potential broad trends, when it comes to many other things about how the industry harnesses online, all other bets are off.

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