We're now well and truly into a fresh generation of home consoles, with Nintendo's 2012 Wii U release now joined by the late 2013 arrivals of PS4 and Xbox One. The previous Wii / PS3 / Xbox 360 era brought impressive sales all around, though a continually evolving market and changes in how we buy and play games mean that this time around we could see some different results. One research firm that endeavours to produce realistic projections on what's to come for the three systems is International Data Corporation (IDC), and it's given some advance details of its upcoming report — Worldwide Video Game and Entertainment Console Hardware and Packaged Software 2014-2018 Forecast — to Games Industry.biz.
It should perhaps come as no surprise, with current results in mind, that Sony's PS4 is tipped by IDC to be on top when we come into 2016, though the research firm predicts that Kinect will be unbundled from Xbox One and that the move will drive Microsoft's system to lead in North America. As for Wii U, the report will predict "the equivalent of a $50 price cut worldwide in late 2014 or early 2015" for the system, but that this won't bring it up to a par with overall sales of its Microsoft and Sony competitors.
In wider trends the firm predicts that sales of physical retail games will drop by around 45% in the first six years of this console generation in comparison to the last. On the flipside IDC anticipates that download digital products will help to compensate for that loss of revenue.
Given current trends, more than 50 percent of total game and direct app/service spending across all consoles will come through digital channels by 2019 (just over the edge of our forecast window). Microsoft and Sony will get there faster than Nintendo; the projection mixes all game/service spending on big 3 OEM platforms.
If digital games and related online console revenue streams are included in the picture... the outlook for eighth generation consoles improves substantially. The inclusion of digital console game spending, subscription revenue and other content/service/app purchases billed through online eighth generation console stores pushes total revenue up to within a few percent of the seventh gen total through the first six years of availability. Rising digital revenue is forecast to nearly offset the fall in disc-based revenue.
It's certainly a case of "time will tell", of course, but let us know what you think of these projections and the potential rise of download content in the comments below.