Both Sony and Microsoft have recently announced the official launch dates for their next generation of consoles, and I am excited, although with some reservations. We just had 8 great years of console gaming, and it will be as hard to lay down my Xbox controller as it can be to say goodbye to an old faithful car.
First off, with Xbox 360 and PS3 came a revolution in graphics. Simply put, game visuals started to pop, polygons started to look less like polygons and more like actual people and objects, and texturing advanced to a point where we could see the threads in a character’s clothes. These days we would say “so what”, but back then, it was revolutionary to have this kind of graphical power in a console.
It wasn’t just the graphics that catapulted both consoles to great success. The online piece became a game-changer that took a few years to really take off, but once it did, we saw a shift from Sony being the dominant player to Microsoft taking the helm. Having chat capability, in-game party chat, and seamless room chat made a huge difference in immersing the gamer into the experience.
Online multiplayer became something people wanted to be a part of because they could connect and speak to other people, not just curse the names on screen. It allowed friends to stay connected, and more importantly to me, it allowed me to have downtime with my work colleagues. Remember Microsoft’s original online commercials? They always ended with “It’s fun to play together.” They nailed the statement, and people picked up on the queue to try the online experience for themselves.
This will continue to be the big piece of the profit pie in the next generation as well. Gamers find that online gives them an outlet to be social, and so games are more than a form of entertainment. In this day and age, games have become a social engagement tool. And although Microsoft charges for their services while Sony continues to offer free or premium services, gamers will continue to subscribe to either company’s services because of the social aspect and the need of gamers to connect with others.
As important as the social aspect of gaming has been and will continue to be, I wouldn’t be doing my service if I didn’t point out the ugly trend that needs to die. I’m going to pick on DLC and it’s greedy takeover of the gaming industry as a whole. This whole phenomena started with mobile, since they were trying to allure more people to mobile gaming, and free to play is a great way to do just that. The problem is when you take something that helped the mobile industry lift off, and apply it to a much larger piece of the gaming industry (console gaming), some of that allure and need wears off.
As great an idea it is to have continually updated games with more content each month, some major publishers abused this practice. With games already retailing at $60, season passes and micro transactions plague most of the current games releasing In its worst form, DLC unbalances games and creates advantages for those willing to pay more than their opponent. Publishers, in an instance such as this, are promoting the concept to pay more to cheat. This is abuse of the DLC moral code, and shows how and where the industry went wrong. It wasn’t just this abuse though, as most games have offerings of DLC to expand multiplayer games (Call of Duty, Battlefield etc.), and leave gamers with the sense of not having a complete package on day 1.
But I am hopeful, that due to many gamers voicing their displeasure with the abuse of DLC and the continuing cost to stay current with a game, that we will start seeing a shift to more content up front. I don’t want a game that I paid 100% for to be only 80% of the experience, with the expectation that I’ll cough up additional money to get the other 20% of the experience that should have already been there. And I don’t want in-game items or gear that imbalances the gameplay and gives an advantage to those willing to pay more.
In those instances, publishers may as well hand over the source code for players to cheat away, because it’s not fair to the rest of the playing field. Now, to be fair, most gamers have shunned these practices, and games using these shady practices have (for the most part) been commercial bombs. But therein lies the point that these practices should have never left the drawing board.
In closing, the next generation of console gaming brings tons of promise. Better graphics with shading, texturing, lighting, and blur techniques that will cross the boundaries of realism. It looks like virtual reality peripheral are on the horizon for both consoles as well, and this will further immerse gamers into the realism aspect of the gaming experience. Being socially immersed in a gaming experience will be easier than ever, and staying connected to a game community, or game experience, will be seamless. Add all of this up, and we may have a second life outside of reality.
It will be interesting to see how each console is positioned in the market, and with what strengths they will champion their brands. Let’s just hope this console generation will move away from the greed factor and give us back the gaming we use to take for granted. Yes, we learned our lesson, but the economy tanking is not the gamer’s fault at the end of the day, and we shouldn’t have to pay (literally) for someone else’s shortcomings.
Please don’t punish us for being good, loyal gamers. In return, we will support your products as long as they live up to the hype and are not positioned as cash cows. It’s almost time to play ball, and I’d like a level playing field with 100% of the experience already included. Get ready gamers.