Con-soul Searching: The Great Divide
I had an idea the other day. I’m not sure how good of an idea it is, but it has been interesting to think about. What if every game was a console exclusive? Nothing first party would change. Those games are already exclusive to their respective developers anyway. What it really comes down to is third party development. Imagine a world where third party developers had to choose one system at the start of development and stick with it till their game was finished. I’m sure you can already think of several reasons to why it’s a bad idea but at the same time you can probably think of the advantages it would bring. Now you know why I’m not sure how good of an idea it is.
The main reason I like this idea so much is how it would end sloppy ports. Countless games have suffered because a bad version was rushed out too soon. Bayonetta anyone? How much better would third party games be if they were design with only one system in mind? No more worrying about the graphics on 360 verses PS3. Games could be designed in a very specific fashion instead of having to be left in a limbo between two different set of system requirements. Better yet, in the cases where every version of a game is good, all the better the game will be by being developed for one system. Studios that can simultaneously build different versions of a game are amazing. So if they were able to devote all those resources to a single version, I think the game would be all the better for it.
When building a game with multiplayer, studios are essentially building two separate games in the first place. They may look the same on the surface but in reality two separate teams are typically used to build the single player and multiplayer of a game. Now imagine that same team is designing a 360 and PS3 version to launch at the same time. Again, the 360 and PS3 have similarities but they are very different to develop for. So now your team has been divided again into four smaller teams. It’s a miracle multi-platform games are ever finished at all.
So why do companies make multiplatform games? Well, as you can imagine games are expensive to make. So companies try to make their product available to as many customers as possible with the hope that more people will buy it. Sadly, as we have seen, some versions fair better than others. Ideally a game would be developed for one system to completion and then specifically built again for another system. However that presents a few problems as well. It takes about two years to make a game. Now the first version produced may be up to date with game design by the time a second version is built two years later, it could be so different that it would hardly be the same game anymore. There is also a human factor to consider. Two years is a long time and sometimes you need a change to keep your job interesting. However some studios, PopCap for example, do this exact thing and their games are stellar for it.
I think making all games console exclusive would go a long way to strengthen third party to first party relationships as well. If Activision told Nintendo the next Call Of Duty game was going to be exclusive to the Wii, Nintendo would be far more cooperative with the development than if the game was going to appear on all systems. The same goes for Sony and Microsoft as well. Oddly enough, it’s the huge third parties like Activision and EA that can afford to invest the resources into multiplatform development. In the case of Call Of Duty, it is basically built with enough people to built four separate games (instead of one team divided four times); and COD’s quality shines because of it.
I realize this is a pipe dream and I could just as easily write an article arguing why all games being exclusive is a bad idea. I suppose the idea isn’t too far from the one console future people keep talking about. With one console to develop for, resources wouldn’t have to be divided and different system specifications would not have to be considered. I suppose we will never have the XTendoStation but it is a cool idea to think about. Plus it gives me a reason to fill a page in Word.