This is a guest post by Jimmy Wentz of Media Discovery. Full article credit goes to Wentz as we are happy to present the following publication.
When the Dreamcast appeared back in 1999, the idea of a console with internet running into the back of it was an exciting concept for both gamers and developers. However, the Dreamcast, while it made use of being an online-enabled console, was limited by the speed of the average internet connection in the era it was introduced. This, as we can all recall, was painfully slow.
However, in 2013, when fiberoptic broadband is becoming increasingly common in homes, and games consoles come with online capability as standard, the type of games we play have adapted to this new range of abilities and features. Online multiplayer, community, downloadable content, digital downloads – gaming has changed, but has it changed for the better?
Let’s construct a typical example of gaming in 2013. You buy a new console, which comes with internet capability, and take it home. It connects wirelessly, you look up any information relevant to your online gaming experience at O2 and the other sites you’ll rely on for fine-tuning how the console interfaces with the internet. You’ll then get down to gaming, and oh, what a different world of gaming it is.
Shooters are no longer something you’re restricted to playing with a bunch of friends sitting on your couch together. You could of course still do this, but you can also play Halo against someone in Japan with a minimum of latency. You can also download new content to expand the gaming experience you’ve already had.
While there are advantages to the former, the second is concerning. Knowing that they can add new content (and charge for said new content) means that publishers and developers may include cliff-hangers and other tie-ins to future purchases within existing games. In an era where consoles were not online machines, developers had to finish games and ensure they were bug free because issuing patches was impossible. Now this isn’t an issue (despite the considerable expense, at least on the Xbox 360 platform), games are more buggy, tied to future purchases and never quite feel complete.
This isn’t a good sign, but there are developers who are demonstrating why we love online gaming. 343 Industries has taken the Halo reins and provided an endless stream of updates and map packs that feel reasonably priced, with no one ever prevented from playing the base maps and games as any content required to do so is free.
In the field of MMOs, World of Warcraft is updated with an expansion every so often, but save that and a subscription fee, the game is constantly added to. While this is a more constant expense than Halo’s map packs, it’s also a commitment from developer Blizzard to keep gamers entertained in a way that could only be compared to mailing out an endless amount of discs to update an offline game – a ridiculous proposition, at best.
The greatest benefit to gamers has been the proliferation of games that are available for digital purchase and download. This added convenience, long available to PC and Mac gamers, has come to consoles and has been received well, though there are some points to be made about the considerable price difference between games sold by Sony and Nintendo in different territories – especially given there’s no middleman and no physical components to cover costs for before selling it to the player.
However, low-priced game downloads are doing well and if it’s possible for the low-priced gaming craze on iOS and Android to avoid crashing into the console market and causing devaluation problems for developers, gamers are going to see a lot of reasonably-priced good times as indies who aren’t charging the earth start appearing more and more on XBLA and PSN, offering everything from Battleblock Theater to Minecraft.
Online is a new frontier, and every gamer and developer deals with it differently. But while there are some pricing issues, some developers less scrupulous when it comes to dragging out people’s commitment to a single game, there are also countless benefits that are easy to forget, even when you do find yourself talking Might and Magic tactics with someone who lives thousands of miles away with astonishing convenience.