Editorial: How and Why the Next Generation of Consoles Need to Better Integrate Social Media Applications

Posted May 1, 2012 by James Steel in Articles, Opinion

Social Media Applications are all about telling the world what we’re thinking, seeing and doing – sharing with our friends, family and the entire public our views, opinions, photos and videos just to name a few. Services such as Facebook and Twitter work perfectly in a mobile form, allowing us to utilise the camera and GPS amongst other features when we’re out and about, and since these devices are often carried with us 24/7, it’s always easy to hop on and share a spontaneous thought or photograph.

When Video Games go wrong, it’s generally hilarious – Source

When the Facebook and Twitter applications launched for the Xbox 360 a year after the NXE update, it was just the beginning of Microsoft’s new focus on expanding the potential of the system, and especially with the whole host of TV, Video and Music applications released alongside the latest Metro revision, it’s clear that the consoles are no longer just about gaming.

On a second glance however, Facebook and Twitter on the Xbox 360 are a little useless. The nice touches of being able to view a photo slideshow or see which of your friends on Facebook also have an Xbox Live Account (or vice versa), the core essence of being able to share what you’re thinking, doing, playing are completely lost.

The amount of steps to get this on YouTube is far too much work

Arriving in December of last year, the latest update to the Xbox 360 Dashboard did make some headway in integrating the gaming experience with Facebook, allowing you to share an achievement which you may have spent hours working towards, but there’s a lot more that could, and should be done. The PS3 has had Facebook integration for some time, pushing your Playstation Store purchases or trophy updates out to your wall, but it often ends up clogging up and getting in the way of what you really want to be sharing. Individual games have taken it upon themselves to auto-tweet on your behalf after certain goals are reached such as Uncharted 2 or Blur, but again, this is hardly a positive or constructive way to share your gaming experiences with your friends, and more often than not just frustrates your friends with a wall full of updates which aren’t personalised and don’t really reflect you in any way.

The main issue with the current way in which Facebook and Twitter are implemented is that for the most part they are completely separate from the gaming experience, and have to be accessed independently, away from the game you may be playing. Having the ability for the applications to run in the background, accessible from the Guide/XMB with added functionality such as screenshot and video sharing without having to leave the game would really add to the core experience of Social Media. Snapped a photo of a trick in SSX, or performed an amazing multi-kill in Halo, send it straight to Facebook, Twitter or YouTube to share with a friend. Just Cause 2 on the PS3 had a replay ability to capture the last 30 seconds, Halo has the bungie.net integration, and now with more and more companion services such as Call Of Duty Elite, EA’s RiderNet and Battlelog, they all need better consolidation and integration with the system on a core level to really allow a cohesive sharing experience. Current games do have the ability to share, but it usually takes too long or is over complicated for the casual gamer, often requiring a capture box. It really needs to be fast, quick and simple.

Video Games are hugely unpredictable and complex, resulting in unexpected glitches – Source

Much deeper integration into the core OS is needed if these applications are ever to be truly beneficial and fit into your gaming experience, and it’s a hope that I have for the future consoles. Back when the Xbox 360 launched in 2005, I’m sure not even Microsoft had ever dreamed of the feature set that the current console allows, and the same can be applied to the Playstation 3. There was certainly a lot of hub-bub around the lack of a party chat on the system, and it’s only recently that Sony came out and explained why it isn’t there, and why it will never happen. The idea of background processes can often be a bad sign for developers, as it can mean there’s less for them to work with, and it’s not something you can retro-actively change at a later date. Since Sony would need to assign memory to background processes to allow for Party Chat, they can’t do anything about it at this stage, since it would likely affect the huge library of games that the system already has. This idea of forward planning will be important in the next generation, as I’m sure both Microsoft and Sony are busy working on what their next system will be capable of.

By incorporating these features, it would give a reason for Social Media Applications to exist on the console, tying directly into your gaming experience, sharing with your friends what you’re thinking, doing, playing and experiencing in your favourite hobby. This issue also affects Last.fm, since you aren’t able to run it in the background while playing games. Custom Soundtracks was a major feature of the original Xbox, and while it did carry over to the Xbox 360 to work systemwide, the applications are still separate from your gaming experience. It’s most likely a tricky system adding in these background functions this far into the generation, but it’s something I hope the next generation of systems will allow for, since Facebook and Twitter aren’t going anywhere soon.


Image Source – Gameranx


James Steel
James Steel

James likes games! So much so, his collection spans 19 formats and near 2500 games. Keen to progress in both video games journalism and video production, he often finds himself tracking down games of all formats in the local charity shops.

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