I have three kids, aged 6, 9, and 14. They have been brought up with video games on multiple platforms: PS1, PS2, Gamecube, Wii, Xbox360, Wii, Xbox Kinect, Game Boy, DS, web games, and PC games. There is no lack of games in our house, nor opportunities to play them. Last Saturday, this event occurred which tells me that the air might be changing, at least in our house.
I walked into the living room, and my three kids were sitting on the couch. The oldest one was playing a game on her Android Phone. The middle one was playing Temple Run on my iPad. The littlest one was playing Fruit Ninja on my Kindle Fire. The Xbox 360 was turned on, but it was in the Netflix app (where it spends most of its time), playing a Disney Channel show.
Since our broken Wii now sits in the upstairs family room, and is never used, I said out loud, "girls, I think we need a Wii U to replace our Wii". The middle one looked up and me and said "Dad, we DON'T need another game console", and then went back to her game of Temple Run.
My oldest girl is a gamer a heart. Just last year she played Skyrim and Dragon Age all the time, but lately that has changed. She plays games on her phone, and when her and I play together, it's usually a game of Risk on the iPad.
These kids have been exposed to every type of game imaginable, yet they have all gravitated towards mobile. When they Xbox360 does get used for games, it is to play Fruit Ninja Kinect, an XBLA game. My brother has two boys, aged 7 and 4, and they play Minecraft constantly, another XBLA game.
I asked a friend of mine with three boys within the same age range as my girls last night, just to make sure this was not an isolated incident. He told me that, indeed, while his teenage son does still play some Xbox shooters, the majority of the game playing in his house is Minecraft on XBLA, or iPad games, with an occasional web based MMO thrown in for good measure. I asked him if they want a Wii U. He told me:
"Steve, I don't even think they know about the Wii U".
These anecdotes are not just from American kids. My sister lives in Germany and her daughter (12) told me "all the boys in Germany play Minecraft constantly".
Personally, I find myself playing more and more on the iPad than anywhere else. Lost Cities is my new favorite game, but just recently it was The Machine Bride Of Pinbot table in Pinball Arcade for the iPad, and before that, Dragon Fantasy.
When the Wii U is released, I will probably buy one fairly quickly. I will tell myself that I'm buying it to replace my old Wii, but in reality, I still get a huge charge of energy from buying a new console. In the last decade, I've always told myself that the console I'm buying is "for the kids". However, this time I'll be fooling myself. Buying a Wii U will be for me. I will buy it because I want to grab onto a bit of that magical feeling of opening a game console for the first time. However, If I think I doing it for any other reason, I'll only be lying to myself.