Gamasutra: The Art & Business of Making Gamesspacer
arrowPress Releases
April 17, 2014
PR Newswire
View All





If you enjoy reading this site, you might also want to check out these UBM TechWeb sites:


Ask Gamasutra: How to avoid screwing up next-gen consoles
Ask Gamasutra: How to avoid screwing up next-gen consoles Exclusive
October 5, 2012 | By Staff

October 5, 2012 | By Staff
Comments
    68 comments
More: Console/PC, Business/Marketing, Exclusive



Ask Gamasutra is a regular column that takes issues from within the video game industry, and poses them as a question to the editorial staff. For this edition: dos and don'ts for next-gen consoles.

Seven years. It was seven years ago that Microsoft's Xbox 360 kicked off the current console generation.

If anything, the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Wii have proven to be relatively adaptable to an incredibly dynamic marketplace. That adaptability has given the current hardware unprecedented viability.

But let's face it, video games are inherently tied with technology, and technology is constantly marching forward. Over the past seven years, there has been an incredible amount of change happening in the world of games, from new ways to control games to new ways to pay for them.

A new generation of video game consoles is about to kick off next month with Nintendo's Wii U. We want the next generation of consoles to succeed, but change is afoot and missteps will be ugly. So the question for this edition of Ask Gamasutra:

For the next generation of consoles to remain relevant (culturally and commercially), what are the dos and don'ts console makers need to follow?

Kris Graft
Editor-in-Chief

Twitter: @krisgraft

DO: Focus on the user experience. It's ridiculous today that I need to take six or seven steps to get to my game library on Xbox 360's dashboard, for example, wading through ads and non-game content. Video game consoles used to be the epitome of plug-in-and-play. Make the console itself fun to use, and that's a big plus for their commercial and cultural relevance.

DO: Open up more. When the current generation of consoles kicked off seven years ago, this whole "democratization of game development" movement wasn't in full swing. Now, people who create games have all kinds of tools and resources at their disposal. Give these people a proper venue, and don't relegate their work to a dark corner of your interface. Warning: curation and discoverability will be a huge pain in the ass.

DO: Come up with and support next-gen business models. Console evolution used to be centered on processing power. Then it became about new ways to control games. Now it's going to be about who can provide players with the most attractive means of spending money to play video games. With the revamped PlayStation Plus, I can't help but believe Sony has the jump on its competitors here.

DON'T: Ignore what's happening on PC and mobile. I'm only going to have one "don't" here, because it covers pretty much everything. Everything from curation to discoverability to pricing to the way people play and pay for games -- emerging platforms have done a lot of the homework, and its up to console makers to parse those hard-won lessons and apply them to their own strategies.

DON'T: Ok, fine, one more. Don't price any of these things at $600 ever again. I totally won't buy it, especially when I have so many other good options these days.

Frank Cifaldi
News Director

Twitter: @frankcifaldi

Do: Open up your platform and allow anyone to sell a game on it. Locking your system behind an iron gate is antiquated now. You know how Nintendo is always exactly one generation behind on some key component that its competitors grab hold of? I'll bet you this next time around, it'll be this.

Do: Fire some producers and hire some curators. Yes, having a hit game to call your own could mean a huge return on investment, but there is no such thing as a guaranteed hit. Stop funding risky games, and start focusing your energy on telling your players about those third-party games that you KNOW are good. Your slice of the pie might not be as large, but having a storefront that makes sure your players are only seeing your best content is a win for everybody.

Do: Unify all of your multimedia content providers into one seamless experience for the end user. The idea of separate Netflix, Hulu, ESPN and HBO "apps" is unfriendly and weird for a box that strives to be the only thing connected to the TV which, last I checked, was the goal for every one of you.

Don't: Create your own exclusive multimedia content. Yes, incentivizing people to watch videos on your console is important, but unless you're Sony, you have little to no experience creating video (and even then, I really doubt PlayStation and Sony Pictures are talking to each other). Unless you're funding the next Avatar or something, nobody's going to buy your console to watch your exclusive videos. Focus on your partnerships.

Don't: Lock people out of their entertainment for a system update unless it's actually important. Most users will gladly invest the time to upgrade their systems if it's necessary to play Mass Effect 4 or something, but unless hackers have gotten REALLY clever lately, there is no legitimate security reason to lock me out of using Netflix without upgrading my firmware. As trivial as it may seem, I find myself turning on my Xbox 360 far more frequently than my PlayStation 3 for this very reason.

Don't: Ignore Steam. Valve is about two years and one easily marketable, cheap Windows set-top box away from destroying you all, and it did it by listening to its players.

Patrick Miller
Editor, Game Developer magazine

Twitter: @pattheflip

Do continue to offer game developers multiple entry points to your console; programs like PlayStation Mobile and Xbox Live Indie Games are an excellent way to inject some much-needed creativity into the console space at price points that can catch impulse buyers.

...Do not marginalize these games to a ghetto nested ten menus deep! Make it easy for me to see which small games I should buy (preferably by splashing them on the console's home screen, since I'd rather see ads for those than movie trailers). Give me personalized lists based on what my friends are playing. Offer free games, or aggressively slash prices for a short time like Steam does. Right now, my problem with my Xbox and my PS3 is that I don't use them on a daily basis, but I do use my PC, smartphone, and tablet on a daily basis, so I end up buying games for those devices more often.

Do play nicely with other devices. Give me a reason to check out Xbox Live from my iPad when I'm not even at my console. I already keep my phone and tablet next to me when I'm playing games anyway—let me do something with them, like chat with other people watching a live video stream or use them to supplement the actual in-game action.

...Do not try and funnel me into your "ecosystem" by supporting only your phone OS or mobile devices. You guys came late to the platform party. I am already stretched between Google and Facebook. iOS and Android, Windows and Mac OS. Don't for a second believe that you have anything compelling enough for me to go all-Microsoft or all-Sony.

Do continue build up your other media features. Your boxes sit underneath or next to millions of TVs across the world; I want to watch things on those TVs that I can't get from my cable TV provider, and you can help me with that.

...Do not forget that the people who are turning your consoles on are likely there to play games! My Xbox Live home screen is usually saturated with ads for movie rentals, and lots of other stuff that isn't relevant to me. Let me opt out of those, and opt into more announcements about games.

Brandon Sheffield
Sr. Editor Gamasutra; EIC, Game Developer

Twitter: @necrosofty

Here's my big deal: Don't follow. Nintendo is coming out with the Wii U, and will make some innovative and interesting ideas with that system. Then about 20 companies will make middle-tier ramifications of that same idea. One of them might succeed well enough to make it worthwhile, but the rest will fail, be panned by critics, and make no money. And yet it happens every console cycle.

How many HD ports and safe sequels do we usually see at a console launch? How about that Mass Effect 3 on Wii U! Is that something people need? Is the implication that people that own Nintendo consoles only own Nintendo consoles, and thus could not have played Mass Effect? I reckon we can expect a couple new Ridge Racers, since new consoles seem to be the only time that game comes out.

But this is the time to take risks! People actually expect -- even desire -- new ideas in new console generations. It's supposed to be new! Risks, backed by solid developers, are often rewarded - look at Katamari Damacy or Ico, in the early days of the PS2. Look at Flower on PS3, or Braid on 360.

Let's stop being so straightforward and safe with every new console generation, and actually experiment with something. Let's see what interesting AI can do for our games, as Chris Hecker is attempting with Spy Party. Let's find some new social interactions, like ThatGameCompany did with Journey. But most importantly, don't use my examples -- find that new risk for your own company. Do something different, this is the time!

Tom Curtis
News Editor

Twitter: @thomascurtis

Here's some relatively simple advice for console manufacturers: Make your next digital storefronts easy to use! I've come to hate browsing for new content on all of the current home consoles, as you need to sift through tons of subfolders and advertisements just to find interesting content. Hell, you have to flip through five tabs and click on multiple icons just to check out the new releases on Xbox Live! For an industry that's supposedly going more digital by the day, that's far too cumbersome, and the consoles of tomorrow will need to make things a bit more streamlined if they want to keep up with more accessible storefronts like iOS or Steam.

And while we're at it, let's see if we can get rid of the rigid pricing structure for current console games. Charging a standard $60 for retail games and $10-15 for downloadable titles has worked pretty well so far, but over the last several years other game platforms have become much more consumer-friendly when it comes to game pricing.

Steam and other PC storefronts, for instance, often sell multiplatform games for far less than their console counterparts, and why would consumers want to spend money on consoles when the PC offers approximately the same experience for less? I've personally been spending far less money on consoles for that very reason, and I'm sure others have been doing the same. That said, I'm glad to see the console makers experiment with digital discounts and free-to-play games, but hopefully these companies will push things a bit further as we get closer to the next generation. If they don't, I suspect we'll see players spending their hard-earned money elsewhere.

Eric Caoili
News Editor

Twitter: @tinycartridge

DO: Release digital versions of games on the same day as their physical editions, and offer a discount on the downloadable release. Sony is starting to do this for PlayStation Plus subscribers, but all of the console makers should adopt this approach if they want more consumers to buy full digital games.

DO: Offer a variety of options for business models to attract a wider range of developers and game types. Console makers shouldn't only allow developers to take advantage of current popular business models, but also be quick to implement others into their systems.

DO: Make game discovery a major priority when setting up and designing digital storefronts, enabling quality indie games to flourish alongside their bigger-budget counterparts. You want a great amount and variety of titles available, but people don't want to wade through it to find the good stuff.

DON'T: Make it difficult or expensive for small and indie developers to release the kinds of games they want to make on your system. And again, it shouldn't be difficult for developers to get quality games noticed, either.

DON'T: Ignore that the way players consume games is evolving. Many players want to be able to share and talk about their experiences as they go through them. Nintendo has built the Wii U with this in mind, integrating a social network that all games can tap into, and other console makers should at least consider something similar.

DON'T: Make it more expensive than a new iPad.

Mike Rose
UK Editor

Twitter: @RaveofRavendale

The number one thing that Microsoft, Sony et al need to be extremely mindful of is game pricing. You've now got 99 cent apps that are providing fairly meaty experiences on smartphones and tablets, $5 indie downloads for PC that are gathering huge attention from press and gamers, and free-to-play rolling through the industry like an unstoppable juggernaut.

That doesn't mean that you can't charge $60 for a quality AAA game anymore, but it does mean that you need to be aware of what can hold that price tag, and what can't. Download versions of retail games, in particular, need to lose the ridiculous pricing. Why would I pay £48 for FIFA 13 on PSN, when I can head down to my local Tesco and grab it for £30? Encouraging consumers to visit your online store is so incredibly essential in this age of instant gratification, and so leading them to believe that there's really no point in checking out what you have on offer is only going to be bad news for your digital strategy.

Conversely, let's not sell ourselves short. Consoles do not need barrages of 99c and free-to-play games. Many "traditional" gamers -- i.e. the majority of the people who will be picking up the PS4 and the Next Xbox -- are still fine with swapping a pile of cash for your high quality titles. There is no shame in experimenting with pricing, and not leading with hard pricing rules set in place. There's a sweet spot for pricing on consoles that we still haven't completely discovered, and until we have, it's worth fiddling with the prices to maximize sales.

Leigh Alexander
Editor-at-Large

Twitter: @leighalexander

DO: The better a console's native software integrates with a user's existing home browsing behavior -- including other devices like phones and tablets -- the better.

DO: Keep it physically small, unintrusive and appealing. The smartphone generation has acclimated us to conceive of hardware as a designed object, a lifestyle accessory -- the days of kiddy energy-drink neon and toy-like, chunky controllers are over.

DO: Keep prices low -- the aim should be to sell the hardware at a loss and recoup investment on the content and service side. The difference between console brands is generally minimal to the average consumer, so price will matter more than it ever has.

Don't: Rate brand over user experience. Marketers are constantly trying to sell the press on why certain console-exclusive channels are exciting, but much of the time that kind of content is arrogantly hollow, just a sales endorsement for the product people already own. If exclusive programming is to be a selling point make it actually competitive.

Don't: Make it hard to buy things. Xbox Live clings to an absurd and illogical points system, while PSN demands meticulous and often capricious attention to one's banking info. Users should be able to set up and edit billing choices (which should include PayPal) from a computer and making purchases needs to be more instant and painless than it currently is.

Don't: Get hung up on "apps." People like the app concept on phones, but so far the same kind of thinking hasn't translated to other devices. The way Xbox Live currently clusters Netflix into a "My Video Apps" section or can't seem to decide how the service on the console will relate to the service on smartphones shows the peril -- the console should be seen as a fluid, channel-oriented broadcast device, not a giant smartphone.

Christian Nutt
Features Director

Twitter: @ferricide

Talk about a thorny issue. I do believe that what Chris Hecker has ranted against -- video games becoming a cultural ghetto in the vein of comic books -- is coming to pass, at least on consoles. I'm not saying people aren't going down fighting, whether it's from inside the genres (Spec Ops: the Line) or outside (Tokyo Jungle.) We tend to think of ourselves as like the movie industry, but comic books is a better analogy: the big flashy Marvel stuff in the front of the store, and the interesting, low-budget indie stuff in the back.

So my Do would be: Remember that you need to attract different kinds of people to your platforms. As a first party, Microsoft has done this in an extremely polarizing way: either you're there for Kinectimals or you're there for Gears of War. Rumors suggest Durango is going to add more mainstream video content to even things out. I'm sure that's not going to have any sort of interesting effect on it as a game platform.

On the other hand, Sony seems to have recently seized upon the power of variety, whether it be Heavy Rain, Uncharted, or Papo & Yo. Culture and commerciality go hand-in-hand, because drawing large audiences who buy different kinds of games is crucial. With Steam (and, maybe, Steambox) coming, it's going to become even more difficult to retain people who don't just want to play shooters.

My Don't would be: Don't let yourself get trapped into a single way of thinking, then. Right now things seem to have stratified: major huge budget productions that leak testosterone from every orifice (God of War, for example) and scrappy, clever indies (say, Spelunky). Do the big games really have to be as dopey as they are? Not really. Do we really want this dichotomy? No. Different ideas require differing expressions, and we need clever thinking about how to empower them and let them flourish up and down the budget spectrum. As the world brings us more choices, the next generation of consoles shouldn't bring us fewer.


Related Jobs

Crytek
Crytek — Shanghai, China
[04.17.14]

Mobile Programmer
Turbine Inc.
Turbine Inc. — Needham, Massachusetts, United States
[04.16.14]

Director, Analytics Platform Development
2K
2K — Novato, California, United States
[04.16.14]

Web Producer
Linden Lab
Linden Lab — San Francisco, California, United States
[04.16.14]

Sr. Front-end Web Developer










Comments


Joe Wreschnig
profile image
@Frank,

"Stop funding risky games, and start focusing your energy on telling your players about those third-party games that you KNOW are good."

Does it have to be both? Why not fire the producers making "sure things" (like, y'know, RE6), since you'll be recommending much more actually-sure things you didn't have to pay for but are getting a cut of? Then get more of your in-house on the risky stuff that makes you stand out but you can eat the costs of if it doesn't work. Big publishers are traditionally risk-averse but logistically they're also the most ready to do a small-to-medium ridiculous thing, not go under if it fails, and reap massive rewards if it succeeds. (Nintendo is the only one that seems to have figured this out.)

Everyone (except Christian) mentioned discoverability. I have to wonder how much of that is "not paying attention" and how much is "it's just a really hard problem and no one can figure it out yet." Apple is trying but it's still poor. Nominally it should be one of Google's core strengths (search and machine learning) but they're just as terrible at it. I don't see this as an area consoles are lagging behind in (except for e.g. XBLIG per se's terrible placement) but rather an area that desperately needs a flash of inspiration akin to web search pre and post Google or smartphones pre and post Apple.

Frank Cifaldi
profile image
Maybe I should have softened that a little bit, what I meant was that a little bit less focus should be spent on funding unproven games in-house vs. making sure players are aware of the stuff that's actually good. Of course I still want original games being funded by the big guys: frankly, that's the only way innovation will happen with "big" games. But discoverability is a huge issue, as we all know, and we need to start defining a "curator" role for the good stuff and taking that discipline very very seriously.

Joe Wreschnig
profile image
Haha, sorry about that, I accidentally submitted halfway through and had to write the second half of the comment quickly, but you beat me to it. Yeah, discoverability is the big problem, but I don't think just having human curators is going to fix it. The only time I've seen that work is Steam and that in turn only worked by having a relatively small and slowly-growing library.

Frank Cifaldi
profile image
I guess the simplified version of my point is that they need to open the gates, and they need to make sure players are being exposed to content that they need to be exposed to (be it the very best stuff, personalized to their tastes, or whatever).

Perhaps I am a little stuck on the idea of a human curator because, as an editor, that is what I do all day. I curate content, using my brain meats. But regardless, assuming resources are limited in a way that one directly affects the other, I suggest that the console makers of tomorrow put more emphasis on selling LOTS AND LOTS of copies of their best third-party games and less on making and selling their own.

Scott Woodbury
profile image
I would also like to comment on the online aspect of console gaming. Don't be as restrictive, exclusive and closed, this is where the PC and optional servers still rules. Provide a better online service to provide a better quality experience. Give users tools and some options to control.

An example is my experience with PSN as an North East Coast gamer. It lags, the more popular the game the worse it lags.

Few games offer any kind of server options, Battlefield 3 being one of few, but even that has not been a solution. I can chose my region and find a low ping game but the feedback from that is what's the point...it still lags terribly. There is nothing preventing someone from South America, the West Coast or Europe from joining the server and it's still a laggy mess.

Build Audio and Video support on the front end, Almost every online title I bought on the PS3 has some kind of mic issues and requires multiple patches to get working and it still sounds bad from many users, scratchy, heavy breathing, cutting out.

Provide a unified online account system. Enough of the exclusive Big Pubs content driven "I have to use your system to play your games" Steam won, suck it up bitches. I must have 20 online user accounts I need to "manage" to play games between different platforms and systems. I'm NO_FEAR dammit, deal with it!

I'm back to PC gaming because of these issues, lack of improvement, innovation and increased restrictions in this Gen. At this point I may not even consider a next Gen console if things don't improve.

Kenneth Baird
profile image
Could we also get a decent out of order processor? I know the performance fiddlers will hate that (and I used to be one of them) but it would be nice for non native and native alike.

And more edram! Think big.

Matt Sayre
profile image
"Don't: Lock people out of their entertainment for a system update unless it's actually important."

Thank you for this one, Frank! This drives me nuts on the PS3. Sometimes I just want to watch some of The Office while I eat a burrito. If I'm done with the burrito before the update has finished installing, it's most upsetting. Exactly why I've been using Netflix on the Xbox even though its interface isn't as nice.

Alex Jordan
profile image
A lot of you guys wrote about poor game discoverability due to dashboards overrun with ads and non-game content (and we all know you're talking about the 360), but the problem is, that's a Feature, not a Bug. Microsoft has no interest in putting a good indie game up there on the dash because then that reserved space goes to someone who ISN'T paying for an ad.

You might want to rephrase this point as something akin to...

"DON'T: Think that your console is God's gift to media. You might think that burying games in favor of ads is much more lucrative, but you're staking out an untenable position in an increasingly fragmented market."

Leon T
profile image
Frank Cifaldi
Do: Unify all of your multimedia content providers into one seamless experience for the end user.

Isn't that what NintendoTVii is?

Frank Cifaldi
profile image
That is the promise, yes. Did it execute? No idea.

A W
profile image
Yeah, it needs to be seen in action.

Johnathon Swift
profile image
Do, by all means, pay attention to upgrades.

This is the one thing I can't see anyone mentioning. But the world has become addicted to new and exciting things. Having your console serve one experience for seven years isn't going to work. What if Occulous Rift/VR takes off? What if there's some new incredible controller for games that everyone wants?

The point is, what if? And not just what if, but when. Smartphones get a new release every year. Tablets get a new release every year. They're prepared for "What if". Consoles, as the current model stands, aren't. And it might be to their great advantage if they were. If Apple can release a new Ipad for $500 every year, then a new console version for much cheaper can be released more frequently than every 5-7 years.

Jacob Alvarez
profile image
Buy a PC

Ron Dippold
profile image
It's funny - used to be if you wanted no-hassle gaming you'd just pop something into your console, boot, boom you're playing. These days the PC is such a superior gaming experience and consoles have kept the tech back so much you can get a workable PC for not much more than a console.

Really, I don't /want/ a next gen console at all, though I will doubtless end up buying them just to get some of the exclusives. But I expect the experience to remain worse than the PC, and I don't think it's possible to solve, because the interests of the people who control the console (monetize the hell out of this guy) will always be directly opposed to mine (just let me play my damn games).

Derrick Lim
profile image
1. Don't region lock. Seriously. Especially when DLCs available in one region aren't available in another region. There's only so much fun in juggling between my different PSN accounts, and I hate it.
2. Have one storefront, regardless if I live in Singapore, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Gingrich's Moon Colony, or the United States. Steam is able to pull this off, and I don't see why Sony has to be stuck in a pre-1990s view of the world.

Joe Wreschnig
profile image
Steam has plenty of region controls. You can't pay for a game with a bank account or credit card from another country (I use a US credit card and live in Germany and can't buy anything on Steam). You can't buy certain games in languages other than your region (my wife has a German Steam account and couldn't play Fallout: New Vegas in English even though Steam let her download the English data). Various games are unavailable or censored depending on the country (L4D in Australia). Some games from some regions will only play if you are in that region, even if you buy them retail (common for Russian games). Games from some region will play in other regions but if Valve finds out you don't primarily reside in the original region they'll deactivate it (happened during the Orange Box release to Americans who bought keys from Thailand).

Steam does not have one storefront, it is not region-free, and it's so complicated you can't even give clear recommendations to people like you can with e.g. a Nintendo console.

Derrick Lim
profile image
I didn't realize Steam had that draconian level of controls. I know some games are not available in my region, but I've been able to circumvent them by buying credits using the Steam wallet and then using a VPN. I feel ya though, regional controls serve to do nothing but frustrate gamers.

Carl Chavez
profile image
Joe, I need to correct one statement on your statement: I live in Canada, but I can still buy Steam games with my US account and either my US or Canadian credit card. So, Steam's restrictions don't seem to be by country, but by region (in this case, North America).

k s
profile image
My Dos: Focus on games not movies, music, TV, etc.
Provide solid development tools.
Provide a place for smaller and indie developers to release games on your system.
My Don'ts: Add more non-gaming features.
Push multiplayer over singleplayer.

David Marcum
profile image
If you realize those are wishes and don't make them expectations, that would be wise. If you expect that they (Sony & Microsoft) will turn their backs on all their other interests and run the exact opposite way they have been positioning themselves for years, you will be disappointed.

k s
profile image
David these are wishes not expectations. I realize MS is moving away from gaming and sony never really had much interest and so I'm moving more toward Nintendo who has the most interest in gaming.

David Marcum
profile image
Just checking. We don't want anyone to be ill informed and have wild expectations. :)

Jacob Alvarez
profile image
These are my wishes as well. I bought my current gen console to game. I could care less about all the other junk.

Adam Bishop
profile image
"why would consumers want to spend money on consoles when the PC offers approximately the same experience for less?"

Because PCs *don't* offer approximately the same experience for less. I built a computer for about $400 last year. It doesn't run AAA games with nearly the fidelity or framerate that you could get in a 360 or PS3 for $250. PC does offer a number of advantages (and I have a pretty big library on Steam) but one huge advantage consoles still have is that games *just work*. There's a trade-off there: maybe I'm willing to play the latest Deus Ex with mediocre graphics and some frame rate issues on my PC rather than a console because I can get it on Steam for $15 (I did make that trade-off, BTW). But unless you've got an expensive gaming rig, you're still probably going to have a better experience running the same game on a console.

Also, most Gamasutra staff seem to be coming out against exclusivity, but in the end it's the only thing that's really going to make me buy one console over another (unless there's a big price gap). Good exclusives still sell consoles (see: every Nintendo console). And while we love to praise Steam for doing things like opening up the market, no one would have Steam installed on their computer if Valve wasn't the company responsible for releasing Half-Life 2 and Portal and Left 4 Dead and requiring you to use Steam to play those games.

Joe Wreschnig
profile image
"one huge advantage consoles still have is that games *just work*."

This isn't a console-exclusive advantage anymore, though. It also applies to iOS, Mac OS X if you're willing to develop on-track with Apple's own changes and deprecations (i.e. 10.6+ and use the Mac App Store), probably to Windows 8 if you track MS's similar changes, and Android if you buy a top-end phone every 2-3 years (and because of contract subsidies and breakage and security issues, a lot of people do).

Games on my PS3 "just work", but games on my iPad just work.

Karl E
profile image
You can say it costs less because people need a PC anyway. You can't pay your bills or do your homework on a console yet.

Justin Sawchuk
profile image
There are 3 versions of the IPAD and if you have the 1st ipad is almost garbage by now so no it work unless you specially design the game with ipad1 in mind - in which case it will look like garbage. The IPad has a shelf life of less than 2 years before its completely obsolete the console had a 7 year run

Adam Bishop
profile image
@ Joe

It may be true that iPad games just work, but they're not the same games as the ones I can play on my console/PC so it's not a relevant comparison. If I want to buy Dishonored or Assassin's Creed 3 this fall, it matters to me whether I'm going to have a better experience with it on my console or on my computer. It doesn't matter to me that some unrelated game runs fine on a tablet.

@ Karl

You also can't play AAA games on the kinds of PCs that lots of people own. I know plenty of people whose only computer at home is a netbook or a non-gaming laptop. The kind of computer that you use to access online banking or write a term paper isn't necessarily a computer that's capable of playing Borderlands 2. If you want a computer that can do that, you're going to need an additional outlay of money on top of what it would cost for a computer that can run an office suite and e-mail.

Chris Melby
profile image
@Adam,

You triggered the nerd in me.

First off, I agree with the gist of your comment, it's just the performance and visual comments that are throwing me off. :O

I have to wonder what kind of PC you built, or if you're just giving consoles way too much credit? Some of your comments don't add up with my own experience. For $400 last year, I could have built a PC that trumps the consoles on every front.

Console AAA titles generally run at 1280 x 720( Sometimes less, Halo was 640p and never at 1080p. ). They generally use a low to medium detail settings and cap the framerate at 30 fps. Games like Deus Ex: Human Revolution have problems maintaining 30 fps on the consoles at a lower visual fidelity, where as even a $75 GPU(ATI 6570) does 720p maxed out(DX11) at 40 - 50 fps on average.

I included some references of DX:HR below and note that its visuals are outdated when compared to other PC games:

PS3 and Xbox visuals;
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G6_Ut7072fE

Their performance;
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zj2jN5nhk4A

PC maxed visuals on an older GPU:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4yq4venKl8M&feature=watch_response

*Note that he's using a SLI 550 ti, but a single 550 ti -- about $115 to buy currently -- does 75 to 88 fps maxed out at 720p and 42 to 50 at 1080p. This is a stark contrast when compared to the console showings, which look lesser and suffer framerate issues.

There's a noticeable advantage in the PCs favor for DX:HR even on lower end hardware.

Every PC I've built since 2007, has been more capable than the current consoles and could always push a higher framerate at a higher detail level. I won't goto much further in to this, but my old quad 9450 with a 9600 GT bested the consoles in every way and its specs are easily trumped by an inexpensive lowball PCs now days.

Anyways, just rambling...

Dave Smith
profile image
if it takes me 30 minutes to get to the start menu of my new game, you have failed.

between constant system updates and horrible menus, current consoles, especially Playstation, feel like work.

Merc Hoffner
profile image
All I'm hearing is: Do base your business on the indie mobile/PC industry.
Don't worry about anything else.

What happened to big strategy? What happened to real gameplay and interface innovation? What happened to fiscal tenability?

My do's:
Do create some hardware differentiator - probably something that evolves the interface, that can only be had on your system, that can't be replicated in software on anything else and something that's fun. Look to the future or you're just selling another box.

Do figure a way to keep the development costs down. Stop the death spiral +$100 million budgets by leveraging new interfaces to let devs create surprising new kinds of gameplay rather than more graphically intense versions of old gameplay.

Do push these new experiences with strong creative 1st party games. These differentiate the system, keep the genre mix fresh and lead the way for 3rd parties to follow with new styles of gameplay.

Do keep the manufacturing cost down. Not even Microsoft can responsibly afford ANOTHER $5 billion generational loss. Cut functions if needed.

Do look at cloud gaming tech as a parallel path. Lightening fast broadband will be progressively adopted as the 8th generation grows. This can help keep power up, keep costs low, keep ROM space unlimited, keep piracy at bay and create new fairer payment structures.

Don't:
Don't beat Moore's law. The CPU is dead. No one needs an 8 core 4 GHz machine for anything that can't be done on a GPU. Don't worry about resolution. No one REALLY cares about 1080p vs 720p and no one can even display or even see more than this (without squinting). Microsoft and Sony have beaten Moore's law two generations in a row. It's set a dangerous expectation by growing the financial unsustainability. Just hitting Moore's scaling will make these machines equally unaffordable as last time - this generation MUST underhit that mark. Sony's MUST cut >$400 from launch costs relative to PS3.

Don't leave it to third parties. They almost never step up to the innovation mark that generates new genres and keeps the audience from disenfranchisement without guidance.

Don't let the Japanese market die. You never know when it might come in handy.

Don't ignore Nintendo - how many times do we hear this and yet it's never heeded by the very companies that proclaim it.

Don't Core-ify - this is expensive nicheification. It worked for Neo-Geo when that was their business model. It's never worked for anyone else. The games market never spreads from the core out. The core hardens from a crowd of soft gamers attracted to a new hit craze.

Bisse Mayrakoira
profile image
GPU power is much more important than you make it out to be. Current gen games are already running at terrible framerates and resolutions on consoles. We need double the power just to get rid of the framerate deficiency of many existing games, double again to get rid of the resolution deficiency. That's 4x the power needed, before considering any future increases in content complexity. Thus I would like to see next gen from MS and Sony delivering at least 6x the graphics performance of their current models.

Resolution matters. Resolutions like 540p and 600p employed by some of the current games are really awful, but even true 720p is a long way off from 1080p. It wouldn't be as noticeable on a CRT, but now that displays are virtually all 1080p LCD, the 720p picture gets significantly smudged in scaling in addition to having less detail in the first place. I'm hoping 1080p rendering to be the norm from here on.

Merc Hoffner
profile image
Wasn't saying the GPU ain't important (the CPU is - commoditised and sub-demanded out of the power race just like the sound chip before it), but wasting all that power on resolution is painful in the face of additional layers it could be adding instead. I often say this, but resolution doesn't make imagery more, uh, I'll go with realistic for the moment, just a bit nicer. Consider the News: Newscasters are perfectly believable as being human beings in 480p, but rather unconvincing as representative of the people and not a sign of our robotic overloards if their skin was made of rubberised plastic displayed in blisteringly effusive 4K. I'll take more effects that make things better looking over the same number of effects at a higher resolution most days. And I'm one of the ones who notice. Consider this: How many people can actually tell the difference between SD and 720p? 80%? Now how many care after 20 minutes? 80%? Now how many can tell the difference between 720p and 1080p? 80%? Now how many care after 20 minutes? 80% (I'm being generous here) - These add up (or multiply rather) to the point where you get vanishing returns on basically doubling the power demand and therefore silicon (at least in the per pixel tessellated world we're now in). Like you said, if the next generation simply repairs the frame rate and ups to full HD, that's 4X the power gain used right there. If we're looking at the next Xbox having 6-8X the power of the 360 as rumors suggest, then that's the bulk of your extra render capacity used up. And considering the diminishing returns on effects at this 'uncanny' high end we're looking at machines that would be barely visually differentiated from the previous generation (and displaying graphics that the Wii U could hit by sacrificing that resolution/framerate - in that event who'd build a game that maximises the '720' if a slightly pared down target can hit another platform).

But again, this is all moot in the face of economics. If they try building a machine insanely powerful, say a ~30 fold leap in keeping with PS1->PS2->PS3, then even with the extended 7/8 year generation time you're looking down the barrel of the $600 scenario again. And say we could then display all the cotton fibers in the shirt button on every pedestrian in GTA7. Who's going to program that all? Dev costs are spiraling out of control under the burden of 1000 man dev teams with 4-500 artists racking up budgets > $100,000,000 and that's now! Considering the growth in dev costs we've seen this generation we could conservatively see $400,000,000 games having to sell upwards of 10 million copies just do break even. Broken. Consoles need another path and resolution is like sarcasm - the lowest form of graphics.

Karl E
profile image
I agree with Merc that the advice here seems strangely focused on the business side. It should be noted that contrary to hardware, it is perfectly possible to change business models during the lifetime of a console. They'll figure it out.

Figuring out how to make the Kinect 2 into the Facebook of motion controls while Wii was the MySpace is another matter.

Joe Wreschnig
profile image
"It should be noted that contrary to hardware, it is perfectly possible to change business models during the lifetime of a console."

DualShock. DualShock 3. Kinect. Wii balance board. Wii Motion Plus. Multi-gigabyte storage space (applicable to the Xbox 360 and the Wii). These are all things it's safe to assume people own if you want to use them in a game, but did not debut with the console.

How many times have we seen a successful business model transition during a console's lifetime? Maybe the debut of PSN+? I can't think of anything else. Rather, I think of things like the PSP side of PSN, where the games are limited and totally overpriced.

Karl E
profile image
I have to agree. But I think the next generation will be the first time when they really start experimenting with business models. There will be no avoiding that $99.99 wagon of smurfberries.

wes bogdan
profile image
With all previous generations after you bought your game -THAT WAS IT there were no bug fixes or add on dlc that had to be left for the sequel so going from ps3 / 360 to ps 4 /720 will be much different.

All my psn / xbla content needs to be playable on the nextboxes and while graphics were a way to push new systems begining around ps 2/xbox games graphics began to become so realistic that you could really see minute details for the first time.

On ps3 /360 games like uncharted and gears have taken that to nearly real but the ability to push more powerful graphics this time might make the game worlds smaller because while increasing the current processor speed and internal memory size of the current gen would allow for massivly bigger worlds a next gen that makes the current gen look like ps2/ xbox would require massive internal memory to do the same thing but more realistic otherwise the game world shrinks.


Also i expect finally to be able FULLY CUSTOMIZE my controls in my psn / xbl profile so i simply could file and forget about it getting back to what matters...the games.

There would be important exceptions to overriding all dual analog games with the scheme though.

First of all god of war's a single analog stick game with a combat roll not a true dual analog stick game and because i use inverted aiming in everything from jack,ratchet,sly or any true dual analog stick game like borderlands,halo,kz if you kept inverted "always on" it would mess up twin stick shooters where your movement was on a stick and fireing a weapon was on the other stick like pixeljunk shooter 1 or 2.

So even if you have a game that is dual analog but really is single analog with a combat roll or a twin stick shooter there must be exemptions for invert aim as always on and if your designed scheme is different from default it always overrides the dual analog game scheme.

Though AFTER 20 years of dual analog you would have thought an in game custom slot would have arrived this current generation.



What happens to the ps3 and 360 games we might not have beaten do we still get trophies and achievements or will it be like halo 2 and simply get shut down?!!

Going from your ps3 or 360 to whatever comes next will be unlike anything that's come before while going from your wii to wii u will be more indicitive of going from ps2/xbox to the current gen.

wes bogdan
profile image
Lasting as long as this gen has and havig a terrible economy i expect most gamers would demand full backwards compatibility becides then you could say how many more hit games your new box played than the next box and also if wii u is the only system that does it then both sony and ms look like they don't care while ninty does.

Merc Hoffner
profile image
It's a very interesting technical problem. While GPU power and coding isn't too much of a problem, the architectures for Cell and Xenos remain both too idiosyncratic AND too powerful relative to current CPUs for either to be emulated - remember the rough rule of thumb for emulation is that a processor needs to be 10X more powerful than what it's emulating if it's alien architecture - and that was before the emergence of parallel cores with high speed interlinking memory. Who knows what kind of errors would accumulate if emulating parallelism? Therefore the only basic option for MS and Sony to achieve backwards compatibility is to stick with PowerPC and run the code native as Nintendo did with GC to Wii (and Wii U). In Sony's case it basically mandates a Cell processor. This definitely ties their hands or mandates a significant additional cost. The only other option I see is to serve pseudo BC out over the cloud - problematic for Sony again as even with the purchase of Gaikai they'd probably have to outfit a custom server array with Cell processors. Move and Kinect games wouldn't react too kindly.

Merc Hoffner
profile image
Sounds about right to me, and the rumors on PS4 also ring true with their strategy on Vita - assemble with commonly supported off the shelf parts (now that powerful components with all the functions developers could dream of are approaching commoditisation level) to reduce debilitating R&D costs, speed up time to market and guarantee support in a world where you can no longer command exclusivity with the name Playstation. It must be VERY troubling then, that Vita is in quite so much trouble, and Microsoft will be the first to tell people how expensive it can be to use an off-the-shelf key component without architecture rights ownership.

Incidentally does anyone know how Sony achieved PSP BC on the Vita?

Joe Wreschnig
profile image
"Incidentally does anyone know how Sony achieved PSP BC on the Vita?"

The usual way. By making a system with a processor about 5-10x as powerful and 16x as much RAM.

When you're eating off the tail of Moore's law and have a standard architecture you can get away with that. When you take a look at the Cell? Nope.

Tadhg Kelly
profile image
Do: Build a marketing story first. Don't make the mistake of Vita, i.e just launching a games machine and some games.

[User Banned]
profile image
This user violated Gamasutra’s Comment Guidelines and has been banned.

Adam Bishop
profile image
The day a console manufacturer wants me to tie my identity on their platform to my real-life identity through a network like Facebook is the day I find another console to play games on. Anonymity is a feature, not a bug.

[User Banned]
profile image
This user violated Gamasutra’s Comment Guidelines and has been banned.

David Marcum
profile image
@Dan,
"Adam I think people like you are a despicable menace to gamers everywhere. "

What the hell? Do you think you are at gamespot or gamespy? We don't communicate like this here.

I notice If you click on Adam's name you can get more info about him, and can contact him via-email. Not so with you. Which one is "cowering in the shadows"?

[User Banned]
profile image
This user violated Gamasutra’s Comment Guidelines and has been banned.

David Marcum
profile image
No this is the internet and you are being inappropriate on a site that I used to enjoy reading comments on.

[User Banned]
profile image
This user violated Gamasutra’s Comment Guidelines and has been banned.

Adam Bishop
profile image
@Dan

If you have some kind of concern with my opinion that you'd like to express calmly and respectfuly I'm happy to engage, but if you're going to accuse people of being "despicable" or "Communist" on the basis of fairly innocuous messages then I hope you're not expecting much of a response.

Mathieu MarquisBolduc
profile image
I wholly agree with David. That kind of agressivity and attitude is not supposed to be welcome on Gamasutra. This used to be a place where game developpers could discuss with respect.

Merc Hoffner
profile image
Privacy is a right and privilege afforded in free societies. Surely public registration (which is practically what Dan calls for) is closer to the brand of communism we see in China.

[User Banned]
profile image
This user violated Gamasutra’s Comment Guidelines and has been banned.

[User Banned]
profile image
This user violated Gamasutra’s Comment Guidelines and has been banned.

wes bogdan
profile image
After many lego games lego batman 2 is the first to have a camera stick so even lb2 dc super hero's i need my custom scheme.

Xbox 360 is the only system i've had the pads rewired so if i can't play it (new wii u metroid or zelda ) i simply won't buy the games and very well might pass on the system so again i can't stress enough allow players to fully customize their schemes and allow for some exemptions like do not invert twin stick or do not use the dual analog scheme in a single analog stick game with a combat roll on a stick.

It's long overdue.

Jonathan Murphy
profile image
Only one way to avoid messing up Next Gen consoles. HIRE PEOPLE WHO KNOW WHAT THEY ARE DOING! So hire me, I want $100 million up front, and $20,000 for my chopper to Mexico for errr.... Vacation.

Michael Josefsen
profile image
Do a Kickstarter and you have my 3$!

Geoff Yates
profile image
Do - Provide backward compatibility with the last generation (minimum). I have so many consoles now its ridiculous.

Do - provide great I/O to storage. Why should people have to wait 10-30 minutes for an install to play a game?

Don't - Launch a new console without at least one AAA game. This will stall your whole sales cycle and cause frustration to both developers and gamers alike. Motivate people to buy the new shiny.

Don't - add a slim/updated version 12 months later and make early adopters pay for your lack of foresight and engineering capabilities. MS should note the RRoD of death still exists in gamers heads today.

Don't - kill second hand game market by adding restrictive use once policy. I'm all for a token payment method but if its intrusive or not intuitive don't do it. Make it simple if you need to validate 2nd hand games to work in next gen consoles.

Michael Josefsen
profile image
I agree on everything! Backwards compability in particular is going to be my deal-maker/breaker for the next batch of platforms.

Daniel Martinez
profile image
The "opening up" suggestions may receive a lot of pushback (at least from the big 3) because of trade secrets. While it is something we would all probably welcome, I'm not too optimistic on this part. What's the Ouya doing now anyway? As for the "don't follow" suggestions; I couldn't agree more. I think 1st party hardware manufacturers should each play to their own strengths, unless of course that strength is in imitating the competitor.

Matt Coohill
profile image
Most of this has been stated before, but here's my mashup of what I'd really like:

DO - switch to DLC-only format. Buy everything online. Kill GameStop. Make it official. Pass all the savings on to customers and pray increased volume will benefit developers/console manufacturers.

DO - offer full backward compatibility, even if it means me shipping in my old PS3, X360 discs and paying a small fee ($5?) to have my DLC account credited for my Arkham City, etc.

DO - provide an option for streaming linear content from any games. No need for us to store cut-scenes on our local drives.

DO - offer game rental, per hour, some time after a game's initial launch. For example, 1 month after Assassin's Creed 4 is released, let me play it for $5/hour. Store my state so if I choose to purchase it fully or rent another hour, I can start where I left off.

DON'T - have a disc drive in the box. Switch completely to digital media. Forget Blu-Ray and everything else. Instead offer me great and affordable options on digital content. If someone needs to boot a Blu-Ray for some reason, let them use Input 2.

DON'T - go over a $299 price point for launch and make sure you're at $249 or less by the following Christmas. MS and SONY should assume they will be competing with Apple and Amazon boxes in the near future.

Robert Swift
profile image
$5/hour, man u must be rich

wes bogdan
profile image
Despite hardware increases DON'T make everything as photorealistic as you can.
I remind everyone Borderlands started as a gears loking game but the cell shaded look gave it more personality,humor and made it stand out.

Imo Borderlands 2 wouldn't exist if they had come out looking like gears as it wouldn't be gears,cod,halo or kz so it would have been a bargin bin $19.99 by feb after it failed to get noticed...besides would you really want claptrap as a gears robot just not as funny.

wes bogdan
profile image
If ninty,sony and ms sat down and simply said what do we want out of this gen allowing each to play a design role sony might have more access to all range of hardware while ninty could innovate on controler design and ms could design the dash but ninty could be the bare bones model while sony and ms could put more bells n whistles on their boxes.

Also this would save everyone thousands as 1 box to rule them all so i could play ps4,720 and wii u all on any of them.

This would allow halo 5 xbox vs ps vs wii players and ninty really needs a trophy / achievement equivlant.

While each box would be the same under the hood each expierence would still be themed playstation,xbox or ninty allowing you to pick your posion and run.

With wii u confirmed for wii playback it will look very bad on sony or ms part if they snub their fanbase.

Ps one was played on ps2 it was expected though sony began hemroging money with ps3 and killed ps2 b/c.

The difference between ps2 and ps3 is ps2 wasn't designed for hdtv and trophy's didn't exist so the HD COLLECTIONS made the graphics better and included tropy support.

I'm disapointed in the lack of modernization of control schemes though bg a e invert was either 1st or 3rd person but not both same with strangers rath and ratchet should've gotten deadlocked as default not here's shiny upgraded games with crusty controls no one would use today.

The HD COLLECTIONS also need better controls if the original set up is lacking by today's standards.

This is not true of ps3 games as they look fantastic on a hdtv and already include trophy support so an ultra Hd 4k or 8k version wouldn't be as dramatic simply because trophy's,dlc and all the modern trapings are already there.

Mike Kasprzak
profile image
Do: Accept that you're just not special anymore. There is still a desire for set-top boxes, but I'm sorry, you're not doing yourself any favors by isolating yourself. PlayStation Mobile is a great concept and effort, but the mistake was the mobile focus (and the C# *cough*). PlayStation Minis was another good attempt, especially it's PS3 support, but again limited to offline mobile games. The name "PlayStation" infers a place to play. Embrace that in an unprecedented way. Sell a dedicated set top box, but go beyond that. Take note of Microsofts half-assed attempt at bringing "Xbox Live to PC", the ocassional native ports with some service support, and go full on VM. Go beyond PlayStation Mobile and make PlayStation actually mobile. Lay down some harsh, rigid specs. My laptop PC is PS3 grade, my Sony set-top box is PS4, and this dev-kit is early PS5. Enough of these isolated ecosystems. Games can still be PlayStation Exclusive, but the PlayStation experience should evolve. Fire up my Steam-like PlayStation client, buy and download it, then double click on the game icon on my desktop (with the tiny PlayStation logo in the corner).

Ryan Ponce
profile image
The main thing for me is transferring my current accounts over to the new systems. So I don't lose all my gamer score and all purchases etc. Yeah, this isn't being talked about that much, but I'm sure it will as we get closer to the next gen consoles. This is the first gen with mainstream online services. The original Xbox got the ball rolling, but it was in it's infancy. This is the generation where online services have become the standard. A way of life for Gamers.

As Gamers we have everything on our online accounts, stats, achievements, avatar clothes, purchased games and DLC. It's the first gen where we're going to new consoles and all our baggage has to come with us. We're not starting fresh. Hell we better not. I spent a lot of money on XBL and PSN. I ain't losing all that shit.

It'll be interesting to see how the next gen systems tackle this issue. Will we connect a usb cable from the Xbox 720 to the 360 to transfer our XBL account? Will we just sign on to our account on Xbox 720 and then everything we own gets downloaded? How will this effect HDD space? For example if the Xbox 720 comes with a 160gb HDD. Will we have to take into account all our purchases will be adding to the Xbox 720 HDD? So if I get a Xbox 720 with a 160gb and I'm transferring 60 maybe 90gb of purchased XBL content to my new 720. How much space will I be left with? These are good questions will need answers.

Robert Swift
profile image
Don't sell me some box, sell me a great entertainment service where I can get everything:
Big games, small games, movies, music, TV, youtube, internet, my pictures, ... .

And I want to control that with my smartphone/tablet. I want to access from anywhere in my home. In the best case, streaming music to the kitchen and letting the kids play games in the living room at the same time.

I don't care about the hardware. I want a service!!! And don't throw all those stupid ads at me!!

For ultimate openness, Mods and more exotic stuff I still have my self assembled ultra PC but from a console I expect comfort!

Bob Johnson
profile image
Do: take your time so Valve can be first to market. That is all.


none
 
Comment: