And I honestly have to admit I’m viewing the upcoming console generation with something resembling active dread. Even though I’ve already preordered a Ouya.
There are many reasons for this. The corporate stars are aligning to bring forth the greed beast. Trends in mobile gaming that are annoying there are about to jump into sharp relief on consoles. And above all, it’s likely everybody in my family is going to wind up with some form of these things and I’ll spend holidays fixing them.
Here are five lines of writing on the wall.
Brace Yourselves, Truly Epic Piles of Shovelware Are Coming
Nobody seriously thinks that the next console generation won’t feature some form of streaming games service. Here’s the problem, though, they need all the games they can get, and they won’t be too picky about where they come from.
Mix this with the fact that anybody can put out an Android game, and that the next generation of consoles is practically guaranteed to feature some form of Android compatibility and, well, yeah. This has an upside: games like The Dark Knight Rises demonstrate that truly beautiful and acceptable gaming can be made available for reasonable prices and I think we’ll see an entire new generation of developers turning out AA games. Call them the farm team.
But I also think we’ll see a tidal wave of crap.
Free-To-Play and Freemium Is The Annoying, Ugly Future Of Our Beloved Franchises.
I don’t imagine that the next round of consoles will have any lack of games you can demo and then buy the whole shebang for an up-front price. But publishers would much, much rather have a game where every time you play it, you have to give them a few quarters for the best gear.
And do you seriously think that any franchise will be able to escape that? It’s amazing Call of Duty isn’t already trying to milk you like a cow. I can see some of them avoiding it, but huge hits like Madden, Gears of War, and Fallout? Lube up your udders, Bessie, because they’re going to get squeezed like it’s junior prom.
Kickstarter Will Become a Guilt Trip
Hey, speaking of getting milked, expect a lot more of this in the future.
Kickstarter will always be a funding agency for independent games. That’s not the problem. The problem is that for any franchise with a rabid cult following but a small wider audience, that cult following is going to have to pay through the nose to get that game released.
Think about it: the Kickstarter model is perfect for publishers. It sets a funding goal, it sets rewards, it makes clear the cost, and most importantly it puts the burden of release on the fans. Instead of having to hear about some cult franchises never getting its due, you can just say “Hey, we tried, and you didn’t care enough to pay for it. Now shut up and go away.”
Not That Hardcore Franchises Will Be Remotely Important
Look, here’s the truth, and it’s something Nintendo has known for a long time: simple games rake in cash by the bucket. The more complex your game, the smaller your audience. EA has probably made more off of Plants Vs. Zombies than it will ever see off of the entire Mass Effect franchise. Part of the reason EA and Ubisoft are so gung-ho about free-to-play and freemium is that their mobile divisions are propping up their stock price while consoles stagger.
In Japan it’s even worse. There is a distinct possibility, for example, that Capcom’s investors will force the company out of the console business entirely simply because their mobile games make money and their console games don’t.
Ever wonder why Resident Evil 6 is enormous? Because it’ll either save Capcom’s console division… or be the last RE game we ever see.
It Will Be The Last
It’s pretty clear that disc-based gaming is on the way out, even among the people making the devices that play disc-based games. Sony and Microsoft aren’t feuding over console exclusives: they’re looking for streaming video exclusives. The next Xbox and next Playstation will actually be two models of device: a lower-end one for the streaming and casual market, and a higher end one for the hardcore market.
The one after that will resemble a Roku box and likely gaming will be a fun accessory to other functions.
In some ways, the market will have come full circle. And this doesn’t mean gaming is dead or that gaming won’t keep advancing. Far from it. In fact there’s a lot of potential for gaming to explode in ways that it would never have.
But part of that means ditching consoles. Consoles are expensive single use devices with a built-in time to be junked. The future consumer is just not going to accept that, not in a world where Google ports your apps to your new Android phone and everything that streams Netflix will also stream OnLive.
This is a good thing in the sense that consoles are technologically outmoded and clinging to a business model that really is detrimental to creativity and creates other problems.
But it’s also kinda sad to see that piece of our childhood that we grew up with go. I never thought I’d say this, but I’m going to kinda miss the Console Wars. Who’d have thought they wouldn’t end with a victor, but with somebody else entirely wiping them all out?