Twitter didn’t exist when the last console generation began. Facebook only came online a few months before the Xbox 360 released. MySpace rose up and fell behind even as the 7th-gen boxes found their sweet spots.
Now, social integration is the central, defining feature for the 8th generation consoles.
The momentum can’t be undersold. This is an industry that immediately adopted spectator mode as a standard once League of Legends demonstrated its popularity. Video games are a service industry. At its best and most successful, they identify what players want and provide it.
Moreover, Internet-savvy people in general and the gaming community in particular have become a group of content providers. Whether it’s a 10-second Vine, a 140 character thought, or a 20-minute YouTube video, people are finding their voices. To say nothing of the thousands of modders happily creating in-game content.
The surprising level of disappointment when Microsoft let slip that Xbox One’s highly touted Twitch streaming wouldn’t be available at launch suggests the next-gen consoles were onto something when they made their integration choices. Creating and sharing content is now locked in the gamer DNA. We want to do something awesome. We want others to see it, enjoy it, comment on it, and share it out further themselves. And from the core design outward, both the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One put a heavy emphasis on making it easy to do exactly that at the touch of a button or at your verbal command.
It’s also in their own best interests. Gamers wasted no time advertising PS4’s games all over Twitter with uploaded screenshots, conveniently tagged in-app with #PS4share. Early indications suggest videos created on Xbox One might include a hard-coded “Created with Xbox One” title card.
But commercial considerations aside, more than anything, it’s clear this is something people want. The weak Facebook integration of the last generation is gone. Now it’s ridiculously easy to update your status with pictures, not just with words. Even better, Twitch streaming your live game — available on PS4, due sometime next year on Xbox One — basically gives every game a spectator mode and every gamer an opportunity to share that spectacle with whatever audience they can attract. Those opportunities now fall to everyone who wants them. It should make charity runs like Extra Life very interesting next year.
Best of all, we can officially retire the “Pics or it didn’t happen!” meme.
It will take a while before sharing content like this becomes second nature, but that instinct will grow fast. The glut of sharing might even eventually make the old Facebook Farmville notices and game invites seem less intrusive by comparison, but this water will eventually find its own level. New avenues will open. New stars will be born.
And as all these in-game images and footage propagates through the social media, it will also accelerate the mainstreaming of video games.
Maybe that’s the innovation that’s been hidden in the new console generation all along. If the last generation brought easy-to-access multiplayer to the forefront, the next one will be about bringing players together in a very different way…one where they share their hobby not just with the community, but with everyone, everywhere.