A Universal Console Might Kill The Industry As We Know It
It may be a long ways off and in fact, it may never happen. Furthermore, I'm willing to bet that most analysts love the idea; it would unite all gamers beneath one flag; one platform will be everything you could possibly need, and perhaps more consumers than ever would finally jump aboard the bandwagon. After all, one of the more annoying things new consumers face is, "okay, so which console is best? Which do I get?" Financially and logically speaking, it makes perfect sense and yet...one universal video game console could be a terribly bad idea.
Firstly, one could cite the "competition begets quality" philosophy of business, where each competitor seeks to create better products, if only to top the other guy. In this scenario, everyone - especially the consumer - wins. The increasing level of quality and technical/artistic achievement in this industry is at least partly due to this competition. Secondly, we probably shouldn't forget the differences in gaming tastes worldwide; there may never come a time when Japanese and Western gamers like and appreciate the same forms of interactive entertainment. And although the PS3 and 360 have similar lineups, there remain distinct differences between them; it's one of the biggest reasons Microsoft's console remains mostly non-existent in Japan. Thirdly and finally, we've always said that exclusive titles for each platforms are typically some of the best experiences out there. So if all designers can focus on the same platform and get as much out of it as humanly possible, it's another win-win.
So there are plenty of reasons to support the idea of a universal gaming platform. But there's something else lurking beneath it all; something that may be unique to this particular industry: the fan wars. It's often embarrassing and sad but at the same time, it might just be a bizarre poison that is actually required of a gamer's DNA. Look around. Invariably, the articles and news that get the most attention are those that focus on the console battle; every game writer knows that if he requires attention, he only needs to produce what is widely known as "flamebait." But the interesting part is that everyone is well aware of this tactic, and you have plenty of dignified, "I'm older than you" gamers complaining...and yet, it keeps happening, and such pieces are by far the most popular at all times. But what if it all disappeared tomorrow? What if E3 only talked about the one platform we all have? What if all gamers were suddenly forced into the same group? What would happen to the drama?
Personally, this "drama" is what's hurting our image; it really is embarrassing and is one of the biggest reasons we can't really attain legitimacy in the eyes of outsiders. This childish bickering and hostility, seen from afar, is laughable and even pathetic. But it sustains communities, message boards, forums, comment sections, and even entire websites. Fortunately or unfortunately, it's the backbone of the gaming world - especially online - and to remove it could cause the entire structure to collapse. All we'd have left are your standard everyday press releases. All sites would have virtually the same info, gamers would be having many of the same discussions, and although much of that hostility would indeed disappear, in its place might be...well, nothing. I don't mean to imply our passion for gaming would die out, but to eliminate the console war could have a very large impact on the community as we know it.
You know, baseball guys often say that if the Chicago Cubs ever win the World Series, ticket sales at Wrigley Field would immediately decline in following seasons. Fans go for the spectacle of it. It's unique. Regardless of how good or bad the Cubs are playing, they never seem to have any trouble filling the seats; no other club - besides the Yankees and Red Sox, but for a very different reason - gets this sort of immunity. It's a bad thing that somehow sustains that indescribable spirit. So the day you see a WiiPlayBox or whatever is the day gamer interaction online might come to a screeching halt. Well, at least temporarily. We'd recover and adapt at some point but as of right now, the war I speak of is ingrained in the DNA of gamers. You can't just up and remove it without consequences.
6/24/2010 11:42:21 PM Ben Dutka