"New consoles would help, and the rumblings have already started at Microsoft and Sony," Hutchinson says. As if reminded by the lackluster sales of the handheld 3DS and PS Vita gaming systems, he adds, "But I don't know that we really need a new hardware cycle at this point from a creative standpoint."
Zynga's Neurath, who's worked with consoles and PCs since the 8-bit days, says console makers would do well to act more like nontraditional platforms. A new console dubbed Ouya will launch next year with free-to-play games and a $99 launch price, but keep the focus on what its manufacturer calls "TV gaming."
Crook believes there is still plenty of time for traditional console makers to correct their downward trend.
"There will always be a big market for core game systems," he says. "It all comes down to how consoles can get back to taking creative risks again, and what the platforms can do to broaden their markets and offer innovative means of interaction."
Ubisoft's Hutchinson wants console games to deliver more meaningful experiences.
"Games need to explain to players why they made certain artistic decisions, what mood they're setting with their lighting and color choices, and less about the technical features," he says. "We need to offer more experiences that are understandable to people's real lives, either in terms of mechanics or narrative, and attract people who don't read fantasy novels or watch the SyFy channel. Our mechanics are often not the barrier, but our content sometimes is."
The good news for the industry, and for gamers, is that video games in their broadest sense are most definitely here to stay. It's just that the way we access, control and define them has rapidly evolved. Despite the weakening sales of consoles and console games, the growth of mobile, social and PC-based games means that total spending on gaming is actually on the rise.
"Inviting more people to the fun and wonderment of games isn't just good for social games, it's good for the entire industry," says Neurath.
It will likely take at least one more console cycle to gauge the long-term sustainability of dedicated gaming devices, experts say. Their ultimate survival all depends on how well console makers adapt to evolving business models and changing consumer tastes.