The Online Networks of Next Gen Consoles

As interest in next generation consoles increases, I’ve seen a lot of talk about what theoretical PS4, “Xbox 720”, and Wii U games will look like, but I’m honestly just as interested in what their operating systems will be like. One major aspect of that is the social interaction.

Graphics are usually the biggest indicator of generational leaps in video games, but in my opinion the defining thing about the current consoles was how users operated the consoles. This was the first time game consoles had complex operating systems. We went from just putting the game in the machine and turning it on to browsing digital libraries, installing updates, and maintaining friends lists. I think the next gen consoles could present the most major shift in that functionality: a “super” generation of these operating systems if you will. Just think about it: What do you think Xbox Live will look like on the next Xbox?

The first hint of this will probably come in the form of Nintendo’s touted MiiVerse service for the Wii U and eventually 3DS. They’ve confirmed that the Wii U will finally introduce traditional accounts for Nintendo users, but the company just had to put their own spin on things. From their initial presentation during E3 it sounds like each individual piece of software will have its own sort of message board where users can converse about that one game. Kotaku has already tried to compare it to facebook, but trying to look at it from the perspective of a Japanese company, I think it’ll probably resemble 2chan (Futaba channel) or 2channel or something like that.

For those that don’t know, 2channel is a Japanese textboard mostly consisting of brief, quick messages as opposed to Facebook or most message boards, and is actually one of the most populous internet communities in the world. Its offshoot, 2chan, was the predecessor to 4chan. If you’d like, twitter is probably the closest thing to a tamer English equivalent. Twitter itself, which I understand is quite popular in Japan, is also probably a good analog to what Nintendo is going for with MiiVerse.

It seems Nintendo wants to increase the amount of discussion and social interaction going on in-game, even with singleplayer games. Leaving messages for friends in-game sounds sort of like Demon’s Souls. Being able to access a message board while playing sounds a bit like how Shigeru Miyamoto designed the original Zelda so that people would beat it by discussing it with friends by the water cooler. In my opinion it’s a great example of building a whole social system around honest game design.

Hopefully with the Wii U’s year head start, whatever it brings to the table could have some influence on console gaming in general going forward.

Potentially even more interesting are where Microsoft and Sony plan to take XBL and PSN respectively. I think both of them are more likely to try to create full-blown social networks within their platforms.

No one has really made a video game specific “Facebook” yet, at least not one ubiquitous within gaming, the closest thing in my experience possibly being I think it could potentially make a console extremely engaging if they made social interaction a bigger part of it.

Imagine if you will, booting up your Xbox 720 or PS4, and being greeted with a news feed of what games your friends have been playing, what achievements they got, high scores they beat, game reviews they wrote, or screenshots they posted. If they could get people to interact with that OS as much as they do with Facebook it could be something pretty major.

I think Microsoft has the bigger chance of going all the way with this, especially with the likely cross-compatibility between Windows 8 and the next Xbox. I imagine it’ll be some massive MSN and Live-based social network stretching across the platforms – a new version of Facebook at the OS-level if you will. Sony might try to follow suit but I don’t think they’ll have the initiative.

We’re already seeing the beginnings of this kind of system with Steam’s upcoming community updates though. Steam is what I wish all the console manufacturers would copy for next gen.

Steam as-is already gives you a news feed of what games and achievements your friends got, and gives you vital information like how many hours each of your friends has played a game as well as any recommendations they’ve written. Later this fall Steam will supposedly give players their own hub pages Facebook-style with updates, screenshots, and the like. Each game will have a hub page with popular screenshots, mods, and forums.

In my opinion this console generation has been more about services than hardware. The main reason most people buy games for the Xbox 360 over the PS3 is because they want to stay plugged into Xbox Live. Hopefully all three console manufacturers will take this to heart next gen.


  • Honestly, I’m not mad about The World End With You coming to iOS instead of us getting a sequel, but only because I never bought the game in the first place and can now probably get it cheaper.
  • Bravely Default is looking amazing – probably the most excited I’ve been for a Final Fantasy in a while… and we still don’t have confirmation on localization yet. It’s also a bit strange that the 3DS hasn’t started to build up its library of RPGs yet. By this point in the DS’s lifespan I believe we already had a few.
  • A rare analysis at the tech behind Zelda Wind Waker:
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