The Fifth Column: What Comes After The PS4?
The PlayStation 4 media juggernaut is in full swing. We have seen the updated controller but no glimpse of the actual console, which is a bit strange for a console reveal. The new PlayStation dashboard looks good and the gameplay videos are as polished as ever. In response Microsoft has not dropped any hints about their next generation console, but the rumour mill is rife with its associated media payload of facts and figures. Amidst all the hype, tech specs and bullshots, it’s easy to lose sight of the bigger picture.
And the bigger picture is that video games have evolved well beyond the demographic of hardcore gamers. They have also evolved beyond the dedicated gaming PC and console. If you want to play a game, you can simply fire up your Android or iOS powered phone or tablet and get your game-on regardless of where you are. In addition, if you want to try or buy a new game, simply hit up the relevant App/Play store and download it. You are not tied down by any online subscriptions or intrusive DRM. Once you are done with your gaming session, you can easily share your exploits via your favourite social media channel or messaging service.
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Of course you would be hard pressed to find any comparable AAA titles for Android and iOS but then again this is largely beside the point. The casual gamer who is engrossed in his/her latest mobile game is not particularly interested in the franchise pedigree. Their primary concern is a fun game mechanic, acceptable graphics and a reasonable learning curve.
Has the next generation of industry leading video game consoles seen the writing on the wall? Well if we look at the PS4, it would appear that the answer is … maybe. The PS4 will incorporate web based features which allow you to share your gaming exploits via videos, images or even live streaming. You will even be able to add friends from social media sites like Facebook. In short it appears that Sony has responded to Ubisoft’s request to make their new console more like a PCs and phones.
While the PS4 does appear to be an attempt to leverage social media features in order to gain access to the new generation of casual gamers, Sony is still a closed gaming shop with proprietary hardware and software which excludes amateur, Indie developers. But is there any console which is completely open to Indie game developers? Yes there is, the Ouya, an Open Source console designed to be open in both its software and hardware. The Ouya is an attempt at trying to open up the console gaming industry by allowing anyone to program and sell a game in their market place. This is something that none of the other console manufacturers allow. The Xbox does have an Indie marketplace but the cost of entry largely excludes the majority of small time application developers.
The Ouya may not give the big three a run for their money but it will definitely make a significant impact in the video game market place. It will also influence the development of the future generation of video game consoles. Although the Ouya is not a hardware powerhouse in league with the current or next generation of consoles. It has sufficient grunt and features in order to make it a niche product in your home entertainment system. It will be able to leverage the application store ecosystem in order to create a video entertainment system which is affordable and completely open to developers.
Given how quickly casual gaming and social media have developed, it appears that any gaming console which is able to incorporate these features into their system will have a lead in the marketplace. Given the Ouya’s open-ess it may just be able to develop the feature set needed to become the king of the casual gamers.