Game Systems on the Net

by Mike Shea on 16 October 2002

Internet based consoles and games will not work for another five years. I've come to that conclusion based on the following realities:

How can internet console gaming work? A few things are needed:

With a more robust cellular network infrastructure, game systems could include direct wireless connection to the internet anytime anywhere for $20 a month in service fees. It would require no or very little out of the box configuration and no network setup experience. Games would have to instantly boot and logon to the network allowing for the fast load time expected by console players. Games have to have a direct advantage over the web as opposed to single player versions. Why do I want to play a 12 year old kid from Taiwan who's going to kick my ass in Tekken 4 when I can beat up an unfeeling computer instead?

Highly social games like Everquest have a distinct advantage in this area. I play Everquest because I like the people I meet and there is a consistancy to them. I know who will be on when and I know what they will be like when I talk to them. The randomness of players in first person shooters hurts the idea of internet gaming, there's no one I will meet that I care to continue a relationship with.

Team based games with friends I already have over the country is an advantage. Playing SOCOM with Brad, Matt, Gary, and Mark would be great fun considering we all live all over the country.

Right now, dialup is not stable enough for good action games. Cablemodem and DSL is good but requires a router to hook up multiple machines, another $40 to $80 purchase. Network connections that require the user to know IP and DNS entries are too difficult to remember. DHCP is the best thing to happen to home networking.

Cost is the biggest deciding factor for the success of online gaming. Usability and entertainment value balance eachother out. If you make a good game that is easy to setup and play, you will have a hit.

Ok, enough Jakob Neilson / Gartner Group type speak. I bought the network adapter for the PS2 ($40). It came with a keyboard ($20) and Tribes Aerial Assault ($40). I had to buy a long network cable ($20) and a router ($80) to get it to hook up to my cablemodem ($50 a month). To get the keyboard over to my fat-man chair, I had to buy a USB extention ($20). Hooking all of it up and setting up the configuration took me about three hours total. After this I played Tribes Aerial Assault and found that not only was it a bad game but I liked single player better than multiplayer. After $220 in hardware to get the PS2 on the web, I decided I preferred playing it stand-alone. Online gaming is not ready.