Gaming Needs Gizmos.

Today I saw yesterday’s post over at Penny Arcade that mirrored the opinions of a post from the same day by Josh of Cathode Tan. They both lament the lack of consoles that allow user-created code to be executed. But I have the answer. Games need more gizmos.

Well, ‘a’ GISMOS, actually. Gaming and Interactive Simulation Machine/Open Standard. But for marketing purposes I’ll settle on calling it this new console a Gismo. Yes, Games needs a new console. Not just any console, mind you, but one that applies a base standard and is open to all producers. Now you’re asking “What the hell are you talking about?” DVDs are a standard. All DVD players will play a ‘standard’ DVD. And anyone can produce a DVD; WB, Sony, Fox ,etc.
And anyone can produce a DVD player; Toshiba, Samsung, etc. Games needs the same.

I initially thought “the first console manufacturer to do this will be my hero!” But then reality sets in as I realize there that it will not come from within games. This is a case of evolution vs.
revolution, and revolution is the only way. The current hardware manufacturers lose money on hardware and make money on licensing the right to publish games for their console, so they’d obviously be insane to create an open standard for Games. They’re vying for a monopoly on what they want Game Consoles to become. You know, Consoles as “an in-road to the center of the household with one unit that will control every thing about a house.” You’ve heard the
bullshit line before. It will be your game player, movie player, music player, and your DVR for movies, music, TV, not to mention your VoIP-phone.

They won’t be Game Consoles at all. They’ll be ‘Media Managers’.

But you won’t be replacing your all of those contraptions in your entertainment center with one small box. Nope. If this game keeps up eventually you’ll have it slam full of Media Managers. One for Sony products, one for Fox, and one for Microsoft (with associated 3rd party content creators.) Of course this doesn’t count the Nintendo game console that you’ll have to keep on the floor due to lack of room. Think I’m crazy? Let’s see if the Blu-Ray and HD-DVD groups can compromise rather than release two competing formats, each backed by different companies.

Now let’s look at the future on the opposite end of the spectrum. The hardware producers decide that graphics are finally cooling down and that entering the game consoles business doesn’t mean getting into a hardware war they will never win. They decide that customers have realized that graphics aren’t everything. Hardware manufacturers offer Sony, MS, and Nintendo the chance to help join their standards board at the ground floor and form the gaming platform of the future. Which of these three would accept this?

Surely not Sony. Their marketing and hardware has them with a solid lead this generation with the PS3. And they make their money by licensing games for their hardware. And Microsoft? They’ve lost so much money on the XBox and X360 hardware that to quit two systems in
would be insane. Especially considering the ground they’ve covered in becoming a strong second in the consoles with the X360. Nintendo? Here’s something interesting. Now in third, what do they do? They have a shot at being the sole company whose IP would be in this new format, assuming the format succeeded. So why wouldn’t they do it? They quit the hardware war with the Revolution. They’ve long been the only company to make money off of hardware. Sure they’re in third, but they’re turning profit.

So, none of the current console manufacturers make the move. (Maaaybe Nintendo, if they realize their strongest suit is their software.) Now, this isn’t a new idea by any means. Lots of people have thought about it and even blogged about it. But it’s an idea whose time is nearly here. As graphical improvements slow down the likelihood increases. The question is “Who would but it?” If it was an open standard that allowed me to run my own games? I sure as hell would. And I’m sure many other “hardcore gamers” and “hobbyists” would just so they could have trade homebrew. But what game developers would support it? In today’s world of DRM-hysteria game companies are looking at ways to stop piracy, not make it as easy as DVD and CD piracy.

They could allow a scheme like CSS on DVDs, but gamers are a more technical crowd. That’ll be taken apart in no time. Any have serious suggestions on how to allow homebrew but not allow rampant piracy of copyrighted games?