Videogames: No Consoles for Old Men

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A one-console solution? A no-console solution? The future of game delivery remains untold.

When you were younger, did you have an Atari or a ColecoVision? A Nintendo Entertainment or a Sega Master System? You almost certainly didn’t have both of whatever was big at the time (and if you did, we hate you). And as much as you loved and bragged about your system of choice’s graphical prowess and superior library of hits, from River Raid to Sonic the Hedgehog, deep down there were games on the other system that you would have killed for. Money (likely your parents’) was the probable reason that you were denied entry into gaming Nirvana back then, but on some level it was fun to pick a side.

Dozens of systems have come and gone since those days and owning multiple systems is now commonplace. However, many of today’s “must have” games–the main reason to own any system, no matter what the marketing department tells you–appear on a couple, if not all, of the major consoles. Fewer titles are exclusive to one system, leading many consumers to ask the question: Why do we need them all?

And game buyers aren’t the only ones asking that question. As games often take several years and millions of dollars to create–with dozens, if not hundreds, of team members toiling long hours to finish the job on multiple platforms–some developers are also looking to a “one-standard” solution.

“We have it with DVD, we had it with VHS. We have it with televisions (in the sense that, for the most part, every TV is capable of broadcasting the same signal),” wrote God of War creator David Jaffe on his blog. “So what do we lose by having it for game consoles?”

What would this accomplish? Developing costs would diminish significantly with one standard platform, the time it takes to create games would be expedited, and the price of the ”all-in-one” hardware could also go down. Most importantly, with developers able to focus their resources on only one system type, the quality of titles could improve dramatically.

With the success of online content-delivery platforms from console makers like Xbox Live Arcade, WiiWare and the PlayStation Store as well as PC platforms like GameTap and Valve’s popular Steam, even software manufacturing has come under scrutiny. Why pay millions to make discs, instruction manuals, and cases when you can just pump games direct to homes through the interweb, passing the savings on to everyone?

So, yes, in an ideal world we would all be getting more for less and it’s clearly possible. But even if it could happen, would today’s aficionados really be satisfied? Many gamers still take great pleasure in picking sides and general “mine is better than yours” fanboy-ism. It’s a fruitless and ultimately silly argument, but the reality is that these are the people that have helped establish the industry–they can’t be ignored in favor of the recent influx of “casual gamers” who spend large amounts of money on crap games, ultimately hurting the legitimacy of the entire industry.

The biggest hurdle, however, is the console manufacturers themselves. Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony have proven over and over again that they are willing to lose billions in an effort to become the primary source of all your entertainment needs and to establish who is swinging the biggest grapes.

So while many believe the “one-console” future is inevitable, until the industry as whole shifts its priorities (and egos) it’s still, for now, just an awesome dream.