PlayStation Meeting Impressions: Will Social Networks Define Next Gen?

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For at least months now a major discussion I’ve seen going on concerns what will actually define the new and upcoming game platforms as “next generation.” Maybe a lot of people don’t agree, but I think the meaning of that changed fundamentally upon the start of the current console generation.

One thing I liked about Sony’s PS4 conference is that they showed they clearly understand that graphics aren’t the only, or even really the most important marker of a new console generation, not anymore. They showed shiny new graphics, but focused a lot more time on what I think is pretty much going to be the defining feature of “next gen,” social networking.

I’m still a bit surprised that I haven’t really seen many other people admit that the main defining change that current gen consoles brought about was the introduction of real operating systems and online infrastructure. In a single generation the amount of things you can do when you turn on a console exploded from just throwing the disc in and playing the game (this is why I honestly consider the Wii to be current gen). I always imagined that a similar change would happen again to herald next gen.

Steam and Nintendo have already taken the first steps with Steam’s expanded community features and MiiVerse respectively. More than once I’ve already used pictures and text to tell stories of what happened to me in a game on Steam’s Community. Every time I’m curious about a game, I usually check my Steam friends list to see who has the most hours logged on it and ask them directly.

Sony seems to be going even further in the same direction with PlayStation Network on the PS4 with live streaming and other features designed to let you share your playing experience with friends. I wouldn’t be surprised if Microsoft also plans to evolve Xbox Live into its own social network with the next Xbox, or perhaps merge it with a larger Windows 8-based social network.

Actual games will of course matter, and I imagine that at E3 we’ll finally start to see what next generation hardware will do for games going forward. However, the way development is now, I see almost all third party games next gen being multiplatform, so there won’t be a huge number of exclusives separating them.

That’s mostly just gonna be first party, and that’s only gonna really matter if next gen introduces a massive, platform-defining first party hit that drives hardware sales. Halo and Gran Turismo ain’t gonna be ready this year, and I don’t see the KillZone or Infamous franchises bringing in the same numbers. We’ll see what effect Mario Kart has. That first party hit would have to be either something else (new) or a fall 2014 game.

The current console generation, as much as anything else, has been a war between connected gaming networks — the Xbox’s dominance in English-speaking territories is based on consumers’ preference for Xbox Live. I think the upcoming console generation is gonna be a war between gaming social networks. The one with the most popular and forward-thinking features might end up getting the most sales in multiplatform games. Whatever happens, for Sony to really succeed, what they’re going for now will have to compare so favorably to whatever Microsoft unveils for XBL that it tears gamers away from that service.

BULLETS:

  • About time Konami: http://flip.it/by7eo 
  • Where in the heck does a non-DOTA veteran find the time to get over DOTA2’s insane learning curve? What’s gonna happen when/if Valve finally takes the game out of beta and the servers flood with noobs?
  • The PC version of Crysis 3 looks freaking ridiculous: http://shar.es/YRi3K It’s gonna be interesting seeing comparisons between it and KillZone Shadow Fall.
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3 thoughts on “PlayStation Meeting Impressions: Will Social Networks Define Next Gen?

  1. DriveClub looked interesting, but I’m sure that Microsoft will unveil a new Project Gotham Racing game for the new Xbox and knock my socks off.

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