Now that the E3 and its aftermath is behind us, we can focus on what is really going on with these new consoles. Sure, the buffed graphical output and new IP are all that developers and gamers are raving about; but the real milestone here is social gaming. No, we’re not talking about anything close to Farmville. Let’s make some real talk about the future of gaming.
Sliding almost under the radar is the fact that all of the big 3 (Nintendo, Playstation, XBox) consoles have some sort of social interaction integrated. Namely, Nintendo MiiVerse, Playstation’s hooks into Facebook and Ustream, and XBox … well, we can talk about XBox in a bit. The big shift will not be in how gamers use these respective services, but how the big 3 will. Hint: they’re going to use it to track you.
To get the full context of social, one must step outside of the gaming sphere for a moment and see what has happened in the world as a whole. Over the past years, the use of social media has made companies like Netflix reverse policy (see Qwikster), forced banks to drop unreasonable fees (see BofA), and spark major political revolutions (see Egypt’s Tahrir Square). It was just a matter of time for businesses to realize just how powerful tools like Facebook and Twitter are. Now nearly every major business has a social media account; and they are doing more than just vying for more followers and likes. They’re tracking their brand.
Back to gaming: with social media, Nintendo, Playstation, and XBox can now track what fans and naysayers talking about. They can easily gauge player sentiment about recent announcements. More importantly, the big 3 will most definitely look to what gamers are saying to test whether titles deserve sequels, or whether certain regional releases should hit worldwide and share this data with developers. We have already seen this in a positive light with Nintendo’s announcement that Earthbound is coming to the Virtual Console.
We have also seen what happens when enough people leverage social media as a megaphone against unfavorable policies, like XBox One’s proposed Always Online system, which Microsoft has since pulled back. Speaking of XBox, Microsoft’s is the only new console for which no major announcements have been made in regards to social interaction. Albeit, it will continue the XBox Live service which allows you to connect and message with friends. Given Microsoft’s trend of scaling back the XBox One to look more like the PS4, and when they see how much power both Nintendo and Playstation can wield with social media tracking, it is a safe bet that Microsoft will hop on the bandwagon sooner rather than later making its social offerings more robust so gamers will user it more, and in turn Microsoft can track better what they are saying.
Social media is a powerful tool indeed, one that will shape the future of the consoles in the coming years. Unique is the fact that gamers will have much more power to affect the roadmap of software, IP, and services. What will you have to say?