What Games Are: The “Beyond Games” Mirage

Editor’s note: Tadhg Kelly is a maestro diversion designer, creator of heading diversion pattern blog What Games Are and artistic executive of Jawfish Games. You can follow him on Twitter here.

Here are some numbers to gnaw on:

2012 also noted a Xbox’s biggest year for party and games usage. Users enjoyed some-more than 18 billion hours of party in 2012, with party app use flourishing 57 percent year over year globally. Last year in a United States, Xbox LIVE Gold members averaged 87 hours per month on Xbox, an boost of 10 percent year over year.

That party series sounds unequivocally impressive, and, yet, usually Microsoft seems to consider so. That’s since it’s not. There are 76 million Xboxes out there, 24 million Kinects and 46 million Xbox Live users. 18 billion hours of “entertainment” (which I’m going to assume is mostly video services like Netflix and ESPN) breaks down to 236 hours per appurtenance per year. Put another way, that means about dual cinema per week per machine. Or, if we wish to only consider in terms of a Xbox LIVE crowd, 3 cinema per week.

Moreover, we consider a 18 billion series is soft, many as a thought that a PS2 would possess DVD valid soft. All it will unequivocally take for Microsoft to remove that belligerent is for wire providers to make improved boxes, or Apple to indeed publicize a Apple TV (5.3 million sole with no pull whatsoever). This notwithstanding carrying hundreds of partnerships, simulcast content, HD output, Sky TV in a UK et-cet-era. Those 76 million Xboxes took an extremely prolonged time to put together (the Xbox 360 is some-more than 7 years old). To put that in context, Sony’s PlayStation 2 sole 130 million machines. In a smaller time period, Apple has sole some-more than half a billion iOS devices, including some-more than 100 million iPads. And, not to be astray to Microsoft, a design is unequivocally identical for Sony’s PlayStation 3. Remember when it was a appurtenance that was ostensible to expostulate Blu-ray adoption?

I move all of this adult to speak about a sold misinterpretation that both companies (and to a obtuse extent, Nintendo with a Wii U) have depressed into. In a MicroSony paradigm, a universe is filled to ripping with feature-loving media customers. These “medians” wish zero some-more than to possess a singular device that serves we games, movies, music, amicable networking, standing updating, display off, books, podcasts, avatars, phone calls, video calls, holographic calls, interwebs, emails and so on. They’re out there, only watchful to be tantalised with accurately a right apartment of features, and they will come in their droves.

And yet, while both can speak as prolonged and as aloud about living-room strategies, throng strategies, battles for a vital room and relocating over only games, business continue to buy Xboxes and PlayStations to play games. While both can get unequivocally irascible about video cameras, connectivity, streamed media and so on, nobody gives a good goddamn about a immeasurable infancy of those features. If anything, they are voicing their exasperation by ancillary leaner microconsoles like OUYA. Yet a powers that be in Redmond and Japan are simply not listening.

It’s worse than only a miss of focus. The emanate for both is that they have mostly run out of constrained height stories. They possibly don’t trust that there is anything some-more to a gamer marketplace than they have already captured, or that they have no suggestive approach to attract them any more. So, like a Tom Waits strain “Step Right Up,” wherein he recites a washing list of facilities for a product (“it fillets, it chops, it dices, slices, never stops, lasts a lifetime, mows your lawn…”), for both big-M and big-S, life is about saying only how many boondoggles and doohickeys they can tack to their platforms. Those days of courting a lifestyle gamer, a ardent gamer and a indie gamer? Long gone.

All in a wish of attracting a median dollar that is some-more imagination than reality. Perhaps a many touching essay on this theme is Nat Brown’s “Stupid, Stupid xBox!!“. Brown – one of a strange engineers behind a console, who even dreamed adult a name – lambasts Microsoft entirely for creation low dives on facilities that nobody cares about (and, in my opinion, are mostly feeble executed) and navigation systems that are obsolete (again, determine – a Xbox dashboard gets worse with any vital iteration) while unwell to solve a apparent problems in front of them.

The categorical problem, as Brown sees it, is a ham-fisted approach in that Microsoft handles eccentric growth and relies on large partnerships. While we can simply build an app for mobile, inscription or PC these days, building for Xbox is unfit unless we have a lot of income and partner-level relations with a platform. Your diversion will, during best, finish adult in a cemetery dark underneath 100 tonnes of nonsense. Even a description of a Xbox 360 as seen in Indie Game: The Movie (which is not kind) is like some resplendent nightmare of a past compared to a complicated version.

Of march we do tend to infrequently intersect on devices, such as a PC, a inscription and a smartphone. This is mostly to do with possibly prerequisite (we need a family computer) or preference (why lift a walkman and phone when my smartphone can save slot space) or both (tablets). Manufacturers mistake this for a enterprise for features, concluding that there contingency be other markets out there that wish all of their things underneath one lid. But they don’t really. Regular users dislike cruft, and they actively hatred a prodigy of being jerked around.

The PC has always lived with this tension, and smartphones are display signs of it, too. These inclination attract several groups of people whose use cases are unequivocally different, and so any has gripes. For some, one interface goes too far, while for others not distant enough. The word-processor-and-email user only wants a elementary mechanism to do that and finds a techie side frustrating. The gamer wants power, and for a handling complement and other program to get out of a way. The programmer wants something opposite again. So too a graphics artist. Arguably a large reason because iPads are so renouned is that they are many easier than PCs, sketch a word/mail throng away. Meanwhile a gamers are still adhering with their energy PCs nonetheless couldn’t caring reduction about Windows 8.

While diversion consoles positively seem as nonetheless they could be a ur-box that sits underneath your TV and converges everything, that prophesy is one that has been in front of users for a prolonged time, nonetheless they only don’t care. When Sony rises a lid on a PS4 subsequent week, and Microsoft presumably does something identical during GDC for Xbox, we will know some-more about their petrify skeleton for a future. We design that both will be prolonged on waffle about party applications, generally Microsoft, and a overwhelming energy of regulating Internet Explorer on your telly.

My prophecy has prolonged been that a console that convinces gamers that it’s unequivocally only about games and focuses on executing for that is a one that will win. We already know that Nintendo has laid a large egg with Wii U (sadly), and that means a marketplace is far-reaching open. So a doubt is either a other dual will destroy to gain or not. Thus distant conjunction of a other dual vital height holders is doing that, that is because intelligent eyes are starting to demeanour to microconsoles instead.