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Console games will never be mainstream because of controllers – Reader’s Feature

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Console games will never be mainstream because of controllers – Reader’s Feature

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Is this why more people aren’t playing consoles? (Picture: Sony)

A reader suggests that the complexity of modern games, and gamepad controllers, is preventing the console market from growing.

This year sure has been a strange one for video games but one of the things I’ve found interesting is that despite there seeming to be such a big gap between Microsoft and Sony they’ve both ended up saying exactly the same things. Both suddenly started talking about multiformat gaming at the same time (even if it’s not clear if they meant the same thing) with both suddenly also fretting over growth – despite never having mentioned it as a problem before.

To my knowledge, they’ve never explained themselves but I think it’s assumed they’re talking about is the fact that the number of people that own consoles has never really grown each generation. The best-selling console is still the PlayStation 2 and it may never be beaten, which suggests that largely the same people, or the same sorts of people, are buying consoles each generation but never anyone else.

Considering the PlayStation 2 was two decades ago now I’m not sure why this has suddenly become a matter of urgency, but I don’t think long-term planning is a forte of many games companies. In any case, their carefully considered plan, that they’ve obviously been working on for all of a couple of months, is to *checks notes* stop making console games and go all in on live service and mobile game junk instead. Sounds like a galaxy brain level move. Or they could actually look at why more people don’t buy consoles.

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The answer is, in my opinion obvious, but one most gamers are loathe to admit: ordinary people don’t understand how to use modern controllers, and don’t particularly want to learn. We’ve all been there, when a partner, parent, friend or even younger relative takes an interest in a game and asks to have a go. This is usually something they immediately regret as they look in horror at all the buttons and the two analogue sticks.

Assuming they don’t give up immediately, the thing they struggle with the most is the second analogue stick and controlling the camera, which always seems to be a completely foreign concept that makes no sense to them. I think it’s because it’s not only diverting their attention but because controlling the camera isn’t fun and yet it’s a vital part of playing the game, that they can’t ignore.

There are other obvious problems too, such as the length of time many video games demand from you, whether it’s a 60+ hour single-player game or a multiplayer game that wants you to be logging in every day. For most people, who fondly remember playing Tekken 3 back in the day – and that’s about it – that is a ridiculous ask that they cannot commit to.

And then there’s the general complexity and involvement of modern games, which is based on decades of adding more and more features to games, which seems normal to most gamers but completely impenetrable to everyone else. I’ve been playing games for 30 years and yet Baldur’s Gate 3 on the PlayStation 5 had me flummoxed for days, before I slowly got the hang of it. It was worth it but at the end I just gave up and started again, once I understood how everything worked. That is not most people’s idea of a good time.

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The problem is, I don’t know how you fix any of these issues without going the Wii route and making a dumbed-down controller and games, but even that appeal only seemed to last for a few years, before people lost interest.

I think it’s just fair to say that console video games are and always will be a niche interest. Millions are happy to play a few minutes of Candy Crush on the bus home and kids use Minecraft and Roblox (and later GTA Online and Call Of Duty) as an online social centre but that’s very different to sitting down to playing Final Fantasy or whatever.

It is possible to make simpler games, obviously, but I think the only way to fix the console problem is when mind control is a legitimate and reliable option. That may sound like science fiction but it’s already fairly common, with GC running stories recently about the first guy to have a Neuralink and someone playing Elden Ring and Halo with just their mind.

Those are basically just tech demos but once it can be used by everyone for every game, then maybe console gaming can start to grow its audience. If publishers haven’t ruined it in the meantime, which the probably will.

By reader Trepsils

The reader’s features do not necessarily represent the views of GameCentral or Metro.

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