The following is the opinion of Fred Wester, Chief Executive Officer of Paradox Interactive AB.
With E3 finished, the industry has the chance to take a deeper look into the next-gen consoles. Some questions have been answered but many remain, particularly pertaining to how next-gen publishers and hardware makers plan to battle tablet gaming and welcome more independent developers and secure more content.
If console gaming is going to maintain the presence it once had, the developers are simply going to have to learn some lessons from the world of PC gaming, which has done an excellent job of keeping up with the changing online community and its increasingly user-centric demands.
With this in mind, here are five things console gaming could stand to learn from their PC cousins:
1. Openness to Publishers and Patches
A patch is a downloadable file that fixes or adds to a game after it's been released. Most people don't know that it can cost something to the tune of $40,000 to get a patch up for an Xbox 360 or PS3 because of internal certification processes. These outlandish costs can make it tough for even the most successful game development companies to afford regular patches and fixes.
A patch can cost $40,000
This is discouraging to the developers, who may be able to identify bugs within days or weeks of a release, but won't issue patches because of the giant financial burden. Even worse, this leaves the actual players by the wayside, without the fixes the developers want to give them — held up only by the pricing determined by the console makers.
PC gaming is almost entirely opposite, with developers naming their own prices for rolling out patches, and some games taking on user-generated patches.
2. Fewer "Gates"
Why do console games have such proprietary membership systems, and why do they stand in the way of other services gamers may want to use? If people are already paying for a Netflix subscription and internet access, why also require them to pay for another online membership through their consoles?
This kind of "double charging" is already annoying to console users, and something PC users don't have to worry about at all.
3. Don't Ignore the Independents
Why wouldn't console makers go after indies?
If Minecraft is any indication of how successful an independent game maker can be, why wouldn't console companies be going out of their way to nurture the careers of up and coming developers?
It seems as though Sony is doing a decent job of incorporating indie games, even sending out free Vita development kits to independents to help fill their game roster. It still isn't a perfect environment for independents, but at least Sony (and to some degree, Nintendo) are recognizing the need to open the doors to independent development — something that has been happening in PC gaming all along.
4. Cater to the Hardcore Gamers
As consoles continue to become more sophisticated, they are starting to function more and more like personal computers — without the customization or range of capabilities. Instead of just playing games, consoles have all sorts of "media center" functions that are easily (and more effectively) met by other devices.
With iPads and smartphones, we don't necessarily need our consoles to stream music or access our Youtube accounts; we can already do these things on the fly, and easily connect with whatever screen or device we choose.
Console makers should leave media functions to other devicesInstead of leaning toward this media-center approach, consoles could take a tip from hardcore PC gamers and focus on more support for different gamepads and controllers, or even keyboard and mouse.
The hardcore gamers of the console world are probably more concerned with expandable storage for DLC than they are with a photo album on their device. They would rather have robust headset functionality over a clunky web browser (most people have web-ready smart phones anyway).
If people are gaming on a console, chances are they want to use it for gaming, not as a replacement for all of the other devices they use. What resources are being wasted turning consoles into multipurpose media centers, instead of powerful, consistently functional game machines?
5. Embrace Personalized Gaming
Modern internet culture is all about the "share." There is more user-generated content today than ever before, yet somehow this is remarkably absent from the console world. There are chat and messaging functions, sure, but what about connectivity with social media sites? The ability to capture and share screenshots?
Steam (and other go-to PC game sources) makes user-designed mods easy to incorporate. Mods for console games are virtually unheard of, and that's going to be a larger and larger shortcoming as user-generated content further shapes the gaming world.
Focus on the hardcore gamer
Console games, even online, still seem to lack the connectivity of PC games — even if you can play the game online and with other people. There are few avenues to personalize the experience, and share that personal experience with others outside the confines of the game.
PC gaming has a leg up on console gaming simply because the machines themselves are built to do so much more than just play games (and are often custom-built by the users themselves). If consoles want to keep up, though, they are going to have to take some cues from the independent and "open" PC gaming community on how to meet the needs of the modern gamer.
As negative as the above actually may sound, my hope is that next-generation console will embrace the hardcore community as well as the indies and continue to develop new concepts within gaming.
Fred Wester has been the Chief Executive Officer of Paradox Interactive AB since April 2009. In this current role, Fred is responsible for all sales and marketing related activities, the complete Paradox portfolio of games as well as several business development projects for Paradox Interactive, which sounds boring but isn't. He joined Paradox in 2003, served as Director of Publishing since 2004 and Executive Vice President since January 2007. Prior to joining Paradox Interactive, he co-founded and acted as Director of Sales at consulting company Protein Media. He holds a degree in International Management from the Gothenburg School of Economics and Commercial Law. He bathes once a year in an icy lake, and has never been arrested, as all lawmen fear him.
The header image comes from our recent series of features about building a PC for the first time.