Conformity. It’s a relatively soothing word that rolls off of the tongue, as it should. Conformity is this idea of fitting in by following a set of rules or guidelines that define what is normal and what is not. Conformity is that innate voice in your head that see’s a pattern and feels a sense of awkwardness for not falling into place with that pattern. We all do it, we are practically conditioned to do it. It would only take a short trip down the Internet rabbit hole to find videos of people facing the wrong direction in an elevator because everyone else was doing it. We’ve seen videos of people paying for VIP seats at a bus stop because the only time that it’s okay to break the mold of conformity it’s to rise to a new tier in the same social structure. Why ,after all, would we conform to a peasants life when we can pay to live like a nobleman?
The interesting thing about conformity is that it plays a large role in our everyday lives. Without getting too political right now, it effects how most people vote, or who they follow, or where they place their bets. Time and time again we hear someone go against their better judgement simply because the majority of their circle has built momentum in a particular direction. Many voters chose their candidate based on the statistical winner, not who they felt would be the best leader. Who wants to show up to a party and tell their friends they voted for the other guy? They are still your friends and colleagues but suddenly you might feel one step removed from the popular crowd, and many people take serious issue with that on a personal level.
Consoles aren’t very different from the political race. Consoles, in many ways, live and die by their ability to convert and conform buyers. For as long as the console war has existed we have seen advertisements tell us which is the coolest and most popular console. We’ve seen people making appearances on late night talk shows and CEO’s showing up in daily news segments to talk about the next console to take over Christmas this year and the next. We are flooded with statements, quotes, and quips from industry veterans about where everyone will be and that we shouldn’t be left out. For many people; most in fact, who aren’t fortunate enough to buy all consoles, there is no absolution from buying the wrong one, and there is no reset until the next generation. This is a strong driving force in people’s buying decisions, but the Console War is about to get really muddy.
Consoles have been adopting the PC model more and more. We are seeing consoles become more like PC and PC’s trying to create ecosystems that are more like consoles. While Steam has done probably one of the best jobs of hearding PC gamers together, there is a strong sense of unity on the PC platform. A weaker PC is still a PC, and while consoles continue to hold back the absolute peak potential for PC gaming they serve to unite PCs by keeping the requirements relatively sane for consumers. It has allowed PC players to more easily conform. This doesn’t mean the console war is over though.
Microsoft has recently announced Scorpio and Sony has unofficially announced Neo. For the player who simply has to own every piece of hardware, this announcement will change nothing. They will buy these consoles either way. The confusion will come from the mob rule and the urge to conform. For game developers, conformity is a good thing. It means that developers can focus on a small handful of platforms and build the best version of their game possible. As the platforms increase, so do the demands. Each platform has it’s quirks and features that make it unique and suddenly developers are on the hook to produce a product that feels like it was made for that platform.
Rendering in 4K is not a huge deal for 3D games, as long as the GPU power is there, but this will have a momentous ripple effect on 2D games such as classic fighters or pixel art games. Developing 2D games for the 4K generation won’t be as simple as rendering to a larger device context, it means all of the content created by those developers now needs to be 4x more detailed and may require 2x-4x the man-months to finish the art assets alone. As the processing power increases in these mid-generation updates we are likely to see a splintering of the console demographic and a steep decline in classic experiences.
Conformity in the console space is not bad, it helps to build a stronger concentration of consumers who own one platform and reduces development risks. Now we have a market that will balloon from 6 consoles – Xbox One, PS4, WiiU, 3DS, New 3DS, and Vita – to 9 consoles after adding Scorpio, Neo, and the NX. Whatever Nintendo has planned for the NX, I hope they plan to merge their consumers because Microsoft and Sony seem hellbent on breaking us all apart.
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