The lights are on
Veteran Member - Level 13
This year, there's been a lot of interesting news coming from the games industry. One could attribute this to that fact that it is now late in the life-cycle of the current generation of consoles, and that a new generation is already under way. But, I think there is something more going on this time. Somehow, the anticipation feels a little big bigger, and the stakes seem significantly higher.
With the launches of the Xbox 360, PS3 and Wii, gamers were already coming off of a previous generation of consoles that, while still technologically limited, had done remarkably well. It probably would be safe to say that almost every gamer has some very fond memories from that time whether they owned a Gamecube, Xbox or PS2. The market for portables was much simpler too. You either had a Gameboy Advance or PSP, and that was mostly it.
But even then, as early as the Sony PSP's arrival, it was clear that something was changing in gaming. You could see it immediately as numerous gamers began to hack the PSP and take up the task of exploring it's potential as an electronic device. And while hacking gaming consoles/hardware is certainly nothing new, the PSP really was the birth of a trend and a concept that perhaps now are coming to fruition in the new Ouya. That simple trend is one of customization. The concept... is freedom.
For so many years, even until now, the production of video games has pretty much always been the same. Large hardware manufacturers supported by a throng of software makers, would create products that they thought might appeal to gamers, and then they would try to find a way to market those products to consumers whether they wanted them or not. Gamers, though mostly loyal to whatever company they favored, had very little input on what they got. It was an approach not to different than the days when Henry Ford said of the then new Model T, "You can have it in any color you like, so long as it's black."
Decades later, that type of thinking has persisted in many businesses. Gaming is one of them. Now we have firmware updates so that we can't modify our devices, you have proprietary media and storage formats that limit your options, companies try to seduce your wallet with gimmick technologies like the Kinect and the Sony Move and "bundles", software makers insist that your game console be online in order to play their games. Oh, and you shouldn't be buying used games, because that hurts game makers.
But all of the things mentioned above focus on telling you what you CAN'T do. And one of the very big differences with Ouya that I see is that for once, the open source vibe of it seems to ask, "What CAN you do?" That is immensely important because that is how innovation happens, and it's what keeps things fresh and consumers interested. It's never been more evident in the world of business than now that people love having OPTIONS, choices. We don't like to be told no. We don't like to be locked in.
The rise of the casual gamer, the iOS gaming scene, Android and the indie game developer are all pointing at one truth. There is less desire for homogenized gaming experiences. For many companies, this will be bad news because they simply will not know how to adapt. But much the same way that the music industry changed, so too will video games. The reason is linked to the fact that video games are an interactive experience. Perhaps more so now than ever before. But in order for that interaction to truly feel authentic, the individual gamer will need and even demand a stronger sense of personal identity and control in his experiences.
If you are in any way familiar with Linux or BSD, you know how passionate people can become about open source software. But if you never have, take a look at a site called Distrowatch.com and look at how many distributions (versions) there are for both of those OS's. Now you may wonder why the hell would anyone need 15 different versions of Ubuntu or Fedora. The answer goes back to what I said before. Choices. Options.
There are literally thousands of people form small, tightly knit communities of PC users that need and want their software to do very specific things. Open source software empowers them to do just that. There is no big brother looking over your shoulder, monitoring your machines and restricting your actions. You are free to imagine, to play, to create. In my mind, I suspect that Ouya could represent the beginning of that kind of movement for gaming as well.
The simple truth about gaming in 2012 is that everyone is going to have their own unique way that they like to play. Some will prefer casual gaming, some free-to-play, some MMO's only, some will be traditional "hardcore" gamers. But the way we remember the game industry since the days of the NES, will change. The smart companies will adapt and innovate. Ouya just might end up at the forefront of that movement.