TIME Video Games

Exclusive: Nintendo CEO Reveals Plans for Smartphones

Nintendo's CEO takes TIME inside the company's surprise decision to put its historic video game franchises on smartphones and tablets

It’s official: Mario, Donkey Kong and Zelda will appear on smartphones and tablets at last—and that’s just the start. Nintendo President and CEO Satoru Iwata spoke exclusively to TIME about the company’s plans to bring its franchises to smart devices, why it’s chosen to do so now, and what it means for the future of its reputation as a manufacturer of idiosyncratic console and handheld game systems.

What prompted this move now, in the light of all you’ve said about Nintendo’s reluctance to craft games for smartphones?

In the digital world, content has the tendency to lose value, and especially on smart devices, we recognize that it is challenging to maintain the value of our content. It is because of this recognition that we have maintained our careful stance. However, we have been seriously and continuously considering how we should make use of smart devices. We made the announcement yesterday because we finally found solutions to the problems we identified. More specifically, we will not merely port games developed for our dedicated game systems to smart devices just as they are—we will develop brand new software which perfectly matches the play style and control mechanisms of smart devices.

We have come to the stage where we can say that we will be able to develop and operate software which, in the end, will not hurt the value of Nintendo IP but, rather, will become an opportunity for the great number of people around the world who own smart devices—but do not have interest in dedicated video game hardware—to be interested in Nintendo IP and eventually to become fans of our dedicated game systems. Yesterday, we finally came to the stage where we were able to announce the alliance with DeNA, which plays a key role in these solutions.

MORE Exclusive: Inside Nintendo’s Bold Plan to Stay Alive for the Next 125 Years

Will you pursue a premium strategy where you charge users up front for games? Or will you offer free-to-play and try to capitalize on in-app purchases?

I understand that, unlike the package model for dedicated game systems, the free-to-start type of business model is more widely adopted for games on smart devices, and the free-to-start model will naturally be an option for us to consider. On the other hand, even in the world of smart device apps, the business model continues to change. Accordingly, for each title, we will discuss with DeNA and decide the most appropriate payment method. So, specifically to your question, both can be options, and if a new Nintendo-like invention comes of it, then all the better.

On the other hand, Nintendo does not intend to choose payment methods that may hurt Nintendo’s brand image or our IP, which parents feel comfortable letting their children play with. Also, it’s even more important for us to consider how we can get as many people around the world as possible to play Nintendo smart device apps, rather than to consider which payment system will earn the most money.

Will Nintendo or DeNA be developing these games? And is Mr. Miyamoto [creator of Mario, Donkey Kong, Zelda and other iconic Nintendo franchises] working on anything smart device-related?

Development of smart device games will be mainly done by Nintendo, but it is significant that we are forming a joint development structure with DeNA. Nintendo, through experience in the dedicated game system business, is good at making traditional game products. But for smart devices, in addition to the “product” aspect of a game, the aspect of an ever-evolving “service” is very important—a service that encourages consumers to play every day even for a short time. DeNA has extensive know-how in developing the “service” side of things, and will be primarily responsible for the service-oriented operations. We will be able to greatly leverage strengths of each party.

As for any involvement of Mr. Miyamoto, we will discuss it when possible, but for now, understand that his priority is on the development of Wii U titles that will be launched this year.

What else can you tell us about the new “online membership service” you’ve announced with DeNA? Is it meant to supersede your existing online services on 3DS and Wii U, or operate alongside them?

We are planning to start a new membership service, which can be deployed on multiple devices, such as Nintendo’s game systems, smart devices and PCs starting from the fall of this year, to be jointly developed with DeNA. While this is going to be Nintendo’s membership service that we operate, because DeNA has impeccable know-how in system development across multiple devices, as well as in the construction of networks and servers, we are planning to develop a new membership service that can take advantage of both companies. Regarding details, please wait for our further announcements.

The implication from previous statements is that Nintendo still views its platforms as superior, from a gaming standpoint, to smart devices. Are you hoping to leverage the smart device market as a gateway to dedicated Nintendo systems? Will Nintendo’s games on smart devices have gameplay or feature hooks into Wii U or 3DS games?

For us to create unique experiences that other companies cannot, the best possible option for us is to be able to develop hardware that can realize unique software experiences. As a result, we can offer our consumers overwhelming entertainment experiences—immersion into game worlds. This is why I used the term “premium.”

Let me explain so that nobody will misunderstand: I have never intended to dismiss the entertainment experiences that people are enjoying on smart devices or any other media. On the other hand, my understanding is that, on smart devices, the main demand is for very accessible games which smart device users can easily start and easily finish. These are not necessarily the characteristics that people demand from games for dedicated video game systems. Actually, this is one of the reasons why we believe that we should not port games for dedicated game systems to smart devices just as they are because doing so will not fully satisfy the needs of the smart device consumers. In other words, even when multiple systems can run games, I believe the entertainment experiences that the consumers demand vary from system to system.

In the Nintendo philosophy that I just mentioned, being “unique” or “unprecedented” is appreciated far more than being “better” than the others. While we want more people to become familiar with Nintendo IP through Nintendo’s smart device game apps, at the same time, we aim to provide smart device consumers with unique experiences with our game apps. From a business perspective as well, we aim to grow our smart device business into an important business field.

How will Nintendo design those unique experiences in the smart device space when you’re now forced to accommodate a hardware interface you didn’t design?

Indeed, the late Mr. Yamauchi, former president of Nintendo, often told us that in the world of entertainment we have to do things differently than others. That philosophy has been passed down to us. For us to be able to do something unique that is different from others, being able to design the hardware in order to create unique software experiences gives us the best option. As I said, Nintendo will continue its dedicated video game system business with an even stronger passion.

MORE Exclusive: 7 Brilliant Insights from Nintendo’s Gaming Genius Shigeru Miyamoto

On the other hand, we believe that we will be able to use smart devices in a very unique way so that they can be a bridge to our dedicated game systems, and at the same time, that we will be able to deliver unique experiences to the users of smart devices. As you know, even before the advent of smart devices, we employed touchscreens for our games with Nintendo DS, and we also adopted accelerometers for our Wii Remotes faster than smart devices did, and produced unique games. By utilizing our unique know-how in areas like these, I believe we will be able to come up with unique propositions for consumers. Please wait for our further announcements when we can elaborate on specific titles.

What do mobile game makers get wrong now that Nintendo will get right?

Most mobile game makers who have yielded tangible business results appear to be dependent on a single hit title. For Nintendo, being able to make use of the enormous IP library that we have carefully nurtured for more than 30 years is a major strength. We would like to create several hit titles simultaneously by effectively leveraging the appeal of Nintendo IP, which many people around the world are familiar with.

On the other hand, as I said during our telephone interview, the value of content generally tends to weaken in the digital world, and especially on smart devices, it is not easy to maintain the value of content. We aim to explore ways where we will not devalue Nintendo IP and, rather, we can further improve the value.

Mobile gaming is still the wild west, are there things Nintendo will never do?

The answer may overlap with my previous one, but we will not do anything that may hurt Nintendo IP. We will not do anything that may hurt Nintendo’s brand image—that parents can feel safe giving their children access to it.

You also just announced “NX,” something you described as a platform that’s “a brand new concept.” Can you confirm whether this is indeed hardware, and what it’s intended to follow system-wise?

The reason why I announced “NX,” which by the way, is not directly related to our alliance with DeNA, was because I wanted to avoid any misunderstandings such as, “Nintendo might have lost its passion for the dedicated game system business,” and because I wanted many people to understand that Nintendo will continue its dedicated game system business with even stronger passion and motivation. I am sorry, but as I said during the press conference yesterday, we cannot make any further announcements about “NX” until next year.

Read next: Exclusive: Inside Nintendo’s Bold Plan to Stay Alive for the Next 125 Years

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TIME

7 Fascinating Insights from Nintendo’s Gaming Genius Shigeru Miyamoto

Japanese Ninento artist and game designer Shigeru Miyamoto is pictured in London, on October 21, 2008.
Carl De Souza—AFP/Getty Images Japanese Nintendo artist and game designer Shigeru Miyamoto is pictured in London, on October 21, 2008.

For one thing, he thinks novels may be more creatively powerful than video games

Shigeru Miyamoto, the genius behind such franchises as Mario and Donkey Kong, recently spoke to TIME exclusively about the game maker’s innovation process. Here’s some of the most interesting things he had to say.

Mario almost superseded the quirky squid-like characters in Nintendo’s upcoming Wii U paint-gun game Splatoon

“At one point during development, we held a small internal review of the game,” explains Miyamoto. “We had found that the ink-battle play mechanic was fun, and the team was working very hard to brush up on that aspect at that time, but we were losing the freshness of the game the more the team worked on it. The thing which concerned us most was the main character. It looked as if it could be found in any game and lacked uniqueness. So, I told the game’s producer and the director to even consider using Mario if we could not find the right character. I also explained to them why I was providing such a suggestion.”

Read more: Exclusive: Inside Nintendo’s Bold Plan to Stay Alive for the Next 125 Years

“A few weeks later, they gingerly approached me with the squid-like character, and we decided on that direction right on the spot. The director and others who nervously brought the squid character to me must have been surprised with my positive reaction, but at the time, I didn’t accept it for lack of better options. I actually thought, ‘This must be it!’ It’s fun to nurture something so unique, and I’m glad that they were able to experience bringing it to fruition.”

He doesn’t make games with a particular age group in mind

“Ideally we should be making things that can be enjoyed by the widest possible range of people,” he says. “I like to watch theatrical performances and go to theme parks—things which are appealing to a wide range of people—and observe as a game creator. Of course, there are the dramas and movies that I am personally fond of, and I always appreciate the way these creators make their works by focusing on specific tastes. When they try to appeal to a specific group of people with their creations, however, I think they first discover an interesting theme to work on and, only afterward, determine that they should focus upon the specific audience in order to work on the theme, not vice versa.”

“Even when we make something that we want children to enjoy, we always aim to achieve a level of quality and content that even adults can appreciate, so in other words, making something for children might even be more difficult than making something specifically for an adult audience.”

He tries not to let his reputation intimidate his design teams

“What I am trying to do is not to create an atmosphere where they feel like, ‘I will do better than Miyamoto does’ or ‘I will make a game just to please Miyamoto,'” he says. “Based on my own experiences, I try to encourage directors to have courage and work toward the goal they set, and pose questions to them about whether the game is actually delivering the experience to the player as envisioned. I try not to get too deeply involved in the content of the games they’re developing.”

He thinks novels may be more creatively powerful than video games

“I have said in the past that because movies and novels are passive mediums, creators in these mediums can control how their stories are unveiled to their audiences, even irrespective of the audience’s expectation of what should happen next,” he explains. “All I intended to say was that in comparison it is more difficult for us to create entertainment by forcing players to embrace our own expectations regarding how they should experience game stories because video games are an active medium where players themselves think independently about which action to take next.”

“Whichever media we are talking about, inspiring the audience’s imagination beyond what they have actually read or seen, and having them embrace that, is a fundamental essence of entertainment. I recognize that because novels are expressed solely by words on a page, they actually have the power to unlock the readers’ limitless imaginations more so than movies and video games, which present the audience with actual images, while visual images have the distinct ability to deliver messages to a broader audience more easily.”

“Video games, on the other hand, have the unique ability to etch those images into the player’s memory because of their active role in choosing the path that led them to those images. It is this area that I think I am good at, so I am not under the illusion that I could ever become a novelist or film director myself [laughs].”

He views profit-obsession as a creative roadblock

“I have explained—in regard to entertainment in general—that if development of products that thrive on creative uniqueness is dictated by those who prioritize sales and profits, the possibilities for the future of entertainment will be limited,” says Miyamoto.

“So, what should we do in order to avoid it? I agree that as your question implies, the answer might be at odds with the nature of large business organizations. But at Nintendo we continue to endeavor to make such innovation possible, and we are constantly working on new ideas. If we manage to deliver them, I hope everyone will compliment our efforts.”

He feels strongly about staying in the hardware side of the business

Miyamoto: “We will continue to use new technology to create new ways to play, but rather than simply making more games for a predefined platform, our job is to continue to create new platforms that enable us to create fun new ways to play.”

And his favorite Nintendo platform to date is…

“I’ve always designed games with the perspective that it’s the designer’s job to leverage the unique characteristics of the hardware while simultaneously compensating for its weaknesses,” says Miyamoto. “Working on Nintendo DS and Wii was particularly fun, because of how they presented us with a challenge of inventing new styles of play.”

Read next: Exclusive: Inside Nintendo’s Bold Plan to Stay Alive for the Next 125 Years

TIME Video Games

Nintendo Announces Plans to Expand Into Mobile Gaming

Japanese video game giant Nintendo's gam
YOSHIKAZU TSUNO—AFP/Getty Images Japanese video game giant Nintendo's game character Super Mario stands at a showroom in Tokyo 25 January 2007.

The company has long held an aversion to any non-console platform

You may soon be able to play iconic video games like Super Mario Bros. on your smartphone, according to an announcement by the game’s parent company, Nintendo, on Tuesday.

Nintendo said it would partner with mobile gaming company DeNA Co. to develop “gaming applications” for smartphones and other non-console devices, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The Japanese gaming giant has produced some of the most iconic characters and consoles, but has shown an aversion to the burgeoning mobile platform, despite increasing competition from Sony’s PlayStation and Microsoft’s Xbox.

However, the company’s president Satoru Iwata indicated a shift of tactics Tuesday by saying the expansion would enable it to reach hundreds of millions of new users.

“This is about the most drastic, bold shift in strategy Nintendo could have undertaken,” Serkan Toto, a Tokyo-based game consultant, told the Journal.

[WSJ]

TIME Video Games

Science Explains Why Mario Runs Left to Right

Inside A Nintendo Store As the Co. Wins Appeals Over Wii
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images Nintendo Co.'s Super Mario is displayed on coffee mugs for sale at the Nintendo World store in New York, U.S., on Friday, May 17, 2013.

People may have a bias for movement to the right-hand side

Mario didn’t just want to run to the right just because he had an insatiable curiosity about what existed on the far side of your vintage Nintendo Game Boy. He was programmed to run forever to the right because that’s the way gamers’ brains like it, a new study surfaced by Gizmodo suggests.

Dr. Peter Walker, a a psychologist at Lancaster University, inspected thousands of still and moving pictures in Google Images, finding evidence of a “rightward bias . . . for photographs of animate and inanimate items in motion,” but “no bias or a leftward bias” for the same items when they were stationary.

“This could indicate a fundamental left-to-right bias for visual motion,” the study says, helping to explain why Mario runs from left to right, not the other way around.

Now if science could only explain why Princess Peach was always in another castle.

Read next: The Best iPhone Games of the Week

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TIME apps

The Best iPhone Games of the Week

Pocket Mine 2, Dotello, rop and more

Had enough Candy Crush and looking for some fun new games to play on your iPhone? Here are five favorites TIME rounded up this week.

  • Pocket Mine 2

    Pocket Mine 2
    Pocket Mine 2 Pocket Mine 2

    Pocket Mine 2 takes you into the life of a miner to dig deep and unlock a series of treasures. Not only are you mining for precious metals, but you can earn cards that enhance gameplay, play with new characters, get new gear for your kit, and find treasure chests and other fun rewards. It’s a strangely addicting game that builds on itself as you play.

    Pocket Mine 2 is free in the App Store

  • Dotello

    Dotello
    Dotello Dotello

    A game for people who love destructive gameplay and puzzles, Dotello is a simple game that presents players with a dot-based puzzle to clear. Players move the dots around to eliminate them with big, animated swipes. Keep an eye out for repetition and patterns in order to solve stages. The game isn’t timed, making it a refreshingly calm take on the genre.

    Dotello is free in the App Store

  • rop

    rop
    rop rop

    There’s nothing easy about rop. After playing for several hours, I’m still completely lost — but also still addicted. It’s a puzzle game that asks plays to recreate patterns on a plane over 77 different levels. The challenge is to finish each level without breaking the stream you draw. But this isn’t for the easily frustrated: I’ve been stuck on level four for two hours.

    rop is $0.99 in the App Store

  • Blokshot Revolution

    Blockshot
    Blockshot Blockshot

    Blockshot Revolution is all about destructive therapy. The main point of the game is to shoot fireballs out of a pod at a network of bricks and watch them shatter and explode. In theory, there’s a plot to this game and levels to clear, but in reality, the main sell here is endless block-smashing as a sort of mindless entertainment. Eventually, you can power up and use new weapons to smash blocks.

    Blokshot Revolution is free in the App Store

  • Dungeon Hunter 5

    Dungeon Hunter 2
    Dungeon Hunter 2 Dungeon Hunter 2

    Dungeon Hunter 5 is a single-player fantasy RPG game in which you control a bounty hunter through a series of campaigns through different worlds to track down villains. You can hook up with your friends to make the game more social, while the developers ping you with new weekly challenges to keep things fresh. And, of course, there are countless hours of slash-filled sword fighting.

    Dungeon Hunter 5 is free in the App Store

TIME China

China Is Getting its Very Own Comic Con

Comic Con China ReedPOP
Jerod Harris—Getty Images A general view of the atmosphere as San Diego prepares for Comic Con on July 23, 2014 in San Diego, Calif.

"Geekdom is a universal language"

Event producer ReedPOP is bringing Comic Con to China this spring.

The Shanghai Comic Convention will take place on May 16 to 17 at the Shanghai Convention & Exhibition Center, ReedPOP announced Wednesday. The inaugural Chinese Comic Con follows on the company’s growth strategy of bringing its pop culture events to international markets, including India, Singapore and Germany.

“China is a massive frontier for ReedPOP, a huge market and boundless community of fans that we are eager and enthusiastic to build events for,” said Lance Fensterman, Global Senior Vice President of ReedPOP, in a statement. “Geekdom is a universal language and we’re sure that the Chinese people will celebrate fan culture in their own unique and amazing ways.”

China already hosts its own similar conventions, including the annual Animation-Comic-Game Hong Kong, known as Ani-Com.

TIME Video Games

Why This Country Might Ban Minecraft

Minecraft Turkey Ban Violence
Bloomberg via Getty Images A visitor holds a hand control unit as he plays the Minecraft computer came, produced by Mojang AB, on a Microsoft Corp. Xbox One games consoles during the EGX gaming conference at Earls Court in London, U.K., on Sept. 25, 2014.

Authorities fear the construction game teaches children violence

A Turkish ministry has recommended a ban on Minecraft, a video game in which players construct and protect structures, claiming it encourages violence in children.

Turkey’s Family and Social Policies Ministry says children might confuse the real world with the game, which involves destroying creatures to defend their constructions, the Hurriyet Daily News, an English-language daily in Turkey, reported on Tuesday.

“Although the game can be seen as encouraging creativity in children by letting them build houses, farmlands and bridges, mobs [hostile creatures] must be killed in order to protect these structures. In short, the game is based on violence,” the ministry’s report said.

Minecraft‘s content has been debated for years, but to date no country has yet to ban the game.

[Hurriyet Daily News]

TIME Video Games

Terrifying Simulation Shows You What It’s Like to Be Buried Alive

Sounds fun!

Now you can experience being buried alive — for fun.

A new virtual reality game called Taphobos — which comes from the word “taphophobia,” or fear of being buried alive — will be on display this week at EGX Rezzed in London, IGN reports.

One player lies in a coffin wearing an Oculus Rift virtual reality headset and a microphone, and tries to direct a second player, who’s also wearing a headset, to find the coffin. The player who’s been “buried alive” uses maps on the inside of the coffin to guide the other player.

“This combination allows you to experience what it would be like if you were buried alive with just a phone call to the outside world,” the Taphobos website said.

Here’s a look at what the game looks like:

[IGN]

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TIME Video Games

The 5 Biggest Video Game Announcements You Missed This Week

Sony Project Morpheus
Sony Sony Project Morpheus

New game-streaming hardware, virtual reality headsets and more

The Game Developers Conference currently transpiring in San Francisco wraps up Friday, meaning all the major announcements have already dropped. If you missed the show or didn’t catch all the news, here’s a recap of the highlights.

Valve showed Steam Link, a $50 box that’ll stream your PC gaming library to any TV

Steam Link, due in November, was arguably the show’s biggest tech revelation — especially if you’re a PC gamer, because it means that for a trifling $50, you can pipe games from Valve’s Steam library to any screen in your house essentially lag-free.

Valve’s Steam is the de facto way to play games on a PC, with a digital library of nearly 4,000 titles and membership topping 100 million. The company—otherwise known for first-person blockbusters like Portal, Half-Life 2 and Counter-Strike—has been making a protracted bid to capture a more substantial share of a pie traditionally dominated by console-makers like Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo. And for another $50, you can add the company’s forthcoming PC-Steam Controller (also due in November) to the party.

Nvidia unveiled its first set-top media box, the Shield

Not to be confused with the $250 Shield Portable, a gamepad with a flip-screen that Nvidia launched mid-2013, Nvidia’s Shield hopes to fill a gap somewhere between a Roku or Apple TV and a high-end games console or PC.

It’ll output 4K video content (when/where available), play last-gen console games like Crysis 3 and Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel natively, stream upcoming triple-A games from Nvidia’s GRID service and let you stream games locally from your PC just like Valve’s Steam Link.

The only catch: it’ll cost $200, which means Nvidia has to lure a demographic that may or may not exist or materialize once the Shield arrives this May.

 

HTC and Valve announced a virtual reality headset

I know, “Not another one.” But that’s where we are with virtual reality in 2015: everyone’s jockeying for air time. HTC and Valve’s take is called the HTC Vive (HTC leading, Valve consulting), and pairs wand-like, handheld controllers with a fairly standard-looking, fully wraparound headset that plugs into your PC and outputs 1080p visuals to each eye.

The wrinkle: the headset tracks where you are in a much larger space, so you can move around instead of standing in place, assuming they figure out how to make the headset wireless (and, you know, put you in a room without trip hazards). Will the Vive include a little speaker that goes “Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep!” like the warning system in a vehicle when you get too close to a wall?

Sony’s Project Morpheus is coming…by mid-2016

Sony’s take on virtual reality was kind-of-sort-of supposed to arrive in 2015 (chalk that up more to wishful thinking on the part of the press). Thus there was some predictable sighing and hand-wringing when the company announced Project Morpheus, a VR headset for the PlayStation 4 and PS Vita, will now arrive in the first half of 2016.

Hey, at least Morpheus has a release timeframe. That’s more than Facebook/Oculus (Oculus VR), HTC/Valve (HTC Vive) and Razer (OSVR) can say (to be fair, the Oculus-powered Samsung Gear VR is reportedly coming by the end of 2015).

Sony’s PlayStation 4 has sold over 20 million units

At last check (in early January), Sony said it sold 18.5 million units through December 2014. At GDC this week, it bumped that figure to 20 million units sold through February 2015, still shy of the PlayStation 4’s one-and-a-half year anniversary. Rebutting gloomy analyst predictions about this generation of console gaming, the PS4 is the fastest selling video games console in history.

TIME Video Games

4 Reasons Why Video Game Consoles Will Never Die

E3 Gaming And Technology Conference Begins In L.A.
Kevork Djansezian—Getty Images An Xbox One controller is used at the Microsoft Xbox booth during the Electronics Expo 2013 at the Los Angeles Convention Center on June 11, 2013 in Los Angeles, California.

It's not Game Over yet

By now, we know the “consoles are dead” narrative was overblown. The PS4 has sold tens of millions, the Xbox One isn’t far behind, and the Wii U has climbed from “disastrous” to only “mildly disappointing.”

Lately, however, consoles have become the ugly duckling of the video game world, less popular than the smartphone and less attractive than the all-powerful PC. They’re too expensive, too niche, and too geeky—or so the criticisms go.

But the console still has some long-term advantages that people tend to forget.

1. Reliable software quality, unlike the smartphone

Spend five minutes browsing the App Store or Google Play Store, and you’ll be overwhelmed by an avalanche of games, many of them garbage. For every smash hit (e.g. Angry Birds, Candy Crush), there are countless bug-ridden, unplayable imitators. Yes, the best-selling lists can at least highlight a few up-and-comers (ex: Trivia Crack, Crossy Road), but hundreds of other great games will end up buried beneath all the rubbish.

For developers, there’s far more incentive to game the system with in-app purchases and fake user reviews than to build something creative. After all, most of the good stuff gets lost in the crowd anyway—a consequence of mobile’s race-to-the-bottom, volume-beats-quality marketplace.

Compare that to the world of console gaming, where each platform has a stable, annual parade of triple-A titles, each of which are almost guaranteed to be hits, year after year. The PlayStation boasts exclusives like Uncharted, LitteBigPlanet, and the latest Metal Gear games. The Xbox brings Halo, Titanfall, and Forza. And then there’s Grand Theft Auto, Call of Duty, FIFA, Madden, and Elder Scrolls, series that owners of either console can trust to deliver, sequel after sequel. Nintendo offers a different lineup, but between Mario Kart, Smash Bros, Zelda, Pokemon and Donkey Kong, you’ve got a similar roster of predictably excellent games.

2. Accessibility, unlike the PC

Let’s face it: among serious gamers, the PC has rapidly become the best choice for gaming. A modern gaming PC will feature the best graphics of any system, and the whole gamut of software, from multi-million-dollar blockbusters to avant-garde indie experiments.

But getting the best out of PC gaming also means owning a pricey, powerful gaming PC, which is a tough sell for the general public. You’re looking at $1,000-2,000 just to get started—potentially over triple the price of a gaming console. Savvy PC owners will point out that the purchase pays off in the long run, especially considering PCs are more easily upgradable.

But how many everyday consumers will be willing to take that price hit up front? If the smartphone market has taught us anything, it’s that people prefer to spread their costs over several years, rather than pay everything right away.

In this way, the console market mirrors the smartphone model. Customers start by paying around $400 for the console (or phone) itself, then $40-60 for each additional game (or month of service). It’s a proven pricing scheme that consumers have accepted for decades.

Then you factor in user experience. From the day you buy a new console, every game will work as advertised. Compare that to the corresponding experience on a PC, where the specific graphics card and performance specifications of your machine will determine every aspect of the user experience. Video card outdated? Your brand new PC game will lurch along at low frame rates. Geeks might get a kick out of keeping their gaming rigs up to speed, but the rest of the market just wants to know that the latest Call of Duty will work straight out of the box.

3. Social appeal

It’s the most controversial point on the list, but an important one: consoles connect people—in person—better than any other gaming system. Yes, smartphones and PCs bring a greater volume of players together, and both deserve credit for the impressive gaming networks they’ve assembled. But when was the last time you physically visited a friends’ house to play Words With Friends? Or lugged your PC to a buddy’s place for drinks, cigars and a session of World of Warcraft? Only the console consistently brings people into the same room. If smartphones and PCs are social networks, the console is the digital equivalent of Monopoly or Risk—a 2015 version of board game night.

Some will say that such classic “couch multiplayer” is dying, and it’s true that far more people play Halo over the web than over a coffee table. But living room gaming still scratches a very human itch, one that will likely stick around—even in its reduced state—for decades to come.

4. Disappearing stigma

The final barrier for console gaming has been the stigma—that is, the sense that only teenage boys play console games. Sure, games like Cut the Rope (mobile) or The Sims 4 (PC) are casual and mainstream enough for anyone, but who—besides those male high schoolers—are actually settling in for three-hour rounds of FIFA on Xbox?

The answer: people of both genders and all ages. According to a 2014 study by the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), the average age for video game players in the US is 31 years, a number that’s been climbing for a decade. Today, 48% of game players are female. And we’re not just talking about smartphone game players. In the ESA’s study, 68% of respondents reported that they play games on a console, next to only 53% on a smartphone.

So the old teenage boy stigma is simply inaccurate. As each year passes, more and more people feel comfortable admitting to late-night sessions of Zelda and Assassin’s Creed. And that comfort will likely breed even more console gamers.

The Bottom Line

The console is here to stay, even if the future details remain a little murky. Will virtual reality finally break through? Will Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo still be the biggest players in 10 years time? Who knows. But the basic console recipe—consistent quality, a simple experience, social appeal, and societal approval—ensure that the medium will last. Just like with Mario, the game is never really over.

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