After trying out the new Steam community for a bit, I’m starting to understand why so many people spend all their time on Facebook. This is honestly a future I could see occurring for console games.
If you go into Steam now and op-in to the new community beta, the community home page becomes a social feed of your friends’ status updates, screenshots, videos, and discussions. Each game also now has a hub with basically the same thing pertaining to that game. Steam is trying to become Facebook for PC gamers.
I don’t know how much people actually want this, but along with the upcoming Greenlight I think it could fundamentally change the way Steam’s customer base interacts with the service and each other this year. Game consoles have already made the jump from just playing games to becoming media ecosystems in themselves, but they aren’t quite complete social ecosystems yet. I think that’s one thing they could end up becoming next generation.
The Xbox 360 and PS3 were probably locking down their specs too late to truly accommodate social networking infrastructure . The PS3 itself doesn’t have many of Xbox Live’s features because Sony didn’t plan ahead enough to allot enough of the PS3’s memory to it. Neither console fully takes advantage of Facebook or Twitter either. There’s no way to know what Sony and Microsoft are planning for what their online services are going to be like on their next consoles, but they’re probably taking social networking into account.
What Steam is doing now is providing a lot of useful advancements that I think could be great for consoles. On the game hub for Dark Souls there is already at least one guy starting a thread offering to share his expertise from having played the PS3 version to anyone willing to ask questions. While the community page isn’t part of Steam’s in-game overlay yet, it’s not hard to access it from there. Commenting on screenshots and status updates tagged for specific games is just another part of all this.
It seems like Nintendo’s MiiVerse is driving towards something similar to Steam’s new game hub discussions. It’ll be amazing if I can pause any Wii U game I’m playing and instantly boot up a thread on MiiVerse about that game.
For Sony and Microsoft, it would be like incorporating the official PlayStation and Xbox forums into each respective console’s interface. Sure Steam has the advantage of keyboards and even the Wii U GamePad will have a keyboard interface, so I guess Sony and Microsoft would have to figure that out for normal controllers. If they got it all right though, I think it could be the next step for how gamers experience a console.
People already value the Xbox 360 primarily for how it allows them to connect with friends on Live. Turning Live into a full-blown social network of its own could very well be the next part of the process. Add to that Microsoft’s new media-hub focus and connection with Windows 8, and they could have a massive ecosystem on their hands for the next generation of gaming.