Sunday, March 3, 2013

The Twilight of the Seventh Console Generation: Top 5 Lessons Learned

The 7th console generation of 2005-2013 is slowly coming to a close with the release of the Wii U and the imminent Fall launch of the PS3. For gamers, developers, and publishers now would be a great time to do some introspective thinking and learn from the past mistakes while keeping the great innovations.

Here are the top 5 things we've learned from the 7th Generation of the Wii, Xbox360, and PS3:

Number 5
Recognize Fads and Don't create new ones

Everyone knows fads sell and that they work. Looking at the views of viral videos alone shows that a fad can be an extremely powerful device. The problem with fads are they aren't sustainable. All the great fad products of the 80's, 90's, and 00's are gone because the hype is over. People are done with it. It's like the Chia Pet or the Sham wow; once you see it and it looses the wow factor, why invest more or buy more?

Similarly Nintendo destroyed the competition in this last console generation but only through fad gaming. If motion controls were the future, the PS4 and WiiU would implement them. Sadly we all realize it wasn't and it was a gimmick that was taken advantage of. The Wii definitely outsold the competition but at a hefty price, the loss of this new console generation.

There are hundreds of articles out now abut how the Wii U sales are flopping, in its first year of production; something that every console maker cringes to hear. If the WII U becomes irrelevant, largely because of the WII fad, Nintendo will have no one to blame but itself. It needs to think sustainability first, before gimmicks  Sadly the new controller for the Wii U shows it hasn't learned its lesson.

Number 4
The Internet Exists

Xbox, a company owned by Microsoft that lives with the idea of the Internet and communities, quickly took advantage of the internet when it was launched. PS3/Nintendo ... not so much. It took til the Wii U until Nintendo finally realized there was an Internet and started including staples like Netflix and better online mutliplayer play.

PS3, along with the hacking scandal, early on really didn't invest in the proper infrastructure for multiplayer gaming and made some bad bets like putting their weight behind the Bluetooth headsets that were notoriously known for going awry.

Luckily by the latter half of the 7th Console generation, the PS3 learned its lesson and created the Playstation plus program which by all accounts greatly dwarfs Xbox's own LIVE service. The chance to earn free games every month, without any other incentive, has been a key selling factor for the plus memberships, and all the benefits of Playstation's online services have trickled down to the free users which can game without being forced to buy a membership.

The eight generation will not put up without a proper online framework and this realization is what has lead all companies, including the internet wary Nintendo, to pump up their online presence.

Number 3
FPS Genre is Waning

FPS games, aka First Person Shooters, are a great genre of gaming. But the Generic FPS has been a long fad that is finally, after a long half-decade of insanity, slowly dying down. Now it's not enough to simply make a good shooter. You need a good story, you need compelling characters and fresh unique game mechanics, and you need more than the name "Call of Duty" on your cover to keep up with record sales.

The Fallout Series is a great example of howan FPS can be reinvented, revolutionized, and made amazingly fun. The generic FPS doesn't cut it anymore and as hardware has gotten better and coders have better engines and video cards to work with, FPS games don't have any excuses for not adding new, unique, and compelling content.

No one wants the FPS genre to die, only to stop being so generic, and sales numbers for the New Crysis and Call of Duty show that if the great beasts of the FPS genre are showing waning sales numbers, of course the little guys are hurting too and gamers want more. Gamers will not simply accept a good run and gun game. They need it to be worth every cent of their 60 hard earned dollars.

Number 2
Hardware wars are over

Because hardware is extremely cheap now, and a Gaming P.C can be bought for only $800(Less if you build it yourself), the days where we spend hours arguing over specs should be over.

For the last console generation, it was very annoying to have to use multiple discs simply because Microsoft had adopted the standard 9 gig DVD9 and PS3 had Blu Ray at 20+ Gigs. The processors, video cards, and other peripherals were also mentioned in millions of articles. Those days will be on the decline as even the Wii U boasts monstrous numbers.

Great hardware is now easy to obtain and the difference between the new consoles, when it comes to hardware, will be insignificant. The only worry Xbox may have is if they hold onto their DVD9 standard which is way passed over due. Something tells me though Xbox will either fully buy HD-DVD or create its own standard, rather than paying Sony to use their patented Blu Ray technology.

Although hardware was extremely important in the last console wars, it will be less so in the 8th edition of the battle. The video cards and processors of both machines should be epic enough that we end the Middle school arguing about which console is more powerful than the other.

Number 1
The Story is King

From 2005 til now the best games of the years have always had one thing in common, if nothing else, and that was a compelling story with compelling characters, and a reason to keep gaming. This is something that won't change in the coming future as gaming has evolved in such a way that gamers demand stories on par with blockbusters in the Cinema's.

We had:
The Walking Dead
Red Dead Redemption
Fallout 3
Heavy Rain
Grand Theft Auto 4

All great story games and all very immersive. There may be the nay-sayers that mention games like Call of Duty, but there are always exceptions to the rule, and 1 game not known for its story can not get rid of the fact that 90% of the Game of the Year winners were all great because of their story. Take the story away and some games become generic while others die altogether such as The Walking Dead.

Final Thoughts

We have a lot to learn from the previous game generations and a lot of mistakes made in the past. Hopefully we can get rid of the mistakes and keep some of the great innovations. Things look bright in terms of gaming, online play, and hardware, so the next generation should really be unique compared to many of the past that struggled with polishing games and hardware.

Now that games are polished and the formulas for making good tutorials, level design, and mechanics have been learned, we can get to the business of enjoying great new experiences and games.

A prediction for the 8th generation is that games and their uniqueness will be all the rage. The more unique and compelling the game, the more it will shine. Generic games are done for and while they still will exist, they will fail to get the type of coverage they used to; even though our Gaming journalism is still in the pockets of the game companies. This will largely be due to the fact that gamers have had enough. Fool me once, shame on you, Fool me twice, shame on me.