When the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 were released onto the consumer market in 2013, console gaming entered its eighth generation. Users instantly noticed distinct improvements from previous generations of video game platforms, as both Microsoft and Sony enhanced the online capabilities of their consoles to create a more interactive and immersive experience.
In many ways, Microsoft and Sony had little choice but to develop their platforms to increase user connectivity. This has slowly become a central motivation for gamers, especially those who have been captivated by the development of online, social and mobile platforms. These titles, which are cheaper to access and typically more appealing to a wider demographic, rely on player interaction and have helped to create a new era of inter-connected gaming.
The Evolution of Gaming: Its History and Current Standing
If you trace the history of gaming back to early arcade titles such as Pacman, you will see that the opportunity for interaction between players was restricted. Not only were primitive games single rather than multi-player, but they were also restricted to a single physical space where players would be forced to complete by taking turns and attempting to beat each other’s scores. This rudimentary form of competition pales in comparison with modern gaming platforms, and therefore delivers a far less engaging experience.
It was during the seventh generation of console gaming that developers first integrated their platforms with online connectivity and wireless controllers. This mirrored developments in the world of online and social gaming, where designers were using web applications to enable real-time game play and social interaction between participants from around the world. As a result, innovative brands such as Pokerstars replicated offline past-times in the virtual realm and encouraged players to compete and interact directly with one another rather than going head-to-head with the house.
The development of online poker in particular has typified the rise of the gaming industry, experiencing, like Xbox Live, a boom in the early 2000s with the ‘Moneymaker Effect’ and has since advanced alongside the introductions of mobile, tablet, WAP, 3G, and WI-FI, to the point where tens of thousands of players are playing online at any one time.
Just as online platforms began to thrive on the concept of live game play and direct competition between participants, so too console alternatives looked to establish virtual communities where individuals could compete against one another regardless of their geographical location. As a result, the idea of human players competing against the computer became less popular and virtual, real-time communities of gamers such as Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network were developed. Here friends and strangers could play direct against one another and inspire far greater levels of engagement.
The Eighth Generation of Gaming and the Future
This brings us neatly on the modern day and in particular the eighth generation of console gaming. Building on the development of online communities which have shown their popularity in the online poker and roleplaying world, the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One have enabled players to communicate with others outside of specific games and titles. Players from across the globe can now converse with friends or competitors in real-time, discussing everything from tips and advice to more diverse topics. In this respect, the majority of console games are now similar to online titles in that they are supported by a community of players and driven by social interaction.
This trend is set to continue further, with Sony having now introduced a new feature for the PS4 where owners will be able to share their unique game selection with friends or others in their own, personal network. Referred to as ‘Share Play’, this innovation will open a new dimension in interactive social gaming and create greater flexibility for players in terms of the titles that they are able to access. This is similar to the sense of collaboration and sharing that unites online gamers, whether they are competing or working together to achieve a common goal.
The Last Word in Interactive and Immersive Gaming
Given that online and mobile gaming platforms have continued to evolve and claim an incremental share of the overall market, it was clear that the major console players such as Sony and Microsoft would need to act decisively if they were to arrest this trend. The integration of online connectivity and player communities has certainly helped to achieve this, while it also lays the foundations for creating an even more immersive console gaming experience in the future. Whether it is enough to maintain the tapering gap in popularity and revenues between console and online gaming remains to be seen, however, especially if companies like Sony are unable to reduce the cost of purchasing platforms and individual titles.