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A Common Console Platform?

August 22, 2007

1Up reports that Silicon Knights President Denis Dyack believes we are headed toward a common console platform in which games written for that platform will run anywhere. Perhaps given Silicon Knights’ lawsuit against Epic he downplayed the possibility that middleware might play that role. He compared the future of consoles to that of DVD players, where a DVD will play on any player even though there are many models– differentiated by features other than the movies they play.

I think there is little doubt but there will probably much more of a common software platform for consoles in the next generation. I alluded to such a future in one of my first posts. The forces pushing for such a common platform are so strong that they are leading the the extinction of the third party exclusive even in the current generation. Without the third party exclusive, there is little reason to eschew a common platform and I believe developers will push console manufacturers in that direction.

The interesting question to me is what is the likely platform going to be? Will it be common middleware like the Unreal Engine? A common console operating system? The ability to use XNA with many types of consoles? And how will the affect the console pricing model and business structure?

Based on my earlier posts I would be loathe to bet against Microsoft not having a significant role in crafting the future console platform for several reasons:

  • The are a platform company. They design, promote and sell platforms. Sales of hardware and software are just manifestations of that core business. The Xbox 360, Windows and Office are all really platforms.
  • With the Xbox 360, the PC and XNA Microsoft will have the largest common platform in the current generation.
  • The PS3 is notoriously difficult to develop for in comparison to the Xbox 360.

Another question: If a Microsoft platform became the common console platform, would it even want to make hardware anymore? Wouldn’t everyone be better off if Microsoft just made the OS’s for Japanese manufactured consoles?

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