Microsoft and Sony sit poised to soon release their follow-ups to the successful Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 consoles, as gamers worldwide wait while debating with intense curiosity the upcoming machines’ anticipated advances and features – as well as their price points. Recent speculations hover around the half-a-grand mark, roughly $400 to $500. But the new low-cost Ouya microconsole set to be released in June 2013 and the developing Steam Box from Valve, which will bring its Steam distribution service to a dedicated console for the first time, suggest real alternatives to the idea that high gaming value requires a high price.
Successful Kickstarter-funded games could achieve a wider release on home consoles if offered on these devices – consider Kickstarted games on Steam such as Chivalry: Medieval Warfare, or the fact that the Ouya itself raised funding through the popular crowdfunding site. In line with independent development, independent pricing of games – not dictated by current cross-platform price levels – may help encourage lower prices. Consider that in the past year a gamer could pay as low as $2.49 for the brilliant PS2-era Psychonauts, or $10 for the 2012 feel-bad genre-refresher Spec Ops: The Line, both terrific games. The greater the variety of choices at reasonable-to-fantastic prices, the greater the competition – and the more gamers win, as will developers who strive to create rewarding and memorable content. The potential success of these new platforms in widening the field for gamers and developers may even push The Three Bears of gaming – Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo – to follow the Goldilocks proposition of pursuing low-overhead digital distribution over decaying brick and mortar storefront models that impact everything from the environment to their bottom line.
The fact is, this isn’t just about saving money. It’s about the rapid revolution going on in the gaming industry today. More consoles and options for developers to pursue riskier but more rewarding ideas, improved profit-sharing for game creators, and real-time fan participation in both funding of and feedback-driven inspiration for developing titles – the wildfire effects of the democratization of game creation and distribution has already been felt in the past few value-packed years, through emerging networks for crafting and releasing new titles.
At the rate independent veteran-led game development empowered by fan-backed capital is increasing, the possibility of a gaming future filled with talented developers jockeying for gamers’ dollars with great content at an honest value is tremendously exciting.