Riccitiello confident that next-gen consoles will prosper

Former EA boss John Riccitiello believes that PS4 and the new Xbox will both be commercial successes.

I can’t keep track of the number of people who have told me they don’t believe the new consoles, long rumoured to be coming from both Microsoft and Sony this fall, will succeed,” he wrote in a lengthy editorial on Kotaku.

Almost everyone says they see games on smart phones and tablets taking over the game biz. They see the multi-year decline of console software at retail, as reported by NPD, and they think the console gaming is done.

[But] console gaming is very different. I don’t have the fastest thumbs, so playing with any skill at all requires my focus. I am fully engaged. The room with the biggest TV is the most important entertainment room in my house. And there, console gaming rules. In the room where the entertainment stakes are the highest, console gaming wins.

I believe that console gaming is going to explode on the scene of consumer electronics with this next generation of consoles.”

However, Riccitiello adds that there is certainly potential for both machines to fall short of expectations if they fail to deliver on key points demanded by the market.

Sony and Microsoft absolutely need to deliver new boxes that really impress us,” he added. They need to deliver platforms that enable game experiences that are not possible on current consoles.

None of us has seen the future. But based on everything I know and what I have seen, most everything is pretty much in place to put console gaming front-and-centre again. I see 2013 as the year that brings gaming pizzazz back to the living room, where it all really started.”

Specifically, Riccitiello has identified four hurdles that both companies will need to successfully jump if they wish to succeed.

The first and most obvious of these pitfalls is if Sony or Microsoft forgets who brought them to the dance in the first place. Gamers,” he insisted. The risk is that either or both of the new platforms emphasise ‘value-add’ experiences too much, both in the user interface on the consoles themselves, or in the story they tell consumers when they unleash their avalanche of advertising.

A second potential pitfall has to do with supply. Consumers today have gotten used to getting what they want, and getting it immediately. The window of time to establish a new world order in consumer electronics is no longer measured in multiple years, as it was in the early 2000’s. Today, it is measured in a year, if not a handful of months.

The third issue is price. Last time out, Sony priced their fully-featured PS3 at $599. This made some sense with a launch hampered by a lack of supply. It won’t make sense, either for Sony or Microsoft. Not if they decide to invest in enough supply to really compete for consumer attention in a world used to new hot products from companies like Apple and Samsung selling 5 and 10 million in the first month.

The fourth issue involves how they handle a few third-rail topics. The question of the always-on connection is one that causes some gamers’ blood to boil.

Some gamers fear the new consoles could be more about a DRM-walled garden than about enabling new types of connected gameplay. More about squashing pre-owned games than allowing us to play the games we own at our friends houses, in dorms or at home, without having to bring the disk with us. I don’t believe consoles managed as walled-gardens will succeed longer term.”

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