Even if mobile phones, let alone the App Store and Android, hadn't yet been invented, it would be surprising if, at this moment in time, sales of console games weren't on the decline. And it's pretty obvious why that should be the case: we haven't had a new console since the PlayStation 3 and Wii launched in late 2006. That's five and a bit long years in which to become a little bit blasť about the current crop of consoles.
In the intervening period, of course, Apple launched its App Store and Google invented Android. And Facebook's popularity rocketed, rendering it a viable platform on which to run games. Human nature dictates that the last thing you set eyes on will be the uppermost thing in your mind - so the arrival of those three non-traditional gaming platforms into a vacuum of new console launches created a sort of perfect storm which, in turn, allowed people who had never played a videogame before, nor bothered to find anything out about them, to argue that console games had become an outmoded concept. They backed this up by pointing out that you could buy mobile games for 69p instead of £40. Never mind that when you played them, as long as you had even the most basic appreciation of gameplay, you could see why they cost 69p instead of £40.
DISTURBING THE VOID
Sure, the rise of mobile gaming has given the console manufacturers a kick up the backside, as well as giving developers a new way to minimise the risk of starting games from scratch, while potentially getting decent rewards, reintroducing the small-team model which characterised the games industry when it was in its infancy. Both of which are good for the industry as a whole. But the almost crowing tone that the ultra-neophiles adopted when declaring that mobile phones and Facebook had killed traditional games is at last beginning to be exposed as a fallacy.
The litmus test for that argument, of course, is Sony's PS Vita. The radical Apple-ultras declared in their smug way that it was madness for Sony to launch a new console into such a brave new world, particularly when it cost £230. They conveniently forgot, of course, that even a base-model iPad 2 costs a not exactly trivial £400. But the one thing all Apple fans have in common is a surfeit of money over sense.
As it happens, the PS Vita is a beautifully designed machine which is not only a vastly superior platform for playing games than anything made by Apple (even including products that are more than double its price) but also has the nous to steal some of their clothing, with its social media savviness and app-like interface. And lo and behold, it refused to conform to the current fashion for deifying anything which is radically different - regardless of whether it might actually be any good - and disappointed all those pundits by not actually being a flop.
After less than a week on sale in Europe and the US, the PS Vita had already shifted 1.2 million units - a drop in the ocean, admittedly (even the PSP, a lovely shiny gadget which wasn't much good at running games, has sold nearly 80 million units in its lifetime), but a solid start nonetheless. PS Vita games Uncharted: Golden Abyss and FIFA 12 topped the UK charts. It sounds as though those rumours of the death of traditional consoles have been so greatly exaggerated that they might as well have originated on Twitter.