Thursday, September 01, 2005

The Future of Online

I've been quoted as saying that the future of online gaming is on the console. I firmly believe that the PC , which is now the major player in online, will become less relevant. This is one reason why I am so interested what the next gen's online offerings will be like.

In that spirit here are two interesting updates:

The XBox 360 will be very restrictive. Microsoft is including a laundry list of requirements for developers who want to make a game for the new console. Included in this list are things like keeping enough memory available for one-on-one chat between games, having their UI available to slide in from the side in every game, making all the background music replaceable by player's own soundtracks, etc.

On the flip side, while PS3 hasn't announced much, Sony's Phil Harrison did hint that they would not have a central service comparable to Live. In fact, they probably will have a more laissez-faire system:

  • "We want to provide an open platform wherever possible," he said. "We want to create a platform on which publishers can exploit their services. We are happy for publishers to form their own commercial relationships directly with the consumer."
My opinion? I love Live and I think the central, consistent interface will help casual gamers. Sony is making a mistake by leaving up to developers. The player will get very uneven experiences as developers begin to skimp on "standard" features.

On the flip side, as a developer, I am worried that Microsoft will go overboard with their requirements and soak the precious few development resources I have, leaving very little left for gameplay innovation.


At 6:02 PM, Blogger OrangeDeca said...

And on a side not from the same Sony article:

...When asked about the future of content delivery, Harrison said, "We should begin to move away from putting 20 hours of content onto a disk and move towards a more episodic model. Games should become more like a soap opera, not in terms off plot but in terms of how the experience changes dynamically over time."...

At 3:02 AM, Blogger Mat said...

Do you really think that the PC will become less relevant for gaming?

Graphics for PC and consoles have always been (relatively) the same, especially since the graphics card come from the same manufacturers. As for the recent wave of innovation and new gaming experiences (eye-toy, touch screen, Nintendo's new controller), they are either coming from the computer world or will be imitated soon enough.

Console gaming is currently repeating what has worked for many years in the PC world: content availability and expansion (the new-generation consoles are getting there with extra content download and physical storage), communities developped around games (Live seems promising), ...

IMO, each platform has its advantages. And I just can't get used to first-person shooters with a console controller.

My 2 cents. And sorry if this doesn't seem coherent, but I just woke up and my mind's not at full speed right now :)

At 10:43 AM, Blogger Clubberjack said...

I believe that the PC will probably maintain it's current audience size, but that console gaming online will grow a huge amount in the coming year or two. PC gaming will continue to cater to the hard-core; it will continue to be a place of innovation due to the more open nature of the platform; and it will continue to carry games that require the more complex and flexible keyboard interface. That said, I think that online consoles will see the majority of growth in terms of audience, as the less intimidating interface and focus on entertainment draws in more casual gamers.

As to the question of which online strategy works best, I'm going to have to side with Xbox Live, at least as a player. As Deca alluded to, by having control, Microsoft is able to give the online experience a uniform baseline of quality, which I have really enjoyed as a player.

I do agree, also, that they should be careful about the restrictions they put on the games. Forcing the developer to allow the player to swap out the music seems like a move in the wrong direction, taking a creative choice away from the devs, although, now that I think about it, that just gives the creative choice to the players, which does seem to be the way the world is headed (mods, and whatnot). In any case, it's a fine line that MS is walking. Let's hope they get it right.

PS Beinvenue, Altermativ. Hope you are enjoying your visit to Laundry Sessions.

At 10:44 AM, Blogger Clubberjack said...

Oh yeah... I see chat as the major barrier keeping PC-like online experiences from the consoles. But as Microsoft has already shown, VoIP is a perfectly valid alternative.

At 10:46 AM, Blogger Clubberjack said...

Of course, Altermativ, what I meant to say was "Bienvenue".

At 6:44 PM, Blogger Saralah said...

I'm not sure what to think about the new wave of consoles coming out, and how they're handling things differently. One thing is for sure - Microsoft's aim with all of these directives for skinning, in-game voice chat, customizable music, started as a way to simplify things for developers while enriching the experience for consumers. Think about it - among other things, we get cross-game invite functionality *basically* for free now. Good if you were intending on supporting it and now there's less work to do; bad if you are also shipping on the PS3, where we have no indication that Sony will do anything to make our lives easier. End result: you have to code all the special features anyway, and special-case everything for the 360.

From a consumer standpoint, I like what Microsoft is trying to do. I will be able to be online whether or not I'm playing a multiplayer game, which will enable my friends to invite me to their multiplayer sessions while I'm doing something else. Things like customizing music may sound like a bad idea for certain games, but think about all the sports and racing games - they are basically just playing a soundtrack, and perhaps I am sick of a certain Black Eyed Peas song and would really rather listen to the Rolling Stones while I'm playing.

The Xbox 360 Guide isn't perfect - because it's so generalized, it takes several controller actions to get anything done. However, I think it's generally a step in the right direction, especially when trying to grab the attention of that ever-elusive casual gaming audience.

Now, if we could just do something about the price... :-)


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