Why a One Console Future Makes Sense

   How’s this for a loaded topic? Are we headed toward a one console future? I’d like to think so and always have, since I reached the age of reason. Just think about it; right now video games are one of the only mediums where this type of media divide exists. Sure, as of now you can buy an eBook in Kindle, Nook, or iBook format but there is always ePub as a standard open format. Music has MP3s, and film has DVDs. All three are channels in which you consume your media of choice in one, universal form. When it comes to console video games, no such standard exists. I admit, video games are relatively new compared to the other major mediums. Because of this, I understand that, it's constantly evolving and fitting into what it will one day become. I just think that it’s about time we start to look into this topic a bit more logically.


Back when VHS and Betamax were fighting for the consumer standard there is was one thing that consumers wanted; and that was for one to die and a standard to emerge. The same happened in music and the same is happening with books (I’m fully aware that it’s still an on going issue with eBooks but then again, that is even newer than video games). Just recently, look at what happened to Blu-Ray and HD DVD. While both were on the market, sales were weak because consumers were scared to support one format over the other -they were afraid when the smoke cleared they’d be in the loser’s corner. The point is, these types of choices scared off potential customers. For another example, look at how cable companies are fighting for our business; some of them buying channels in order to offer them exclusively on their network, and others outright lying about what they offer. Have consumers benefited from this cable company war by paying lower prices? No, and in fact, its driven many people away. How about this, imagine buying a Sony TV that only plays channels 1-50 while a Samsung TV only plays channels 51-100. Wouldn’t you be outraged? Why are we so willing to accept it in our console games?


We’ve always had competing games and hardware; in video games, that’s just the way it’s been. But does that mean we can’t change it? As an industry we have to evolve. I’ve heard naysayers using the example of competition being hurt by having only one one console on the market. I never understood that; as if Halo doesn’t compete with Call of Duty on the Xbox 360 in sales, or Uncharted and Tomb Raider don’t compete on the Playstation 3 in popularity. As it stands now, most games are multi-platform and a good amount of them suffer for it. If there was only one console, Playstation 3 owners wouldn’t have gotten burned on the Orange Box, and Xbox 360 owners would have gotten a fully uncompressed Final Fantasy 13. A fully supported system standard rectifies that.


In a one console future, the only thing to worry about is the standard that's accepted for the hardware and the games being made. Consumers can still buy from their favorite manufacturer, the same way I buy Sharp TVs and HP computers. But with one console spec standard, there's no need to worry about the expensive alternatives or losing out on games not on your system; and of course it drops the barrier for entry on someone who is just now stepping into the hobby. As an industry, if we want to continue to grow we need to find ways others than the Wii to bring in new gamers.

It can even make economical sense. As it stands now most companies lose money on hardware for a very long time, with R&D and console launching budgets cut, companies like Sony, Microsoft and Valve can still push their services and concentrate on making and publishing games, which is where the real money is. I’d even wager that game development cost would go down as well. No need to hire a completely different team to make Portal 2 on the Playstation 3 if there is just one console to make it for.


When all is said and done, I don’t expect this to happen anytime soon. Even though gaming is in, it’s infancy, certain things needs to be addressed in order to move forward.

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Future of Gaming is Portable?

This is something I said years and years ago, and the announcement of the new PSP brings it back. Now granted there has to be some scaling done on the hardware side, but what is stopping Sony or MS, or even Nintendo from putting out their next home console as a portable one? As it stands now no one is sure the PSP2 (NGP) can do TV out, lets assume it can. The one truly exciting thing about that idea is playing a game on my NGP hooked up to a TV and having a full rich experience. And then I can unplug it and take it with me to continue playing. Heck, when the system is plugged it the PSP2 screen can act as a secondary screen. We are probably a few generations behind an idea like this. Battery technology has to improve tenfold, and you'd have to have a rich enough sound chip on the device to be able to get anything good from them when connected, but otherwise, this make total sense to me. 

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Video Game Magazines

 In the early 90's when America Online was the main gateway to get to the barren world wide web there wasn't much of a choice where your information came from. Some of us used word of mouth. Mortal Kombat's blood code spread through classrooms with flu like swiftness. The scoop about the newest game was a big game of telephone. We were born with the Konami code imprinted in our DNA. I grew up with a video game magazine in my hand. My first magazine was a quick store purchase of July 1994's Game Players.

 It came with individual glossy cards of Super Street Fighter II characters (something that would pass in a special collector's edition these days) It had the most glorious review of Super Street Fighter ever written, it was chock full of news I couldn't understand, an archive of game scores I never heard of, and previews of games I had no idea of how to get. It was a revelation to my 12 year old mind. I wanted more but since my feeble 12 year old brain could not fathom the concept of a subscription (maybe I thought my parents brought home my monthly comic books from some magical store that only allowed parents to enter) I just read the magazine over and over again until I was able to recite every word of every page on command with my eyes closed. Two things came of this though. First, I realized I was a pretty stupid kid. More importantly though, my mother saw me reading every day, and decided to just get me a 12 month subscription. This is where my obsession with video game magazines started. Every month waiting with bated breath for the next magazine wondering what would be on the cover this time, what game previews would break my brain. I learned about industry trends and got to know the personalities of the magazine. It's at this point in my life where gaming became more than a hobby, it was a lifestyle.

Since that point in my life almost 20 years ago I have amassed a collection of well over 500 magazines, from Game Players, Ultra Game Players, Game Buyer, Game Pro, Gamefan, Gamer's Republic, Next Generation, PSM, OPM, to Nintendo Power, EGM, Play, and Game Informer. Knowing the personalties of these editors was the best part. I remember when Chris Slate of UGP first saw and described Mario 64. I remember Gamefan's coverage of the Sega Dreamcast launch, I remember EGM's Sheng Long prank. These moment will be with me forever because to me gaming isn't just about picking up a controller, it's about the people, the events, and the industry as a whole.

 I believe those memories stand out because they came to me in a format that made me commit to it. Game magazines are few and far between these days. The internet has taken over every aspect of our lives. The game industry was at the forefront of the coup. We want bite size chunks of data, we want to consume stories and share them as fast as possible. The monthly video game magazine cannot compete with the internet that lives 24 hours a day.

 Some people have said "print is dead" but a few stalwarts such as John Davision of Gamepro and Steve Harris' EGM respectively have taken another approach to gaming rags. With an emphasis on deeper articles and less on time sensitive news they are playing to their strength for the page turning loyalist. Articles that go beyond the industry news like the spec sheet of the Nintendo 3DS and more about the history and origins of Gamestop, or the personality of David Cage. It may seem boring to a few, but not to me. I find it easier to commit 20 minutes to read a well written game article in a magazine then it is to read news 5 minutes straight on a game blog. Books and magazines are about a mutual commitment. We commit our attention and we will attain a richer experience because of it.

 From this commitment we get personality. Simply put, when you have a month to write about your feeling on a subject it draws more from your life than if you had a week. And that's what I am in it for. The personality, the culture, the idea that I am part of this industry in one way or another. Game magazines do that for me. I use the internet for everything including my gaming needs. It's the quickest avenue to consume information but nothing compares to laying in bed, or curled up on a couch on a lazy Sunday with my favorite magazine in hand and a nice long article to read.

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Immature Gamer

  We’ve all been there at one point in our gaming careers. A game company announces the incredibly high price for a hotly anticipated DLC and your heart drops. Your first reaction is to go to the nearest message board or your Twitter account and blast that company for their unfair prices. Surely some DLC coming out this soon after the game releases means they simply held this back just to be able to charge extra for it. In most cases there is no actual download, just a code to unlock the content on the disk; the game you already paid $60 for. 

So you vow to never play that game again, not to support that company, and most importantly never to pay for that overpriced  horse armor . Why would you support a company that is clearly not looking out for you as a customer? Oh, but on release date all your friends all seem to have it, and that armor is shiny. Just like you, I was able to hold off the DLC for a few days until I broke and bought the overpriced content that was simply locked down on the disk in the first place. 

As gamers we are a fickle bunch. Immature, even. Our ideals and standards are only as high as the game company allows them to be. Some do right by us. Valve has been a company that gamers can trust when it comes to extending the life of their games with competitive pricing and strong DLC support. Unfortunately, companies like Valve are few and far between. Some of these steep prices would not occur if the gaming community matured a bit and drew a line in the sand in regards to what we are willing to pay for and what type of services we cared about.

Allow me to state the obvious, game companies are trying to make a profit. While most of them are not evil, we as gamers need to keep those that tread the line, from being dishonest. Last generation the MSRP for most games was $50 and if gamers wanted a few more special features we could pay $10 more for the Collector’s Edition. Guess what? Collector’s Editions are huge sellers and it seemed nearly every release, minor or major, had a “special”, collector”, or “limited” edition tagging along with it.

This as we now know, was just a testing ground for companies to see how much gamers were willing to pay to get their games. Fast forward to present day and the MSRP for games has been raised to $60 and that special, collector’s or limited edition is no less than $70 and can go as high as $150. Who is to blame here? The game companies saw a window of opportunity to make a few extra bucks more on their multimillion dollar investment. There is nothing wrong with that but sometimes they can go a bit overboard. It is up to us to show some maturity and find the will to not buy every bit of entertainment we are offered solely because it’s the next thing to get. 

We need to vote with our wallets, we need to create a standard. A map pack for a game should never cost a quarter of the actual game. Extra game modes that come out only weeks after the game releases usually means it’s a cash in, and could have been bundled with the main game in the first place. These are released and priced for the gamer that is willing to buy everything to make sure they are up to date. As gamers and geeks this has been our greatest weakness, but I firmly believe the more we push back against some of these outrageous situations, if stick to our guns on the subject we may begin to truly see some fairness displayed. The game companies will have no choice. Either cater to us- their customers- or cater to no one. With our wallets, have the power choose which games, ideas, and even companies sink or swim. When we finally realize that, we will see how fast these companies begin to play nice. 

The video game industry is still relatively young. There is much to learn but it doesn’t mean we as gamers can’t show a little maturity and help it grow along the way.    

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