Gerhard Florian of Electronic Arts has made waves by saying that we need an open standard gaming platform. This has been covered on here before. He says that EA are developing for more than 14 platforms and that one day set top boxes will take over.
First we have and open standard platform already; it is called the PC. And this platform is going through a phase of massive growth as a gaming machine, but not the type of games mostly seen on consoles. Where the PC is booming is in casual gaming and MMORPGs. And in those products that are part game, part social networking.
Second, standards for home machines have been tried in the past with MSX and 3DO. Both of which failed, mainly because the machines were too expensive. The console business model relies mainly on the manufacturer subsidising their console and making the profit on the games.
Third, a standard has a problem because we have rapidly changing technology which would make it quickly obsolete. Imagine if everyone was forced to still be using PS1s. The changes are not just in the power of the device but also in the way they are used. Gesture interfaces are now being introduced that make gaming a lot more accessible. The Wii and DS are prime examples and there is a lot of exciting new innovation to come in this area.
Fourth, the industry is driven by the competition between the platform holders. They take multi billion dollar risks to keep or improve their global position against their competitors. To adopt a standard would be to get rid of the whole point of their businesses.
Fifth, we are at a time of great platform proliferation. We are headed for a time when Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft each have three models. An older and cheaper home machine and a newer, more expensive model. All three will also have a portable machine. And Apple are entering the market with their iPhones and iPods. Also one day the mighty Nokia might finally get their act together.
So I don’t see the big three platform holders throwing away their businesses just yet. In some way it is a pity because an open platform has the huge advantage of getting rid of the censorship we now suffer from the platform holders. This censorship limits what kinds of games are produced and so holds back the whole industry.
So what do you think of the idea of an open platform? Is it sensible or stupid?