Console Cage Match

Not long ago somebody pointed me at a blog entry entitled PS3 misconceptions and spin, which basically says it’s hard to make games for PS3. I’m not going to comment on the content itself (nor on the inflammatory blog comments). I work on game technology at Microsoft and am inherently biased. Anyway, the article could just as well have been written about any game console. The console game development business is tough no matter what hardware you target.
The whole thing reminded me that consoles are successful for a variety of reasons. Just because a console has great performance compared to its competitors doesn’t mean it will be successful. Wii is doing just fine, thank you. And just because it’s difficult to create games on a console doesn’t mean the console won’t be successful, either. Witness PS2.
At GDC 2007, Don Daglow gave an illuminating talk on what really makes game consoles successful. His key criteria to winning the console war:
  • Price parity (consumers feeling like they get good value for their money)
  • Critical mass of good games
  • Reliability
  • Faith the hard core gamer
Don made sure to point out that there were many differences in the console war we’re experiencing today, mostly around social gameplay (MMOs, multiplayer, voice chat, innovative controllers, casual games and so forth), and the social gameplay aspect might also factor into the "winner" as well. Notice that neither "ease of programming" or "hardware performance" were in Don’s criteria list. As Arsenio liked to say, "Things that make you go Hmmmm…."
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