Creating The Ultimate Next-Gen Console Part 2: Features
Welcome to Part 2 of my look at what I would consider to be the perfect next-gen console. In Part 1, we designed the hardware for our Ultimate Console, now we look at what we’re going to be doing with it.
Graphical User Interface (GUI)
My biggest issue with the interfaces on this current generation’s consoles, is that they are becoming far too complicated; in some cases they are actually making it difficult to do the things we buy consoles for in the first place (i.e. Play games). When the Super PlayBox switches on, we want it to immediately default to a games menu, giving gamers the choice of playing the disc in the drive, playing downloaded games, or buying new ones from the shop. Add separate menus for the more entertainment focuses elements of the console and make them easy to access without intruding on the gaming experience.
Streaming media technology has greatly matured over the last generation, with movie streaming services such as LoveFilm/Netflix, Music services such as Spotify/Last FM, and On Demand television such as BBC iPlayer and 4OD finally realising the dream of a set-top console. We’ll make sure all these services are onboard for the Super PlayBox.
As our console will have a Blu-Ray drive (which would read DVD’s too, of course), physical movies are here to stay, but why not make deals with movie studios to provide digital copies of Blu-Rays, for use on our console (as studios such as Disney and Fox are already doing on iTunes).
Online multiplayer is now the standard for console gaming, but the question is; free or subscription? The PS3 has a free basic online service, but is arguably not as user friendly or as feature rich as Xbox’s LIVE service.
Our console would offer a basic, no-frills free multiplayer service; while also offering a better online experience for a subscription fee, adding cross-game Party Chat and on-demand statistics for supported games. Free/discounted games (similar to PlayStation Plus) would also be a good move.
Our digital store should be easy to browse, and even easier to find the things we’re looking for. We’ll charge for things with actual money, not points, but we’ll release prepaid cards for those who don’t want to use a credit card.
Every type of item on sale should be in its own, easy to read section. We’ll have an area for full retail games, an area for indie, add-ons and demos. Let’s allow gamers to have their own personalised store, where they can see just the content for the games they own. Let’s ensure that every downloadable title has a demo. In the case of retail digital titles, we can allow users to download the full game and play 15-30 minutes for free, before allowing them to pay for the game there and then, similar to how it’s done on OnLive or, again, through PlayStation Plus.
Oh, and background downloading is a must. No-one wants to wait 30 minutes to download a patch for the game they just bought.
As Nintendo have learnt from the last few generations, failure to attract third-parties can be a devastating blow to a console. We should be looking to doing as many deals with as many big publishers and developers as possible, and ensure they give as much of their input as possible when developing the console. Becoming a preferred platform for development can do wonders for a console’s success (and the consumer’s experience, as the number of shoddy PlayStation 3 ports can attest). Offering resources (devkits, help and assistance) to smaller development houses would also make a lot of sense.
Indie games have become a big deal this past generation, and this trend will no doubt continue. So let’s help the smaller studios/bedroom coders out. Create/borrow/buy an easy to use programming language, and make the tools for coding and developing free. Charge indie developers an affordable one-off license fee for putting their games on our system, and take a cut of the profits; in return we’ll give them a store of their own and regularly showcase their games on a visible part of the console’s user interface.
Mock them if you will, but I feel that Achievements/Trophies have been one of the great innovations of this current generation. They have allowed games to have greater replay value, and this is something the Super PlayBox should adopt. I would prefer the Microsoft method of Achievements and Gamerscore, as I feel it is implemented a little better than Sony’s Trophies.
Let No Consumer Be Left Behind
This generation, more than any other, has proven the importance of catering for all demographics. “Casual” games such as the highly successful Zumba Fitness & Just Dance titles have consistently reached number one in the charts and have stayed there for weeks/months, showing that even light-use gamers are an important audience to cater for.
However, let’s not discount the heavy-use gamers; the “hardcore” if you will. Nintendo spent most of this generation neglecting their biggest supporters and it has no doubt cost them. There is nothing wrong with supporting both types of gamers; for every fitness game that hits the shelves, there should be a hardcore shooter/action game to cater for the people who purchase games on a regular basis.
Finally…Release schedules should make sense
Triple-A games do not need to all be released in October, November and March. If you think your new IP is going to do well when it’s released within a month of the Call of Duties, FIFAs and Halos of this industry, then you are either stupid, or have huge balls. Balls so huge, that you should probably have them checked out by a doctor (while you’re at it, get your head looked at).
We would encourage a spread out release schedule, because we’d all like something to play in the Summer, wouldn’t we?
That’s it for my look at what constitutes the “perfect” console. I’d love to hear some of your ideas, so feel free to leave your comments or tell me directly what you think (contact details below).