Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Open Gaming Platform, a Bad Idea.

BBC News reported a month ago that EA is calling for an open gaming platform. The idea is simple.  EA believes that there should only  be a single set top box instead of the current three being put out by Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo.  In EA's vision Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo would become licensers of technology for manufacturers in order to produce this one open set top box. 

It does sound good from the stand point of the game developers since they would only have to worry about developing for one system.  Also, consumers would no longer have to worry about buying more than one system to play the exclusive games for each console.  So, this seems to be a win, win for all of us right.  But it will probably never happen.  Each console manufacturer seems to have a different priority for why they produce there consoles.  Nintendo is trying to be different, Sony sees there consoles as a vehicle to sell there latest technology and Microsoft sees the console as a stepping stone to get into the living room of peoples homes. 

I personally don't see these companies being able to open up to each other.  And even if they are able to come together.  Just think what would happen if we had one gaming console.  For one,  there would be no incentive to subsidize the cost of the console since there would be no more competition.  Normally,  each company in the gaming industry subsidizes there console and makes their money back on the sale of games and accessories.   But with a monopoly there would be no incentive to subsidize.  And so your next console may cost $900 (which is was a estimated real price of the PS3).  

Then again, as licensers of technology, Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft wouldn't need to produce there own consoles.  And what we could be looking at is a reinvention of the PC market.  Where people take a chipset from one or more of these companies and puts together there own version of this open console.  Which could actually make it harder to produce games for this open console since there wouldn't be any standard configuration that would necessarily exist in this model. 

Also,  if there is only one console and people are making money, by selling consoles.  Then this could mean that the 5 year life cycle that we all came too enjoy, would be over.  The incentive would be to simply pump out new versions of the open console so that they can continue to make money.  Which this all comes down too.

So really the real winners in this open console will be the hardware manufacturers and not the gamers or developers.  Then again, may be I'm wrong and we will all celebrate the day the open console arrives. 

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