Walk with me on this cold December morning, gentle readers, and glimpse into the mornings of Christmas gaming yet to come. Whether shadows of things that will come to pass or just things that may come, I cannot say. Only let the images speak for themselves, unhindered by our rude curiosity or even our unbelieving protests. The industry featured herein is the very same one that exists today, the consumers that support it are the very same that give support today. No great calamity has struck, no swift change, only the strike of the clock and the steady necessities of time. Look on with me at an industry yet to be.
Microsoft, having dawdled along in the very lengthy eighth console generation, has not forgotten its early attempts with the Xbox One. Their new console has arrived, simply called LIVE, and looks to install itself as an all in one streaming platform for every screen in the house. Its software can be installed on Windows tablets and computers, phones and smart TVs, as it pipes streamed video and audio anywhere in the home to any screen. A universal Controller is packaged with the small discrete console that will feature a small display and can be set up to interface with any of these devices remotely. In return, Microsoft has moved entirely away from physical media instead transforming their Xbox Live service into a web app from which to purchase digital content “Passes” for a “Continuous” period of time or a “Short” period of time. Streamable or downloadable, the service will eschew older models of game ownership for a subscription model that gives access to everything on offer including movies and music and TV programming. Aiming squarely at the Netflix markets as well as traditional games industry competition, Microsoft begins offering what once were called “exclusives” as “Microsoft Originals” with the intent of covering all entertainment mediums under one payment model. Consumer reaction is muted in comparison to the Xbox One’s launch, of which many need to be reminded. After a very rocky launch of hardware compatibility issues and miscommunications, service outages and overloads, the service stabilizes somewhat and many only shrug as they have become accustomed to such product instability at launch.
The systems still overheat.
Sony, fresh off of their easy successes throughout most of the previous generation, decide on a similar streaming heavy plan, but still retain an optical drive in their console. However, they warn not all major releases may be available physically, and it is later disclosed that physical discs are only for installation purposes. They initially waffle back and forth on whether these discs can be used by more than one console, but it is indirectly confirmed discs are mostly one time use as the console will require an online connection and that connection ties an “install license” to that account. Games and discs can still be shared through a friend list Games Sharing Program that lifts access to the content from the original purchaser while the borrower is accessing it. In the wake of Microsoft’s heavy push toward other entertainment sectors, Sony meekly announces a TV initiative and indie “music label” while touting “hassle free connection to services like Netflix”. The unsurprisingly named PlayStation 5 is still a large device in size and offers wireless compatibility with PS4 controllers in lieu of introducing a new one. They continue producing PS4 controllers but keen observers note Sony refers to the device only as a “DualShock Controller”. The console promises fully functioning streaming remote play with modern tablets, which many take as the official point Sony exited the dedicated handheld gaming market. Certain games made by bigger developers offer a cross play functionality that can interact with either Microsoft’s OR Sony’s console and a mobile version played on the consumer’s phone or tablet of choice. These individual developer promises are promoted by Sony at that year’s E3 only to have at least some of them fall through or get delayed upon release.
Some mobile cross play games begin accidentally deleting saved progress during the data transfer but the controversy of it gets lost in yet another major Sony hack.
Nintendo, Nintendoing their way through yet another generation, decide to Nintendo even harder this time. The Wii U gives way to the New Wii U, which features another modest hardware upgrade from the previous generation and finally a fully functioning online service network in the Nintendo Network. An opt-in-only version of the network allows of-age players access to something akin to Xbox Live or PSN circa 2010 with cross game chat and text lobbies and a simple friend request system. The console’s launch had long hinted at the connectivity between it and a new handheld console, via obscure patent documents and some smiling hints by an aging Miyamoto. The E3 reveal is bombastic, for fans at least, as it includes the launch of the new handheld console dubbed the New 3DS U as well as the announcement of Miyamoto’s “semi retirement” accompanied by a long montage of his past works, statements by industry celebrities sitting in front of white backgrounds, and the announcement that he is still working on one last Zelda title. In the meantime, he discusses at length his new eccentric Pikmin-esque crossover game where you control mini Nintendo characters in a puzzle/platformer/RPG with access dependent on amiibo. As for the new consoles, the New 3DS U functions much like a mobile Wii U gamepad and can be tethered to the system to stream off TV gameplay. While tethered it relies on the host console, despite it being a fully independent device. While untethered, the system cannot communicate with the home console as it needs to be in “Home Mode” to do so. Not all features and Virtual Console games are accessible while in Home Mode, only those available to the home console. Shortly after release, the avid homebrew community find a simple work around to keep the system in a communicated untethered state cutely dubbed “Mobile Home”. Nintendo lifts region locking, but still releases different content on different region’s digital stores. Since only one account can be registered to a console at a time, users would have to format their console to gain access to foreign storefronts. The homebrew community finds a way around this, too.
Sakurai makes another Smash game and claims there will never be another.
And with that we land back in the realm of the present. Be glad, if only for the moment, that we are here instead. Be forewarned and thereby forearmed by these images I present, and let not the stillness of your optimism still your fingers from commenting below. Tell me all your fears and doubts about these signs, tell me your interest in them, even. But whatever you tell me, dear, dear readers, let me wish you a Merry Christmas and good tidings to you and yours.