Are we seeing a movement developing? No sooner does EA's Gerhard Florin say he'd like to see an "open, standard platform" then game designer extraordinaire Denis Dyack says he sees such an idea as "inevitable." Writing for the UK's Official Xbox Magazine (as reported by Computer & Video Games), Dyack argues that having multiple competitive consoles is bad for third parties, who have to make tough decisions on how to split resources, and bad for first parties, who have to spend gobs of money on hardware development to attract the third parties. Such an inefficient market can't sustain itself, Dyack argues, turning a one-console future into "a future we can't avoid."
Sorry, we don't buy it. Even with the market split between three strong systems, both first- and third-parties seem to be doing just fine by targeting content to the specific audiences of each console. More importantly, a single standard would remove the competitive drive to innovate, meaning the unified platform could quickly stagnate. The VHS format reigned supreme for nearly twenty years partly because of its near-monopoly on the home video market. Can you imagine if the NES had lasted that long? Thankfully Sega and the Genesis kick-started the competitive cycle that has led to today's varied crop of systems.
Dyack sees a "consortium of game makers" deciding on the single standard, but such a consortium would inevitably devolve into petty squabbles over hardware issues like type of disc drive, controller design and motion sensitivity, hard drive size, media center features, RAM and a million others. The result would either be a kitchen-sink system that tries to do everything and costs a bazillion dollars (3DO, anyone?) or a splintering of different hardware configurations that would probably look a lot like our current marketplace.
Sorry Denis, but it seems to us like a single-console future is far from inevitable.