With the recent success of the open-source, Android-powered Ouya game console on Kickstarter, the waning power of current-gen console manufacturers, and the increasing number of studios being shuttered by publishers, the possibility of a generation of gaming with more than three consoles is very real. Developers are growing increasingly more frustrated with the bureaucracy and general unfriendliness of the current console platforms and publishers, and are looking for any way to avoid the pratfalls and barriers such avenues provide. While it’s certainly a concern that the gaming industry may not be capable of sustaining itself in a next-generation traditionally, if more, open-source competition emerge to challenge the sleeping giants, we may see the flurry of new ideas and creativity this industry needs. If developers don’t need to risk their livelihood to develop a brilliant idea into a game, then the outpouring of content may rival that of the flourishing iOS platform.
Think about it: Microsoft actually charges its indie developers to be on the Xbox Live Arcade platform exclusively, and requires that developers pay an exorbitant fee that extends into the tens of thousands of dollars to effectively fix or update their game. Sony’s profits are rapidly declining as its spreads itself far too thin with the PS Vita and fails to secure exclusive content. Nintendo appears to have absolutely no idea what the hardcore gamer is interested in, and has already lost the casual fan’s interest. In order to remain competitive in the next generation of gaming, console manufacturers are going to have to be more than all-in-one entertainment boxes to be appealing to those who already have devices that stream their favorite movies and TV shows.
Just like the customer is always right in the business world, the developer needs to take utmost precedence in the gaming industry, not the publisher. In its current state, the gaming industry is run by those who understand smart business practices, but absolutely no clue how to develop a game. The special considerations that video games require are completely ignored by most publishers, and it seems as if publishers are almost entirely dedicated to the idea of making things as absolutely difficult for developers as possible. Sure, they’re the ones funding the majority of the operation, but based on the reports from developers, it seems that publishers tend to do more harm than good during the development of a game.
With the pre-success of the Ouya game console, times might be changing. Developers are clearly fed up with the bureaucracy involved with publishers and console manufacturers, and cutting out the obnoxious barricades that each of the two entities tend to pose may help inspire a little creativity and risk-taking in an otherwise stagnant gaming climate. With the middle man effectively cut out of the equation with the Ouya, developers are free to create anything they see fit, and won’t have to break the bank doing so, thanks to the fairly low-powered specs and Android platform.
The possibility of other companies following suit may be growing stronger as a result. Apple has already patented game controllers for what may just be an iConsole or something of the sort, which, given the weakness of other companies, may be incredible dangerous. If anything, now is the perfect time for other companies to introduce a new console of their own, and inject some much-needed fresh blood into the console race. It wouldn’t be altogether surprising if Valve entered the console race with Steam integration, or if Apple decided to bring a gaming exclusive device to the masses that interacts perfectly with iOS devices and MacBooks. That could be very dangerous for Microsoft, especially, with the struggling Windows Phone and early reports of the Surface tablet not being entirely optimistic.
Ultimately, the consumer will only stand to benefit should other companies step up to challenge the status quo established by other companies. Developers will have more options for publishing their games, which will result in more chances being taken on original IPs and concepts that most publishers wouldn’t dare support in today’s economy. Additionally, the notion of consoles built for a free-to-play platform may also do for the home console what the iPhone and iPad did for mobile gaming, which is to say that even those who consider themselves non-gamers may find themselves spending a little extra time on the couch with a controller in their hands. Although some may lament the fact that the App Store is rife with shovelware and rip-offs, it’s arguably a better situation in to have too many games than it is to have too few.
So, what do you think? Is it possible for additional consoles to permeate the gaming landscape in the next-generation of consoles? What companies might make an appearance in the home console race? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below!