Humans are social creatures. Whether it’s carting our entire gaming rig to a LAN party, sitting night-and-day at a PC while our character quests, or strapping on a headset and laying waste to all your friends, real and virtual, it’s the networks that made gaming massively great. Yet it’s that very evolution, from LAN to internet, from game to platform networks, that needs to continue, that needs to set the stage for even more massively great gaming.
It’s fragmented, constantly changing, and not always fully functional
We’re in transition right now. We’re in turbulence. There are major players from Microsoft’s Xbox Live to Facebook, Apple’s Game Center to BlackBerry’s Games, and smaller players like Mobage and GREE. It’s fragmented, constantly changing, and not always fully functional.
I won’t kid myself by believing a cross-platform, open standard gaming network could come into being, much less thrive and become dominant in today’s market. While I’d love nothing more than to be able to game with everyone I know, on every type of device, no one with the resources to do it has any interest in creating a gaming equivalent of the web or email, and certainly no manufacturer would have any incentive to use it if they did.
A game network for every game
Every major mobile platform today has a gaming network to call its own. iOS has Game Center, Android has Google Play Games, BlackBerry has Games, and Microsoft has Xbox Live.
Apart from the platform gaming networks, there are a number of third-party gaming networks, offering the advantage of cross-platform multiplayer, at least when the game exists cross platform. Zynga, GREE, Sony, Gameloft, Mobage, and others all have their own gaming networks tied into their own games.
Yet there are some things I do hope we get, and soon. Like value. Microsoft’s Xbox Live Gold costs more than it’s mostly free competitors, and the premium features it offers are sometimes galling (like Netflix access, which we already pay for!) I’m not against paying for a great network — I’d love to! — but make it really worth my while.
Store all my games for me in the cloud and let me download them onto any device that supports them, as long as I’m logged into my account. Sync my game data between devices, so I can stop playing at one location on one piece of hardware and keep playing at another location on a different piece of hardware. (Realistic anti-piracy limitations withstanding, of course.)
Then do everything you can to make my matches, show my achievements, and handle my in-game communications as deftly and unobtrusively as possible.
In other words, gaming networks have to evolve into real, social, cloud-based, feature-complete networks.
They’re fragmented, frustrating, and fun as hell, and they’re oh, so close…
What do you want from multiplayer gaming?