In the past, we’ve all known what to expect from a new console generation. Heck, we even knew what we wanted and our expectations were managed accordingly. The next level of entertainment would come out and we would be blown away by the progress. 2-D moved on to 3-D. The first free roaming games came out. So on and so forth. However now, we seem to have reached a plateau.
It’s widely considered the increase in graphics and functionality was negligible in the current generation of consoles. Are we nearing saturation point? The more tech minded among us soon learned that consoles were simply becoming mid range gaming PCs with their own OS, leaning toward one platform in different skins.
Ironic then, while consoles themselves become more like PCs, that Andrew House, head of Sony Interactive Entertainment , wants to take on the PC sphere with his PS4 Pro. Yet the timing of releasing upgraded consoles inside the same generation brings plenty of conjecture. Will console gamers be more like PC gamers in the future, upgrading several times in half a decade? Will consoles give up on having an optical drive and force us to buy everything digitally, as they threatened to this time around? Both consoles and PCs appear to be merging together for the most uncertain time in gaming history. ATPS4 considers what life would be like for gamers and devs, living in a single format world.
With there being only one platform with which we could enjoy videogames, there would be a need for mass market acceptance. A huge portion of the consumer market would have to condense their custom into one machine. Many casual gamers are put off returning to videogames as a hobby, as they are overwhelmed by choice. They are also exposed to the never ending console wars, which can also be a bit off putting. With all of that out of the picture, many more people would be inclined to buy back into gaming. These people would also have the assurance that there is simply one product they need to get in order to enjoy games. Just think of the huge success the Wii had on the casual gamer market. Then make THAT the only console available. The scope for profit is giddying….at this point, at least.
So, everybody is in the same digital space now. No more bickering about what’s better than what. What this new gathering of digital selves means is a newly thriving online community. If a game’s MP was DOOMed (see what I did there) to die out after a while, it would take a heck of a lot longer with a merged player-sphere. This is where it becomes a numbers game. With so many people on just one console, E-sports would likely blow up more than it already has. Online gaming would take a whole new precedent over anything else due to the lively lobbies that would refuse to die out. Unless of course, if the devs couldn’t get servers powerful enough. Then, erm, we’d be getting booted all day long.
Developers would also have a field day with the one platform scenario. Just imagine all the time, money and resources every dev has to spend on optimising their game for different consoles. Devs would be able to spend all that time, money and resources on the further polishing of their games. Perhaps this is one reason why console exclusives are always at such a high quality? It’s probably fair to say, then, that a lot of our games on the one platform would be of a far higher standard. The OS optimisation and coding required, narrowed down to one machine, would likely be done and sorted very early on in the console’s lifetime allowing devs around a quarter extra manpower to pour into games.
It is a welcoming thought, to imagine a world with no exclusive content. Where no one gamer could arrogantly boast to another, forgetting they both share in the same hobby. Yet, the trade off for games never being exclusive and being of a higher quality comes at a price. A literal price. With absolutely no competition for the ‘one format’ console, all of its games (which means all games in existence at that point) would have zero competition to stand up to. As a result, if one game is predicted to perform worse than another, devs wouldn’t be able to re-market on another console. So to cover that risk, retail price has to go up for both indie and triple A titles. This is where the ‘one format’ scenario starts to contradict itself. One product accessible for all with sub products not so affordable for all.
This also bleeds over to the free games we’ve been spoiled with since the beginning of the last generation. These monthly titles are often complained about. “These games are no good”, “I’m disappointed by this month’s lineup” – c’mon, they’re free. You don’t get to complain. With the one platform scenario, PS Plus and Xbox Live would be no more. Who’s willing to bet people would complain about THAT a lot more? On top of how games would be higher quality, asking us for more money, there’d also be no reason to ever give them away with no competition on the market.
Discounts and bargains would also become a rare thing. The old saying “you get what you pay for” would ring true. However, these more heavily optimised games would hold their value far longer, meaning budget gamers would have a much harder time saving money.
The business of more expensive games and less bargains would put a serious squeeze on retail and trade-in stores. As a result, a one platform console would hail the beginning of the end for games stores. Over a long period of time, they’d fail to turn a profit and go bust one by one. Before the eighth generation came out, there were already rumblings of a fully online marketplace for the games industry. After all, Steam has it on the PC and the only PC titles we see on the shelves are from a time when Steam hadn’t fully got the ball rolling. From a business standpoint and ease of custom, going fully online is the next logical step for videogames. Scarily, this goes for both our current future and the ‘one format’ future. So when a console comes out without an optical drive, don’t be surprised.
Lastly, if you can imagine this climate in the videogames market accurately enough, you could see that life would be a lot tougher for indie developers. With such high brow games releasing and with VR about to explode in the consumer market, charming 2-D side scrollers like Inside may lose popularity. Like the trade in stores, they will become rarer and rarer until eventually they’re a distant memory.
With two thirds of this article being ‘bad’ and ‘ugly’, you don’t need this writer to tell you – one platform gaming is bad news. If things start to turn out this way, prepare to spend more money than you’re used to (as if videogames weren’t expensive enough). Prepare to say goodbye to proud towers of collected videogames on bookshelves. Prepare to say goodbye to trade in stores who have helped make this hobby so much more accessible to gamers. Long story short – you think things are bad now? Let’s just pray the big gaming businesses don’t go for a one platform agreement. Besides, I like boasting about my PS4.