Where Do We Go From Here?

Given all the hoopla over the Xbox One news I reported on yesterday I wanted to touch base on an important fact, one that many people don’t seem to realize. If all of these restrictions do indeed make their way to the PlayStation 4, then I’ve got to ask, where the heck do we go from here? In essence our shiny new consoles will be nothing more than simplified PCs.

Is this nothing more than....
Is this nothing more than….

That’s something people tend to forget. Virtually all of these restrictions have been on computers for years and years. If I buy a game on Steam, it’s almost exactly the same. I can’t sell it off to anyone else. I can still play said game on another computer though, via logging into my account and re-downloading the game. That’s exactly what the Xbox One will be like, which begs the question. If the new Xbox is just a Steam-like system, what’s the point of having consoles anymore?

Ever since this news broke I’ve been thinking about this. If the home console market becomes too PC-like, then ultimately why will we even need consoles anymore. They’re inferior to PCs in almost every way possible, except they’re connected to our glorious HDTVs. That can easily be fixed with modern day PCs though. Almost all new computers come with HDMI-out ports, so just buy a super long cable from a cheap cable company for $20 and presto, problem solved. I know it’s a little more complicated than that for some people given the way they have their home setup, but seriously, if consoles blur the line between console and PC too much I don’t see how they’ll be able to survive.

...this?
…this?

PCs may seem like scary boxes, but they’re actually the most convenient way to play games. I can log-in to Steam and download a game in no time, I can even pre-install said game so at mid-night I can start playing right away without any need to download it like you have to do on consoles right now. Don’t even get me started on the Steam sales either, where brand new games can go on sale for 40% off in no time. Couple that with the fact that PCs can be easily upgraded so games actually look better over time, and you have yourself a very odd situation. The whole point of consoles was to offer something PCs couldn’t, a unified platform that was easily connected to your TV. In recent years that device has also become our hub for our entertainment, but the power and flexibility offered by PCs far outweigh those perks. Those perks may not even exist in a few more months if consoles become exactly like PCs, except that they easily connect to the TV.

In the end it’s all about exclusive games, and that’s always been consoles’ strongest asset. Where else can you play Zelda, Uncharted, Halo, etc. The thing is that if these machines become too PC-like in design, the first party content will have to be absolutely killer in order to convince the masses this is the right direction to take. It’s funny but the Wii U might just be the most accessible of all the next-gen platforms. Who saw that coming?

Will the Wii U be hardcore gamers' only choice come next gen?
Will the Wii U be hardcore gamers’ only choice come next gen?

So where do we go from here? Do these console manufacturers believe this new strategy will work, and won’t cause many gamers to move to the PC? Will people just sit down and take it in because they have no other choice? How exactly will this play out moving forward? Is this the future of the home console business and if it is, why do we really need consoles if they’re just simplified PCs?

7 thoughts on “Where Do We Go From Here?”

  1. The biggest differences between what Xbox One and Steam are infrastructure and price-points/sales. I would justify what Xbox One is doing if their infrastructure is sound and they do offer lower than expected prices and sales. Sadly, however, that doesn’t seem to be the case. There’s a huge barrier between Xbox Live and indies right now plus they have very little sales and promotions. Look at PlayStation Plus on the opposite spectrum though. Those dudes are Steam-like if not slightly superior when it comes to sales, discounts, free games, and a lot of cool indie titles. If Sony does manage to put in DRM, I wouldn’t be too upset because I know that their PS Plus program is worth subscribing for every year. With Xbox Live, I don’t even know what I’m paying for anymore, which is why I didn’t renew my subscription. Even when the service moves to the Xbox One, all the additional non-gaming content that Xbox Live will contain will be region-locked to the United States, so paying a premium is practically useful for only online play and nothing else. I know I’m going to get ripped off.

    The biggest problems I’ve had with PC gaming have been getting narrower and narrower every year just like you mentioned. It’s now very easy to install and configure games, not to mention the price-point of gaming PCs being practical and more powerful than consoles. As long as consoles continue to sell though, there’s still a place for them in shelves. Consumers will speak with their wallets.

    It’s really simple to ask the question, “what’s the use for consoles nowadays?” but in fact it’s much more complicated than that as you suggested. As a consumer, my love towards consoles are still there due to ease of use, hassle-free, exclusive games, and exclusive features. Currently, the big keyword for next-gen consoles is “social”…innovative controls have been pushed back in favor for social features. Nobody’s going to buy an Xbox One solely because of Kinect. Same goes for PS4 and its eye/Move controls. Wii U sales also show that nobody cares for that tablet controller. Innovative controls are just there as an extension from the last-gen. The social circles and brand power are what make these consoles currently unique. As we all have found out, Miiverse is a success story, and I’m sure the competition’s social features will be just as good.

  2. Indeed Ahmed, but like I said, the more these consoles blur the line between console and PC, I feel the more hardcore gamers are going to naturally gravitate towards the latter option. Naturally I don’t expect this to happen overnight, and indeed there are other issues, but it’s a very intriguing question. For me, consoles will always have a special place in my heart, but I am really disheartened by all the Xbox One restrictions.

    PS Plus is an excellent service Sony has been offering these past few years, but there is one caveat that keeps it from achieving Steam success, and that’s with the free software. Should you cancel your sub for even a day you lose those free games. With Steam, no matter how cheap the games are, they’re yours forever. They just had the Batman games on there with full DLC for only a couple of bucks. It boggles my mind how cheap some of the sales on there get, and there’s no sub fees, free multiplayer, free social interactions, etc, etc. If Valve is smart and all of these restrictions hit the PS4, now would be their time to show the world the benefit of PC gaming, or release their Steam-box or whatever.

  3. If Valve releases a PC with Steam fully integrated, they’re going to kick everyone’s asses. I would definitely be interested in buying it if the price-point is reasonable in contrast to its power.

    With Sony’s PS Plus, I completely understand why the free games are locked when you opt out. It’s a service of sorts. The amount and quality of free games offered are really awesome. Makes me want to pay them yearly just to keep getting the free stuff. Some of them are even recent releases too. Sony’s discounts are really good though. And if you’re a PS Plus member, some games are discounted even further. It’s not as low as Steam, but still some good stuff. And they’re yours forever, too. Of course Steam is all in all a better service, but in terms of free games, the PS Plus is definitely superior.

  4. Yeah PS Plus is indeed a good service, don’t want to sound like I’m knocking on it or anything. It’s a much better approach than Live is, but I’d really like to see which company makes more money from their services, Sony or MS. My bet is on MS because of the way they’ve conditioned gamers to believe multiplayer is something you should have to pay for. I must admit I loved their cross game chatting, voice messages, etc. I just never understood the online multiplayer as a selling point when it has been free on PC forever. Steam pops its head up here as well.

    It’s going to be a very interesting day on Monday when Sony reveals all their cards on the PS4. Microsoft is so worried about the backlash they even canceled their post conference Q&A. That’s the first time I can remember when a company as powerful and huge as MS has ever done this before. Clearly they don’t want people talking about all the restrictions, and want to focus on the games instead. My problem is I’ve got this sour taste in my mouth from their press release, and am really hoping Sony does everything in their power not to follow them. I don’t mind some DRM, but always online, no trading or renting games, etc can’t be part of their ecosystem.

  5. I think this will be the last console generation, or close to it. When games go fully digital, they will be jo use for gaming stores so the only place to sell consoles will be in electronic shops . We might see a unified console one of these days but I doubt well see 3 new consoles next next gen.

  6. Correct me if I’m wrong here but aren’t publishers in favor of releasing games on console systems more than PC? I thought all games on PC got pirated (except for MMOs) thus why steam sells games for such a low price, to try and encourage people to pay instead of finding a way to copy their game. Why would games like Crysis make their way to conosoles? Don’t give me that “for a broader audience crap” ;)

    1. Indeed piracy is a HUGE concern on PC. Steam has shown PC games can thrive by simply being affordable. We’re at a point where we’ll never combat piracy fully, but what’s really funny is the Xbox One is going head to head against piracy, but being way more restrictive than anything I’ve seen done on PC before outside of always-online DRM. Funny that.

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