Thursday, April 06, 2006

Egon: Don't cross the streams...

Peter: Why?
Egon: It would be bad
Peter: I'm fuzzy on the whole good/bad thing. What do you mean, "bad"?
Egon: Try to imagine all life as you know it stopping instantaneously and every molecule in your body exploding at the speed of light.
Peter: Right. That's bad. Okay. All right. Important safety tip. Thanks, Egon

Remember what happened when they crossed the streams? Oh yeah, good times.

It's happened. Streams have crossed! Apple OS and Windows on the same computer! A power surge of epic proportions. You boot up your computer and choose your OS. (BTW, this is legit, not the hack some dude did few weeks ago). NY Times article here.

Ok, so why do I bring this up? Because this has relevance for gamers. Follow me here:

This Apple+Windows thing is the final omen for the end of PC hardware differentiation. We have reached true commodization of hardware (It's ok, Apple will kick ass on design and function).

Now how far away do you think it'll be before consoles are the same way? Probably not very far from now. Imagine in the near future...

All major games are released on all platforms. Almost all of them look identical. When the online boom happens, most games will be played online. There's also a move towards online play being across platforms (Think FFXI with PC and PS).

So now we're all playing the same games online, at the same time. I doubt hardware differentiation is going to survive much longer in this scenario. The first signs of the end will come with price. You'll see a price war that will be bloody. (Think Dell lowering the perception of PC prices)

Someone will step up and compete on design and function (Think Apple). Ultimately, design will only last so long, hardware differentiation will be replaced by services. Using your Samsung game console, will you be an Xbox or Playstation club member? Well, it depends on which one gives me better services; cheap packages to virtual worlds, storage for my game items, better integration with my personal data cloud and devices.

Ok, sorry to go sci-fi on you but I hope you see what I'm getting at. Consoles are lasting a little longer than PCs but that's only because of the content for consoles is still platform-based and retail. Imagine if several years ago, software had to be sold depending on if you had an IBM, Gateway or Dell. That would have been a disaster for all involved. The same forces apply to consoles. I can't imagine it would really last much longer this way.

Online, it's the place to be. Come, drink the kool-aid.

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