I’ve decided to compile my greatest hopes for the upcoming console war in a handy list. It may be strangely specific in nature, but these are my hopes, so what do you expect? Allow me to dream! Each of my hopes includes a “best case scenario”, for that perfect storm setup…
- Microsoft goes all-or-nothing with some kind of Windows 8/Kinect/Xbox Live “ecosystem”, with motion-controller cloud storage tablet-PC bullshit coagulating into a giant, clunky, experimental, and expensive leap into the unknown, from which there is no turning back. (Best case scenario: the rumor that you need to have a Kinect plugged in at all times in order for the Xbox to work is true, and you have to sign up for some bigger unified MS service in order to use the console’s online functionality at all.)
- They continue to hamstring the PC game scene with their awful operating system as part of a strategy to drive gamers away from the free, open PC environment toward a much more restrictive, lucrative Xbox Live “cloud service”, filled with costly subscriptions and annoying advertisements. (Best case scenario: Microsoft tries to sue Valve somehow.)
- Bungie and publisher Activision Blizzard, Inc. specially design and promote their upcoming MMOFPS, Destiny, to take advantage of exclusive features of the next Xbox and Microsoft’s aforementioned “ecosystem” and becomes the mascot for this strategy. (Best case scenario: Activation Blizzard, Inc. raises its stock price forecast to near-Facebook hype levels leading up to the game’s release.)
- Sony does what we expect, and reveals their console tomorrow. Along with the hardware itself, all the details of their business model, online services, and exclusives are pushed at once. Despite Gaikai’s game-streaming service playing a large role, doubts begin to form around the lack of any sort of “paradigm shift” justifying a new expensive console. Sony reveals a strategy to use the console to push 4K resolution displays — which they sell, of course. (Best case scenario: Sony tries to tie high-definition VR headsets into the mix for the sake of being “future proof”.)
- The PS Vita is promised to automatically integrate as an optional controller that can hypothetically stream games from the system without needing a TV lag-free, like the Wii U. (Best case scenario: the Vita gets the long-awaited and price drop and improved iteration in North America to synchronize with this plan.)
- Although the raw value of the system is unquestionable, Sony is once again selling at an extreme loss in order to avoid the price controversy of the PS3 (Best case scenario: they significantly drop the price of the PS3 as well.)
- The immediate criticism from Microsoft and other detractors is that the 4k display strategy is outdated thinking, and a “hidden cost”; they successfully create fear among developers and early adopters, who now see it as a doomed prospect thanks to the proven tendency to design for the lowest-common denominator. (Best case scenario: EA and a few other major developers openly support the 4k strategy, thus dividing the game industry between 1080 and 4k.)
Both of them
- Both companies punish the used games market harshly while moving away from traditional retail, toward downloadable and streaming. (Best case scenario: GameStop nearly goes bankrupt in the process, bitching and moaning the entire time, which turns out to resonate strongly with the gaming community itself.)
- Valve follows through with their strategy by partnering with major hardware and retail companies. Together they introduce multiple Linux-based boxes designed to be easily upgradable, along with new PC input that focuses on modular, high-precision controllers and biometrics — which actually work. (Best case scenario: Valve incentivizes the push toward Linux by introducing a Steam community reward system, resulting in a frenzy of software development as demand for high quality Linux programs swells.)
- The wild rumor Half-Life 3 will be a Steambox exclusive turns out to be partially true: several major features utilize the biometrics and unique features Valve is now selling with the systems, and a significant discount for the revolutionary sequel is given to all who purchase it for Valve’s new system. (Best case scenario: Half-Life 3 ships with a new engine and content-creation toolset that also uses the unique controllers and biometrics.)
In the end…
- Microsoft’s strategy completely fails, as the Xbox spreads itself too thin, takes too many risks, and becomes too aggressive with its push for total software dominance. Not even the great Xbox propaganda machine can save it from disaster, especially after a string of crippling bugs and hardware failures sour whatever enthusiasm it generated. Steve Ballmer quits his job and Xbox limps behind the competition as a laughingstock, while Windows 8 is quietly bleeding out until next year’s OS.
- Sony, staying on the honorable path of self-sacrifice and innovation, also spreads itself too thin, but eventually reaps the benefits of weak competition from Xbox, as developers learn that the lowest common denominator policy is a lose-lose situation this time around.
- Activision goes broke.
- EA almost goes broke.
- Motion controls, cloud storage, used-game punishment, and closed operating systems are all exposed to be rubbish once and for all, as open-source software and precision are validated.
- Valve picks up the slack of its competition, leapfrogs into first place, and Steam with Linux dominates gaming this generation.