One advantage that games on PCs, social networks such as Facebook, and even mobile phones have over those on traditional video game consoles is the ability for their creators to change and manipulate their worlds on the fly. Thanks to the relative freedom these platforms provide, games can be constantly updated to improve performance, fix bugs, balance mechanics, and keep players playing longer.
On traditional consoles, not so much. Game developers have been traditionally hampered by the bureaucracy, endless forms, and prohibitive cost that come with updating a console game once it's available to purchase, often at the expense of the game's quality.
"It's sometimes expensive, there's an awful lot of bureaucracy, even when you want to do quite small things," David Polfeldt of Ubisoft Massive, the studio behind the upcoming Far Cry 3
, tells us.
"If I agree with [a suggested fix], I start to think 'Oh yeah, to change that I would have to -- oh shit, it's just too much work.' And I won't change it even if I think [the feedback] is right."
Polfeldt is not alone. With the next generation of video game consoles seemingly just around the corner, Gamasutra polled game developers and publishers
on what they'd like the console makers to offer, to help them do their jobs better. Unsurprisingly, eliminating a lot of the red tape and allowing a more open development platform was a common theme among those we spoke to.
"I think that'd be really helpful [if the consoles were more open], because certainly we're seeing a change in models in games toward more freemium content, and a quicker response to your community," says Crytek's global business development director Carl Jones.
"You can be very successful with a game by giving a game away for free, and then giving players the content they want. And if they really want it, and are really enjoying it, that's when they'll pay for it. That's appropriate. Why shouldn't we do it like that?"
Jones argues that current generation consoles make it more difficult for developers to update games than mobile and online platforms, as they have to go through a prolonged period of submission. He believes that taking this less flexible approach with freemium titles is "more than likely to kill games off."
Christian Svensson, SVP at Capcom Entertainment, wants to see more open consoles, too. "I'm hoping for a much more fluid means of providing updates to consumers, being able to have a much more rapid turnaround in between when content is submitted and when content goes live to consumers, to provide a higher level of service to them," he says.
"I'm hoping that the networking and the processes in the future are built with that in mind. I'd like to see more server-based backends that are more under publisher-developer control, rather than being forced through systems that are bit more pre-defined by the first-party. That would enable experiences online that are not currently available in today's console marketplace."
Jones, however, is careful to make clear that he's not suggesting next generation consoles should be as open and Wild West as the PC. "We're always going to need quality control," he admits. "We're going to need a decent submission process, to get the first version of a game out, and make sure it's solid and everyone gets a good experience."
"But during that period, if developers can be generating content that they know they can shoot out really quickly, on demand, well, I think the tail of that game becomes longer, the overall revenue from that game becomes higher, and everybody wins," Jones says.
The full feature on what developers want from next generation consoles, which includes comments from other big companies like Epic Games and EA DICE, is live now on Gamasutra