A couple of months ago, Analog Addiction brought you news that someone, known as Bacteria, had created a 15-in-1 console. It got me thinking about a speculation that shows itself in the game industry every now and then; what would it be like if there was only one console? A console created by a third party, where Microsoft, Sony, and even Nintendo were all just publishers. Would it benefit gamers or would it destroy gaming? With E3 just around the corner, here’s some pros and cons to a ‘universal/ third party’ console.
Pro- A unified community
An extremely vast majority of games are enjoyed on multiple consoles and the player base is usually split between those consoles. A universal console would unite all console gamers and place every fan of a game in the same community. Imagine what it would do to games that are low on server population on a console? The different communities would all come together to create one community, and a bigger server population, meaning more players and less time waiting. Furthermore, there would be no more missing out on console exclusives. Everyone would get the next Halo, everyone would get the next Uncharted, and everyone would get the next Mario.
Con- It would create a monopoly in the market
Three consoles currently on the market means they are all fighting for customers (this is known as an Oligopoly for those wondering). Each company strives to provide better features for their console so people will lean towards them rather than their competition. With just one console, all of that would disappear. Maybe the producer would not see the need for a movie streaming service, maybe they will charge at a price not many people can afford ($600 anyone?)? These things would be possible with only one company controlling the market share. It is quite possible we could be forced to pay for access to online capabilities. It is quite possible those online capabilities could be really basic. Something else to think about, what would happen to the indie scene? Some developers have voiced their opinion about Microsoft and their fees, what if the producer of the universal console had the same mindset? It would see so many great games unable to reach a vast majority of gamers. The risks associated with having only one console have the potential to undermine how far gaming has come.
Pro- A new direction
PlayStation 4, Xbox One (which is actually the third), Nintendo Wii U (I think we have all lost count by now), all of these consoles are established brands and are all following their own paths. With a new third party console, the possibilities could be endless. What new ways would it attempt to revolutionise gaming? Maybe the console will be able to utilise different controllers for different control methods? For example, maybe it will be possible for Nintendo to still focus on motion controlled games, an add-on accessory would just be required. Maybe it would be able to have several discs loaded at a time (much like some CD players in cars these days)? This would, in turn, make gamers lazy/lazier, but make game switching easier and more efficient. By starting anew, the design philosophies of the three brands we know would be thrown out the window and gaming would start again for another 40-50 years.
Con- Loss of passion?
The endless war of which console is better would cease to exist. Good thing or bad thing, the arguments between consoles bring people together. We join forces to argue on behalf of our favoured console, and create a common bond from the rivalries. With a universal console, there would be no more arguing, no more patriotism and fighting for a cause, everyone would have the same thing.
Pro- No exclusivity
The idea of exclusive content on a particular platform angers me. I understand that Sony or Microsoft want people to buy their console and want their consumers to have a better experience, but it is not fair. With a universal console, everyone would get the same content, at the same time, for the same price. No more would one group of gamers have to wait thirty days to get DLC (CoD for Xbox and, to a smaller extent, Battlefield for PlayStation), or not get content at all (the Benedict Arnold DLC from Assassin’s Creed 3, exclusive to PlayStation users). It would create equality, and a less hostile community.
Con- Less games
It sounds like a poor con, but just hear me out. If Microsoft and Sony, and even Nintendo, did not own consoles, would they be making video games? In Nintendo’s case, I would argue yes. Nintendo has always been a company which makes its own hardware and supplies software for its hardware. While it is possible Nintendo may give up on making games, it is highly unlikely. Nintendo would probably end up developing for the universal console, diminishing claims about it not supporting third parties. However, two companies which would probably be more inclined to just disregard the video game industry are Sony and Microsoft. Microsoft never used to make video games until it decided to rival Sony in the early 2000′s. I feel if Microsoft did not make a console, it would stop creating games. Sony is more on the fence than Microsoft and Nintendo. Sony has other areas of technology it sells goods in, but video games play a big role in its earnings. That could be thanks to the selling of hardware, or from first party games, it is hard to tell. Without making a console, it is possible Sony could limit the amount of games it produces.
The future of consoles is very blurred at the moment. In a few hours E3 will begin and hopefully the next generation will be made much more clear, until then, we can only speculate about what will come after that. It could be that is all it is- speculation- but it doesn’t hurt to dream.