SteamOS, Next-Gen Gaming Consoles, And The Future Of The Gaming Industry

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Yesterday’s massive response to Valve’s SteamOS announcement confirmed many of our predictions and expectations but, more importantly, it showed us that there is still a gaping hole in the gaming industry. With countless gamers looking forward to the XBox One and PS4, there are still many of us wondering if this next generation of gaming is really going to bring us anything new. SteamOS has addressed those concerns but Valve still has two more huge announcements to make.

Before I get into predictions and speculations, I would like to address the next-gen console war as I usually do here. From there, we can jump into what is confirmed and what we hope is next. The implications here go well beyond gaming as we see some major innovations in technology and shifts from pure gaming to multi-purpose computing systems.

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Why XBox One, Wii U, And PS4 Have Already Failed

Now that the silly debates over always-on, always-connected DRM and used game limitations are behind us (thank goodness), we can finally focus on the heart of the next-gen console wars. To me, your gaming console of choice boils down to a few simple core issues:

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Y3B’s 50th Post And My Plans As A Writer, Gamer, And Entrepreneur

Hey guys and gals: this is my 50th post on Y3B – WOOHOO!

Now it may not seem like much to the more prominent bloggers, writers, social media rockstars, and master promoters out there but I’m pretty darn excited! I started Y3B as a sort of hobby but, when I realized just how much I love blogging as an extension of my passions in writing, marketing, video games, and creative pursuits thereof, I saw the urgency in ramping up my efforts. Here I am, world!

Prepare for one of my usual long-winded ramblings but, please, let me know if you can relate!

Finding The Perfect Balance In Blogging: Making A Living While Remaining Authentic

One thing I’ve tried to do, almost to a fault, is provide very detailed articles with little or no “content borrowing”. This is a raw, sometimes chaotic, all-original blog and, if I may say so, it’s more than most of the junk out there. Sadly, I don’t have the numbers to show for it but that is my fault. The problem I’ve also discovered is that, in covering all the bases, I leave little left to discuss. Considering the aforementioned, a big focus for me and all “creative engineers” is engaging our audience in ongoing conversations (in other words, retaining our visitors).

Blogging, like many creative ventures (i.e. video game and web design), is a delicate balancing act. We are charged with the responsibility of managing expectations and delivering on our promises. Our readers come to us because they found something they like and to NOT continue building upon that is a wasted effort, whether you’re trying to monetize or just do it for the love and passion of the experience. To that end I say, “Why can’t you do both?” Continue reading

Gaming Shop Talk: Microsoft’s Majestic Marketing – Halo 3 Zero Hour

Today is the day that many geeks and overly-competitive gosu gamers have been waiting for: the Halo 3 launch. For me, it is business as usual. I played the beta and wasn’t particularly impressed and I am not a huge fan of Halo to begin with (you’ll have to forgive me for that) but, whatever way you chop it up, this is a historic day. This is the story of a somewhat obscure developer that hit it big by allying with one of the biggest brands out there – Microsoft! It is also the story of how online multiplayer games really got put on the map. Halo brought a gleam of hope to those that wanted something different…

Halo 3 - a ray of light for a different type of gamer!

For many years, the online gaming community has thrived in great numbers on the PC front but it was mostly underground, cult-like, not very organic or viral. Some home consoles tried to capture the magic of PC gaming but failed, mainly because they treated multiplayer modes as an after-thought. Along comes Halo to change everything. Halo is, without a doubt, the killer app of the XBox, comparable to Final Fantasy and Super Mario, easily. It is all a matter of brilliant marketing. The XBox cultivated a huge gaming space that was, for the most part, a vacuum waiting to be filled by a big idea. Bungie was a quiet developer that gave Mac users what they rarely got: fun games that weren’t family-oriented or overly-nerdy. Marathon arguably started it all yet few people even heard of the game. In this case, it is clear that the Bungie brand made little difference as crossing over to the “dark side” (Mac users tend to dislike anything Microsoft) would have lost the long-time followers. Surely, the amplifier of the Halo franchise was something outside of the developers and branding, surely the market was ready and waiting for something to come along. Halo certainly filled void by meeting the needs of those that wanted hardcore competition in a not-so-nerdy package. Finally, an FPS that was fast-paced, revolved around multiplayer (both coop and versus), and didn’t have a complex control scheme!

Had Halo been released on the PC like Microsoft originally intended to, it would not have been as popular; instead, they attacked the console market and used college dorms as marketing hives, the gaming bees buzzing about about their latest gaming addiction. Why do I say this? Well, the game is a rehash of what has been done before but, since it was new to those that only knew console gaming, it was easy to spread.

The brilliance of Halo was never it’s unique storyline or break-through architecture. The technical aspects are all commonplace in a marketplace where ideas are just repackaged and regurgitated. The marketing is where the real money was made and where the Halo franchise became rock-solid. The console market was in dire need of a fast-paced online multiplayer game. Something that was easy to find (accessible), easy to talk to others about (smooth), and simple to play (inviting). The major gripe for people that dabbled in other First Person Shooter (FPS) games is that keyboard-and-mouse control schemes were too complex. Halo opened up the FPS genre to the masses and targeted the most aggressive, competitive gamers as well as everyday, casual gamers that needed something simple to enjoy with friends. These two segments spawned many fans spreading the message: here’s something UNREAL! Continue reading

XBox Live and The Online Multiplayer Arena

In one of my previous articles , I discussed some of the distinctions of the current next-gen systems and how the rules are different now.  Roughly two generations back, console gaming was pretty balanced.  Every major system had a substantial market share (yes, Sega Saturn definitely drew the shortest straw), pricing made the experience open to almost anyone, technology was still very simple, and online multiplayer was not heard of.  This was a time when a hardcore PC gamer would likely laugh at you for suggesting they downgrade to a console.  Games like DOOM, Warcraft, Command & Conquer, Corridor 7, Terminator Rampage, Sam & Max: Hit the Road, Leisure Suit Larry, and Archon were amongst the many games that kept us enthralled; naturally, the elitist PC gamer wouldn’t see a need to purchase a game console.

Today, multiplayer gaming, especially the online variety, is huge.  Game developers have realized that not everyone is an only child, social recluse, or yama-sennin living the life of a hermit.  This market was probably just not profitable enough. Microsoft saw this opportunity and took their success on the PC gaming market (don’t laugh) and ported it over to the XBox.  Adopting a pay-to-play model was risky but they pulled it off and now boast around 2 million subscribers.

Apparently, Microsoft had some foresight this time.  They saw the threat of free online gaming services and decided to implement a baseline subscription that is free to XBox 360 gamers.  It doesn’t seem that the full XBox library is currently supported from what I hear but I guess we’ll see when curiousity finally gets (and the price drops) and I get my own XBox 360.  I’m all about the online multiplayer gaming simply because I don’t see the fun is in beating some games unless the story is really rich with substance and dynamic characters.  Maybe that’s just me but adding an alternate ending does not make for real replay value.

Microsoft apparently has some very auspicious plans and hopes to increase their user base by 50%.  If Gears of War is a sign of things to come, we should probably get excited.  I saw the Halo 3 trailer and, while it was cute and all, it didn’t make me feel particularly excited.  I hope they have some phenomenal gameplay updates for the online multiplayer action!  But that is besides the point.  I believe that more games have to be developed with online multiplayer at the core rather than an after-thought.  Sure, you may exclude those that don’t have broadband access but you can’t please everyone!

With an XBox Live Silver account, you get everything a Gold member gets except the enhanced matchmaking.  I think the average person will not care to have a gold account unless they want the extra stats and skill-based matchmaking.  Now people can no longer say that they refuse to get XBox Live and pay to play games online.  Playstation and PC gaming enthusiasts alike lost some ammo last year and, now that the games are really coming in, it looks like the XBox development team really has gotten into the trenches – they’re ready for war, boys!

I am a big fan of the Tom Clancy series so I hope to see comparable ports put over on the PS3 and Wii.  Without quality tactical online multiplayer action, I certainly will feel sad and I know I am not alone.  Excuse my tangent!  The real issue is this: until game developers wise up and start creating sexy online multiplayer games, I don’t see XBox Live losing it’s stronghold on the gaming industry.

I almost forgot the best part: Microsoft has copied Wii’s retro emulator idea by bringing back games like Street Fighter II, Smash TV, Contra, Defender, and Dig-Dug.  The games have been tweaked a bit in some cases.  There are parlor games and board games for the more traditional, casual gamers.  For the old-school PC gamers, there is even the original DOOM complete with multiplayer support.  It makes me wonder if there are any plans to port over GL DOOM and other fun conversions.  It’d be cool to see all the mods come back, including that kick-ass Batman mod!

Yes, Microsoft is a scary 500-pound gorilla .  They’ve copied good ideas so well that they even have a point system like the Nintendo Wii has for online purchases and now they’ve copied Playstation Online‘s FREE multiplayer gaming – what novel ideas!  The bastages thought of everything.  Even the Microsoft haters have to admit that these people are pretty darn smart.  XBox Live is going to be hard to battle so I have a feeling that Playstation will continue to focus on stellar, epic single-player content while Nintendo focuses on fun for the entire family and the not-so-hardcore gamers.  When will the insanity end?  Who knows, who cares, see you online.

For a list of games on XBox Live Arcade, visit http://www.xbox.com/en-US/games/livearcadexbox360/default.htm – don’t forget to bring extra Jolt and caffeine pills.  It’s time to relive some of gaming’s best times EVER!

Want to enhance your online gaming experience and take it to the next level? Check out my article on the power and pwnage of being in a social gaming clan!