Future of WMD

Posted: 2013/12/27 in Indie Games

The Xbox 360 will go down in history as a legendary game console. It stayed on the market without a successor longer than any other successful console (eight years), and is still going strong. It was the first system to roll out a business model for indie games, complete with a Microsoft-provided payment system, which is near and dear to the hearts of me and you (or you wouldn’t be here). It’s sold somewhere the in neighbourhood of 80 million units, and it’s not done yet.

With new consoles out, what should the future of WMD be? Though I do own a pair of original PlayStations, and a PSP (and I did briefly own a PS2 before trading it in towards my Xbox 360 pre-order), neither the PS3 nor the PS4 particularly interest me. I’ve always looked for something more with each game console I bought. Consider:

– In the early ’80s I favoured the Intellivision over the Atari 2600 because the Intellivision had a numeric keypad that allowed for more complex gameplay (“Utopia”, the first so-called ‘god game’, came out on the Intellivision thanks to it having more than a one-button controller).

– I then preferred the Commodore 64 over the NES (and Sega’s and Atari’s 8-bit systems), and later the Amiga over the Genesis/TG-16/Super Nintendo.

– I was won back to console gaming thanks to, of all things, the Atari Jaguar (yeah, I know). A spectacularly unsuccessful system, with fewer than 250K ever being sold, though it commands a high price on eBay thanks to its scarcity. It brought back the numeric keypad and again offered the promise of more complex gameplay. And it had “Tempest 2000”, “Alien Vs. Predator”, and a few other legendary games that I just had to have. And some games, such as “Iron Soldier” and “Hover Strike” did use the numeric keypad to good effect, so I was very happy with my purchase in the end.

– Then the Dreamcast. Ah, the Dreamcast. I liked the idea of a modem in every unit, and I liked the idea of the VMU giving you your own private screen on every controller. I had a great time in online gaming on “Alien Front Online” and other titles, and who can forget the bizarre (yet innovative) weirdness of Seaman where you talked to an on-screen half-person/half-fish being through a microphone you plugged into the controller? That was one system absolutely ahead of its time.

– Then the original Xbox. The O.G. Xbox was the first system with broadband internet connectivity out of the box (remember when ditching dial-up was a controversial choice?), the first system to make a hard drive de rigeur, the first one to support ripping your own music and building custom soundtracks with your own music collection, among other innovations.

– Finally the Xbox 360 ushered in new ways to communicate with friends, and the first to make digital distribution a big thing (Xbox Live Arcade did exist on the O.G. Xbox in a limited form in its final year on the market). XBLA introduced the idea of every game having a playable demo, of unlocking the full version from within the playable demo (something iOS *still* doesn’t have right, to my surprise), and ushered in an era of smaller, cheaper games. Xbox Live Indie Games (XBLIG) ushered in the era of democratising games, letting anyone (who could get their peers to agree that the title met some minimum criteria) publish console games, and providing a distribution and transaction platform for them, and all without buying a bunch of extra hardware as they could use the Windows PC, and the Xbox 360, they probably already owned if they were interested in Xbox game development. And in the same way that XBLA was introduced late in the O.G. Xbox’s life, only to flourish on the 360, Kinect was introduced late in the 360’s life and looks set to flourish on the Xbox One. And whatever you think of Kinect, it’s innovation is undeniable.

With this in mind, I was a whole lot more interested in the Xbox One than the PS4, what with the Xbox One introducing the idea of controlling your television (and, if you live in a supported area and use a supported provider, also your cable/satellite box). And that Kinect functionality is vastly improved for the Xbox One, which had me intrigued. And the cloud computing element offers interesting possibilities that I hope get explored more during the system’s life.

The choice between them became moot on Christmas Day when I got an Xbox One for Christmas. And, the truth is, that’s what I was hoping for. I had got an O.G. Xbox on launch day, and ditto for the 360 (and since I live in Canada, launch day for me was the system’s initial launch territory too) so I was used to having each iteration of Xbox right off the bat, and not having the One frankly felt a little strange. I’ve got to say, Kinect 2.0 is pretty amazing. It can track me doing push-ups in Kinect Fitness, something that bedevilled the original Kinect. Canada doesn’t have the “OneGuide” yet that would let me control my cable box, but I’m loving being able to control my TV with my voice when on the stationary bike or the treadmill (e.g. someone comes into the room and I say “Xbox Mute”), as well as my TV feed being integrated into the Dashboard and the multitasking of the One.

So there are still a few details to be ironed out with the Xbox One’s indie platform, but one is coming and the future of WMD may be somewhere in there. What do you WMD readers think? Stubbornly sticking with the 360 for a while? Looking forward to the One, or to another system? Let me know where you’d like to see WMD go in the future.

  1. ImTheMetalLord says:

    Very enjoyable reading your prospective on gaming consoles. I especially enjoyed the reminder about Seaman (I had forgot about that one) on the Dreamcast and I always share the same sentiment about it being ahead of its time. In fact just the other day I was talking to someone about it and explained that the only reason there wasn’t a Dreamcast Two was because Sega as a company decided to go in a different direction and get out of the console business and just concentrate on making games. This in effect open the door for the OG XB.

    As for my personal direction I’m sticking with the 360 for a few more years. I keep playing it even after they stop making new games for it and continue “jonesing” for the One unless I win it somehow. Lucky you got one for Christmas and I’m so Jelly!

    And as for the direction of WOMD. I still can’t believe you are going on daily with these reviews. Someone really needs to contact the Guiness Book Of World Records. But I digress! I personally would like to see you continue on the incredible quest as long as is possible. With not knowing what will happen with Indie Games on the One I sure would hate for your incredible streak to end but now I’m being selfish. I get a little teary eyed thinking about this all ending.

    • Thanks for your comments, Metal Lord. I cruised through Seaman when I realised you could say “Talk to me,” and Seaman would. It meant I could advance the conversation, rather than wait for Seaman to feel talkative.

      My mandate will come to its end of its own accord. When I run out of quality hidden gems of the XBLIG catalogue to review, so too will I cease reviewing them.

      It is hard to believe that I began in late 2010, and here it is early 2014. What the heck happened? :P

  2. andregurov says:

    I’m with the Metal Lord on this one: too poor for an Xbox One … too many unplayed games my 360, so the decision has already been made for me. I think there is a dual credit for the indies on Xbox and WMD here, both in that there are still worthy games to be played out there AND there is someone who has done an outstanding job discovering those games for us. I’m hoping the XBLIG continues to be productive after the Xbox One and that new games keep getting churned out.

    Eventually I’ll figure out a way to convince my wife that the Xbox One is a “good buy”, and hopefully that day will coincide with a world of affordable and interesting indies being there already. But if not, I do hope this site will let me know which indies on there are worth playing.

    • I have easily reviewed 2-3 more games than there even *were* XBLIGs worthy of review when I began, so the content creators on the channel have seriously stepped up their game. Mid-2013 is proving to be especially fertile ground, with there frequently being several games released in a row all worthy of review. But I still find the occasional 2011, and recently even a 2010, that I missed when I troll through the dark recesses of the Xbox Live Indie Games channel.

      And the Xbox One is an awesome piece of kit. Controlling the TV with my voice is awesome, and Kinect 2.0 is a substantial improvement. The plan is for the indie games programme on Xbox One to allow access to Kinect this time around too, though details on that are still sketchy.

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