Friday, January 13, 2012

Next-Gen Gaming, how I see it. Part 2

(this is part 2 in a series about what I envision the next generation of gaming to be. For part 1, click here.)

So! It's been a while. Two glorious debates later I've come out with refreshed and further refined opinions. First I'll start off with an addendum to my Part 1 of this series, then we'll move right on along.

After speculation, I realized that what I was asking for is practically already here. And guess who's made it? Microsoft. I had completely forgotten about XNA, which lets you create games for both PC and Xbox. It's pretty much exactly what I was envisioning for it to be, too. In theory, it shouldn't be too hard for Microsoft to make this leap for their full development platform. If they do end up making this jump, I think there will be huge benefits for both developers and players.

But on the other hand, Steam. Is Microsoft ready to compete with Steam? Most PC gamers, as well as I, would agree that "Games For Windows" sucks. I think if Microsoft wants to go this route they'll have to revise their approach in order to be successful.

I have also realized it is quite unlikely that either Nintendo or Sony will follow suit. I'm certain Nintendo wouldn't, in fact. So in a conclusion to that I'll leave it as saying that it's a great opportunity for Microsoft.

Now back to the good part!
It's time for digital downloads. The more I've thought about this the more controversial I feel this subject is. On one hand, convenience, streamlining, conserving resources. On the other, an entire sub-industry of middlemen.

If all game content went digital companies like GameStop would be utterly destroyed, it would be their doom. They're a middleman.

They do marketing and junk, and they give people jobs. But I'm not going to argue about such political shit(excuse the profanity), because that doesn't matter here. What I'm talking about is "the next step forward". The guys at GameStop, EB Games, etc. can go get jobs elsewhere, sorry. And I'll tell you why.

First and foremost, the middleman. Middlemen suck. They muddy things up, raise prices, and generally become another barrier between you and the source. They exist to leech profits by bringing things from one party to another. But guess what? We don't need that anymore. Internet connectivity can bring you content straight from a distribution channel like WiiWare, Xbox Marketplace, or Playstation Store.

Also, cutting out the middleman helps extent profits straight to the developers. When the developers get more profit... Guess what? Good things, you can hope. Of course, this means any game you buy will be full-priced. But, as the theory goes, if the developers get more profits they'll be able to lower the prices of their games. That may not become a reality, though. However, I do believe there will be more of a pressure for publishers to put out cheaper games if that happens, especially because of the rising popularity of indie games. That's a subject for another day, though.

Next is physical media. Since we can reason that buying game discs is no longer necessary, the material is simply a waste. Manuals are no longer necessary. It's a waste of plastic, a waste of paper, and a waste of a disc. Some people say "it's a nice presentation", but I'd argue an interactive panorama full of videos, trailers, review, info, etc is a much better presentation for a potential buyer.

Then there's the issue of "ownership" with physical, that people want their physical media because it makes them feel like they truly own the game. Well, it's an illusion, I'd say. It's perfectly plausible that a company like Microsoft could deactivate your account or brick your Xbox on a whim. Does that happen? No. It's bad for business, which should be enough a reason to end that argument there. Also, you still do technically own the storage media in the same way. Except now all your games are clumped together on a hard disk rather than a DVD. Oh well? My point here is that remote control of your console software was inevitable when internet connectivity came along.

Oh yes, and. There'd be no more clutter. No more "losing games". All your purchases would be backed up to your account, of course, so you don't need to worry about that! Re-download as much as you need to. The downside, of course, is that you will no longer be able to let people borrow your games. Perhaps some "trade" system may be implemented by console makers to remedy this, but I'm not too confident in that. So in this case it becomes a personal trade-off, of course. How many games do you really trade and borrow out? For me it honestly isn't many.

So to recap:

  1. No more middleman
  2. Better for developers
  3. Convenience
  4. Not wasting materials(better for the environment)
  5. Practically no "ownership" loss
  6. Can't lose games, better service
  7. No clutter
  8. Potentially lower prices
  1. No trading
  2. Retailers might go out of business
  3. No used games
  4. Higher prices(due to pt. 1 and 3)
  5. Lost marketing from retailers

Weigh it for yourself, of course, but you can see which side I lay on, and I hope my argument was effective in persuading those of you who remain skeptical.

Thanks extend to Timothy Hsu, aka sonicblastiose and editor of The Mediocrity Codex, for helping me refine my ideas over an intense twitter-argument.


  1. What happened to the last blog post you made?!
    Did the government delete it?! >:O

  2. Haha! No I deleted it myself actually.
    I don't really want to stir up that kind of political controversy here, or even welcome the possibility of it.

    And it really would just be controversy, the kind that just seeds arguments and has no conclusion. People can bicker and bitch over my points all they want but it won't change anything, because the government certainly wouldn't take heed of it even if they were to read it.

    Depressing, yes, but I think we're beyond the point of no return now.

  3. I agree that the games industry (and every other industry for that matter) need to cut out middlemen where they are not required. We're even seeing this in the food market, where people are buying more local produce.

    It's worth pointing out that "digital distributors", like Steam and the console equivalents of it, also act as middlemen between the players and developers. Some developers ignore these platforms (at least on the PC, hello Minecraft), but I'm sure that's not viable for everyone at the moment.

    It's sad that complicated tax laws and regulations compel content producers to huddle up behind big publishers for safety and convenience. It's hardly a coincidence that the publishing industry are the ones pushing regulations in the first place. But that's a bit of a different topic, so there.