Is it about the hardware?
Two weeks ago at the Game Developer's Conference
in San Jose, Microsoft announced their plans for a home entertainment console, codenamed X-Box
. The industry, media, and consumers buzzed with what this would mean for the future of interactive entertainment. Certainly the technology demonstrations were awe inspiring. Even the estimated specs of the device sparked huge debates between Playstation 2 and X-Box proponents everywhere. But is that even the point? Are most consumers going to even notice if one console gets x MHz better performance than the other console? Will they notice an extra few hundred megatexels of fillrate here and there? Or a couple million more polygons?
It's the gameplay, stupid
If we've learned anything from Nintendo's shining success in the 1980's and early 90's, the correct answer is "hell no!" It's software the drives a platform, not the hardware. The hardware is merely a tool with which a game developer can create a compelling game. Yes, it helps to have T&L, UMA, and all these bells and whistles, but the simple fact is that hardware power is not the true determinant of the best console. This might come as a shock to people who enjoy arguing with one another until they're blue in the face on which console is more powerful than the rest. Not convinced? Let's look at it this way: What would you rather play? A well designed game like Super Mario Brothers 3 on the 8-bit Nintendo, or FMV bloatware like Night Trap (on the more powerful Sega CD)? The bottom line is that it does not matter how much power a platform has over its competitors. If its games suck, then the console is doomed.
Let's ask the experts
Now that we've established that games are going to drive the console war, who's most fit to determine which console is best? Some guy who spends all day on message boards and Usenet? No! It only makes sense that we ask the real experts - game developers - which consoles they would prefer to develop on. After all, it's the developers who Microsoft is counting on to help them take on Nintendo, Sony, and Sega.
Over the last couple of weeks, we emailed just about every developer we knew, asking them the same three questions:
- Now that details of the Microsoft X-Box are out in the open, what are your initial impressions?
- What do you think are the advantages and disadvantages of developing for the X-Box as opposed to other consoles like the Playstation 2?
- Would you consider developing games for the X-Box? Why or why not? What about the Playstation 2 or Nintendo Dolphin?
As you can see from the index below, we've received quite an all-star selection of developer responses!