What If: There’s One Platform?

Today’s tale is one of just what one good bottle of tequila can achieve. Well technically several bottles, but the other sentence sounded more poetic. So gather around dear readers and read of another tale of Gastos’ and mine’s time traveling adventures. This week involves something a bit different, a trip backwards and then a jump forwards to see the fruit of our labours. I should note that it was our very own Gamoc who first came up with the idea for this trip, so with that out of the way settle down for another tale of what could have been. With our microwave set just below the defrost setting and with our tinfoil correctly aligned and waving we set off! Our first trip was back in time just a way to E3 2008.

From the point of view of gamers E3 is a great event, huge announcements, loads of information about games and generally a week of excitement and fun from everyone. What most of us probably don’t think about is what goes on in the background of any of the big conferences and how tough it is on everyone from the workers putting the stands together, all the way up to the execs running the press conferences.

After a long, tiring day at the show most people want nothing more than to get off their feet and maybe have a nice quiet drink. Hell why not hit a bar with your fellow execs? I mean what could go wrong? I mean if say, for example, Reggie Fils-Aime, J Allard and Jack Tretton all ended up in the same bar and some time traveling journalist who happened to, by complete coincidence, be in the same bar posing as a waiter and blowing their PS3 fund on tequila. I mean obviously it would all be one big, crazy coincidence right? On a side note you know who can really put it away? Games company execs.

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So as I (the hypothetical time traveling games journalist) bought the third bottle of fund draining tequila to the table (you know the table that was hypothetically filled with gaming execs who had mysteriously all ended up in the same bar) I felt it was time to steer the conversation a little.

Heh guys, you know what would be a great idea?” I said, placing the bottle on the table.

“More booze!” Said Tretton slamming a dinner plate sized fist into the table.

“Yes Mr. Tretton, of course. Also what if there was one console…”

With that their eyes widened and the future was set.

So after bailing from my hypothetical time as a purely hypothetical waiter who had nothing at all do with changing the course of history – honest Guv you can ask Gastos, he’ll vouch me – we reset our microwave and jumped forwards five years to 2013. What did we find in this one possible future (remember time is in flux, futures are not definite – that’s science, that is) that we had arrived in? Well for some reason the major console manufacturers had, for some reason, got it into their heads to provide a unified platform. Crazy, I know! It wasn’t quite that simple to be honest, what had happened is that all the console manufacturers had agreed on the same basic underlying architecture.

There were, of course, a few tweaks here and there but games could, in principle, run on any console. This meant that all the manufacturers still had their own piece of hardware (tequila can only achieve so much), but developers could easily develop for any of the platforms that they choose without having to worry about porting issues. Of course you couldn’t run games from one console on another, for a start the control schemes were still very different between the systems. That’s right, whilst controller based systems still existed in this future Natal, the Wand, the Wiimote and YASCN (Yet Another Silly Controller Name) had all reached prominence.

With the cost of ports lowering drastically, and technical limitations for all consoles being essentially the same, the significant change in 2013 was that there was little to no reason for second party developers to stay loyal. As long as they stuck to a traditional controller based system there was very few reasons not to port a game across multiple systems, and most of the second party students rescinded their previous loyalty. With a playing field that was more open than at any point in the industry’s history the console manufacturers had to pull out all the stops to get the hard earned money from consumers in exchange for their gaming box. So how did they do it?

As previously noted that motion control systems were out there, and steadily improving with firmware updates. This was a big area of competition for Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo but where they really moved their focus onto was the service based model. Obviously we’re now seeing the start of this new console war in the evolving features of PSN and XBL, but trust me on this, it does a lot further in the future. Of course I don’t want to elaborate to much on this, but the instant-on 1080p being beamed into your mind is just pretty awesome.

Alas before more notes on the future could be taken the microwave binged and we returned home with a vision of the future where fanboys were quieter, the sun always shone and I could play Gears of War and Resistance on the same console. I guess for now I’ll just have to settle on this spare bottle of hypothetical tequila I seem to have acquired.

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