Recently Facebook had stepped into the online gaming community scene by allowing developers to use Facebook connect on the iPhone. I know most of you will say something like "the iPhone sucks for gaming", "touchscreens suck", "Facebook sucks" or what have you. But the iPhone and Facebook can be big contenders to the gaming market. From the launch of the Nintendo DS in December 2004 to March 2005 Nintendo only sold 5.27 million of their handheld console. While there have been 13 million iPhones sold from it's launch in June 2007 to December 2008 and I didn't even count sales of the iPod Touch in there.
And Facebook currently has 175 million users worldwide, far exceeding XBox Lives 17 million and the PlayStation Networks 20 million. And plus Facebook isn't tied down to the iPhone meaning that at some point they could end up being the network used on some PC games or some other platform (GP2X Wiz, Open Moko, Android, Nokia Internet Tablets, etc). And last Facebook also has games on it's website, now you could say that "web games suck" but with Quake Live gaining the attention it did and new technologies such as 3D graphics in Flash Player 10, XNA games in Microsoft Silverlight and Googles Native Client along with the accessibility of the internet and PCs versus game consoles, there's alot for the Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo to loose.
So without me continuing on with numbers and information, I'm going to make a list (just like almost every blog post that ends up on Digg or N4G) of a few things that need to change in our online gaming communities.
- Screennames suck:
I find it unacceptable that my friends on XBox Live or PlayStation Network will always be displayed to me as FatGamer2190 instead of something normal like Bob Michael. Yes, it's not a big deal, I could just memorize all of my friends, but after spending time using Google Talk and Facebook, you get more comfortable seeing your friends actual name than some wierd combination of "cool" words and cryptic numbers.
This is one of the only things with online functionality that I can say Nintendo did right with the Wii and the DS.
- Avatars suck:
Ok, they don't really suck but sometimes I ask myself "Why did I make that?". Each console (Wii, PS3, 360) has an avatar system, but each also has at least one issue with their avatars.
Starting with XBox Live avatars. Why aren't there sliders for me to better design my avatar to look like me? Some of my friends have stated that they're not supposed to look like you or don't have to look like you, but having bought the Wii as my first console of this generation my avatar not looking like me is a bad thing, especially since unlike the Wii they're tied to an account that is supposed to represent me as a gamer. And what's with the small selection of hair styles and accessories? I know this'll be fixed at some point, but with the XBox avatars being my favorite when it comes to appearance, this is an issue for me. (Also what's up with the E for Everyone limit on avatars?)
And now to Mii characters. My number one issue with the Wii is the lack of profiles and a universal friends list. I don't mind friend codes but I'd love to have my Mii character attached to a screen name of sorts that friends can get to know me by. I won't argue about how Miis look like pieces to the board game Sorry, or how they don't have accessories, since Nintendos business model isn't to have the Miis compete with games sold on the system (example: If the Wii had the ability to clothe Mii characters, then what hope is there for EA to make a Mii enabled Sims game on the system), but seriously why are my avatars as relevant as game saves on my system, it's kinda boring that way.
And the worst of the bunch, PlayStation Home Avatars. First and foremost with Microsoft and Nintendo allowing their avatars to be used in games (and Nintendo capitalizing on this) you'd think that Sony would allow their Avatars to leave the boring
pedophile zombieworld of Home and get into a game that's actually on a disc for once.
Yes, I know Home avatars can play games, and that they can be integrated into games using Home. But Home shouldn't have to be the middle man for me to see a recreation of myself defend the universe or what have you, in a game. Also regarding game integration, being the most realistic of avatars, you'd think we'd get to see our avatars run around in suits/armor Killzone 2 or Resistance 2. Instead their left to wander around and play a game of bowling.
- Achievements suck:
Now I honestly like having achievements and trophies in games for me to be able to play games and feel rewarded for pulling some feat of skill. But at the same time, how comes in the end all I'm rewarded with is a number? I could play Halo 3 for a week and get a gamerscore of 1,000 and some 10 year old could play Avatar the last Airbender and get the same score in less than a day.
Honestly with all three consoles having some form of avatar system, I'd feel better if I got clothing and accessories for my avatar for doing something great. Like unlocking Master Cheifs helmet for clearing Halo 3, or getting the Soul Edge for beating Soul Calibur 4, it would be cool, more rewarding and would better display of what games I like to play to those who view my profile and not just rank every game genre under one giant number.
Anyone who's played GunBound should know how intimidating it can sometimes be to see a somone enter a room online with an avatar all decked out with items that do absolutely nothing, it really tells you he or she plays alot and plays well, other than just telling you that he or she just plays alot.
I've got to give Sony props for having a reward system in
online zombie worldPlayStation Home, sometimes creepy, but hey, no one else is doing it.
(and yes, I do know Microsoft is planning to reward players with avatar stuff for achievements, but it's not done yet)
- Profiles suck:
How comes to represent me, I have to use a picture of some video game character?
Now this is more targeted at Sony as Microsoft pushes avatars over gamerpics and Steam does exactly what I'm about to say.
Why can't I just have a picture of my face to represent me?
All three consoles have a camera of some kind (Nintendos being a game console on it's own) and all have the ability to store and view photos, so why can't I just use my own face?
With Facebook slowly stepping into this market, I can see this changing soon, but competition honestly shouldn't have to be their reason for adding this.
And also what's with the crappy about me sections? Seriously we should at least have a section for inserting a website url to redirect our profile viewers to a site that better represents us.
- Community sucks:
One argument I get into with quite a few gamers is that they say XBox Live is a superior service to the PlayStation Network, and I'm always quick to argue that XBox Live is really not much more than an instant messenger tacked onto a game console (Windows Live Messenger support backs this even further). Both services have some form of achievement system, both services have a unified friends list and messaging system. The only difference of XBox Live is the guide, being your #1 place to go for cross game voice chat, messaging, viewing friends, etc...
All in all, this isn't a bad thing, it's actually great. But the issue I have is that it doesn't feel like a community, and this goes for the PlayStation Network and Nintendo Wi-Fi also.
There are ocassional tournaments and what have you, but there's not much behind them. I'd love to see a news wall on all three consoles alike Facebook, that updates you on new tournaments and events regarding the games that you own.
Again I quote GunBound, but I must say when they had their world championship I loved it, despite not being able to understand what my opponents were saying.
I dunno, I guess the best way to answer this is to say they need to just have more events. But the ability to comment on, review and rate games in the marketplaces/stores would be nice.
And yea there are great online experiences when playing certain games on all three consoles (Highlights being Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon for the Nintendo DS, Wipeout Pulse for PSP, Mario Kart Wii for the Wii, Little Big Planet for the PS3 and Halo 3 for the 360) but those games don't define every game on the systems, and it's not something that can be fixed with a firmware update, but it can push 3rd party developers to making better online games instead of companies relying on in house or flagship titles.
This argument is the most difficult to answer though, because it's so open so I can't really impose any of my thoughts here.
- Closed networks suck:
Being a web designer that loves his field of work, I get excited when I find out a previously closed website has released an API for accessing information. XBox Live gets my highest regard for having done this (though that whole whitelist
thing kinda sucks). The gamercard 2.0 app on Facebook really kills my whole instant messenger argument just because of the fact that Facebook is a full fledged social network and it makes up for Lives shortcomings (I especially love the achievement unlocked posts on my wall).
Now regarding the PlayStation Network, Steam and Nintendo Wi-Fi, it sucks that they haven't made some sort of API for accessing data from these networks else where. All in all closed social networks are a thing of the past and with the web moving as fast as it is, these guys will have to jump ship or die.
(Also I do know that there is a web API for Steam, but it's unnoficial and doesn't work as well as it should)
- Cross platform sucks:
One of my biggest issues with the online gaming networks of today is the lack of cross platform games. I feel Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo should push developers to focusing on making their games cross platform when ported to another console.
In example, Pokemon Diamond and Pearl were huge games, and it's cool that their stadium equivalents can link up with the DS in order to transfer data but the horrible part is that the Wii version has it's own seperate online network that no one uses because more people own DSes than Wiis, so everyone that owns the Wii game is forced to not use it.
There's not much else to say here, I could list a million games that should've had cross platform support (Halo 2 PC + 360, Wipeout HD + Pulse, Mario Kart DS + Wii, etc) but I'll avoid doing so.
I'd say Microsoft gets the most credit for Live Anywhere, and Sony looses for not having the PSN Friends List accessible on the PSP (They boast about having 20 million PSN users, but yet they sold 50 million PSPs *shakes head*).
- Everything else sucks:
One thing I'd love to see a deeper integration with web services on the consoles, like Windows Live on the XBox 360 and Google on the PS3 and PSP.
Since Microsoft has been in the internet business for a while I'll point at them. Windows Live integration with XBox Live is a given somewhat. I can't really say I use Windows Live, but it's a huge network boasting 260 million accounts and to avoid further integration with it apart from the Live Messenger feature would be foolish.
It would be nice to have the ability to access music, videos and photos stored on Windows Live Mesh or Skydrive, share photos from Windows Live Photos (especially after having added photo sharing to the 360 with the party feature), profile integration with Live Profiles, Live Groups for making Clans, Live Calendar/Events support for scheduling game tournaments, And contact list support for actually displaying your friends names.
Then pushing Live Anywhere they could have all MSN Games, Windows Live Messenger games, Zune games, and Windows Mobile games use XBox Live. Now some of these are planned or have been already done but they're not as in depth as they should be.
Ala Zune users do use Live accounts, but they only get the screennames. There's no gamerscore or anything to really say that this is XBox Live integration.
I'd say this could be a nail in the coffin for Sony and Nintendo, or vice versa if Microsoft gets beaten to it. Especially since Sony has a deal with Google and I bet there's alot of companies out there that'd love to cut a deal with Nintendo.
Ok, I'm done ranting (lol, there's grammatical errors all over this).
What do you think?