The next generation of consoles will be available later this year and after a little bit of mixed messaging and Microsoft performing a complete 180 on what they set out to do with the Xbox one we’re left with two consoles that are now more of the same. Yes both consoles still have technical difference in terms of memory clock speed, controller etc, but for the most part we can expect games to perform the same on each platform in the beginning at least. This is mostly true for 3rd party titles where developers will aim to provide the same game experience and quality on both the PS4 and Xbox One. Each console will have their own first party titles that incorporate system specific features to help highlight the key differences and advantages that each has to offer.
Besides from the increased performance of each console allowing for better graphics, physics, animation and particle systems ,developers have access to more system memory allowing for a larger bandwidth. All of which allows for richly detailed and densely populated worlds that can be seamlessly generated making next gen platforms perfect for open world games.
The future of next generation gaming won’t just a series of seamless open worlds, but the new second screen experiences that accompany them. As we approach the next generation of consoles it’s becoming clearer and clearer that second screen experiences are going to be a big part of their future. The Wii U pinned its future on the second screen experience, but few developers were committed to taking advantage of a second screen, whereas now developers seem to be embracing the concept. This was shown at this year’s E3 where developers seemed more confident and were incorporating the use of a second screen into AAA titles where games use a companion app that allows players to contribute towards their personal progression or help friends while away from their console. Developers are also utilising the use of a second to screen to add more ways for players to interact with their games.
This year has seen a change in how developers think about the second screen experience where smartphone and tablets are becoming more than just support tools, and becoming a key part of the overall experience. Despite the popularity of being able to check leader boards, friend’s lists and player stats on the go that isn’t what the future of second screen experiences is going to be. Developers are happy to allow players to do that on their smartphones and tablets, but want to give the player new ways of using their smartphones and tablets that actually influence or relates to what they’re doing on screen or what a friend might be doing in their game. Some developers will release a standalone iOS or android game that will be connected to a console title where players can earn money or XP to spend in the main game some app games will unlock exclusive content that is otherwise unavailable. Sometimes these games will be released prior to a games launch, as a way of marketing the game while also allowing players to become invested in a game by adding to their future progression. These apps still serve a purpose past a game launch, as they establish a connection between your smartphone and tablet that allows you to interact with your game while away from home.
Ubisoft certainly embracing the second screen experiences with many of their major franchises offering a second screen counterpart that looks to enhance the users’ experience. The latest instalment in the Splinter Cell series incorporates a spider bot iOS game that allows player to earn money that can be spent on item in the main game. Another game to embrace this emerging trend is Assassins Creed IV Black Flag which will launch with an accompanying app that allows you to interact with a detailed world map, setting waypoints and viewing collectables like a pirate would use a map to navigate the seas. Not only are Ubisoft adding this feature to existing properties, but they’re also building it into the highly anticipated Watch Dogs and the more recently announced The Division. Both of which seem to offer even more ways to interact where in Watch Dogs you will be able to use an app that function in single and multiplayer. In single player players can use the app as a map for keepings tabs on the people and objects you hack then in multiplayer you’ll be able affect elements of another player game world. The Division on the other hand will offer more immediate interaction allowing players to jump right into the action anywhere you have an internet connection.
Ubisoft might be leading the push for second screen gaming, but they are far from the only developer to be embracing the concept of second screen gaming. Infinity ward’s Call of Duty : Ghost, Dice’s Battlefield 4, Capcom’s Dead Rising 3, and Bungie’s Destiny are all looking to offer companion apps in an attempt to enhance the traditional gaming experience in new ways. Currently the most common application for the second screen experience is to provide players with access to a persistent map or inventory without interrupting play. Other apps are used to provide control schemes for in game devices such as drones allowing you too easily move around environments to pick out targets and objectives.
The primary drawback to these companion apps is that you will have to put down the controller and pick up your secondary device which will end up distracting you from the main experience instead of enhancing the overall experience. On the other hand these app provide another way for someone else to participate in the game without becoming fully involved allowing a friend, flat mate or significant other to passively participate in your play session. Now that developers seem sold on the second screen experience could potentially put Nintendo at an advantage as the second screen concept is built into the Wii Us DNA through its tablet like gamepad. The main advantage the Wii U has is that the player only has to look down at the game pad they’re already holding therefore removing the need to switch devices.
Second screen gaming provides another avenue for gamers to interact with their games during play sessions while also providing a way to continue that interaction on the go. Most second screen experiences will most likely become popular as an activity for someone else in the room that wants to be part of the action without picking up the controller and being the protagonist. Now that most developers will be incorporating a second screen experience into their games via companion apps how are they going to be delivered and paid for? Will they be bundled with the game they support where the cost will be incorporated in the game price or will there be some kind of premium fee that is required to unlock access to the app. Companion apps won’t exactly be cheap to make especially when you think the apps shown at E3 were visually impressive and sophisticated enough to communicate with live games without any noticeable lag. Development costs need to be accounted for somewhere, as for how they might be recouped is anyone’s guess they could charge an app usage fee or implement some kind of in-app purchase system. Keeping in mind player will only pay an additional fee if they deem worthwhile which will most likely be based on how much influence it has on the main game and the level of interaction it grants the player.
Watch_Dogs Second screen