As Nintendo prepares to launch the Wii U later this year and Microsoft and Sony gear up for expected 2013 launches for their next generation consoles, there's a sense of excitement building in the videogame industry — but there's also a sense of fear.
The market has changed considerably since the launch of the Wii, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 — and while new console launches used to be a surefire way to reinvigorate both core and casual gamers, nobody's certain if that will happen this time.
"I'm a bull on consoles, but I'm not real bullish on this next generation," says Billy Pidgeon, senior analyst with M2 Research. "I think they're going to get slammed from both sides."
There are plenty of reasons to be concerned. Retail sales of videogame software and hardware have declined for the past three years – and 2012 is down 27 percent compared to 2011 so far. The most recent hardware launches – Nintendo's 3DS and Sony's PS Vita — both got off to rocky starts.
The 3DS has rebounded, thanks to a substantial price cut and a flood of high profile games. The Vita is still struggling. And while the handheld market is markedly different from consoles, analysts say both systems could be canaries in the coal mine for the console industry.
Some of those analysts are particularly dire.
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