Why don't we have an Open Platform Console?

Lately, this is all I have thought about. It's becoming a little obsession.

Console gaming is bigger than ever, but unlike computers, which are open-platforms, consoles are closed. Nintendo allows development for the Wii, Sony for the PS3, Microsoft for the 360. But in the end, it's really only a computer, and with dilligence, you can make it remember it's essentially a computer. Modchips and exploits sort of bring the closed platform down from being closed to being somewhat open. And God bless the heroic nerds that work for that cause.

Nintendo works hard to fight back against console hackers in their attempts to install things like the "homebrew channel." After a firmware update, hackers fought back and had the Twilight hack working within days. But I don't understand why they go to such trouble.

The Indrema was a much hyped console that crashed and burned back in 2001. It hurts me this thing never existed. It would have run a linux operating system and been an open platform, to say nothing of open source.

While Indrema never materialized, we may be at the point (in my eyes) where a properly marketed, open platform console could do well--with a casual gaming market, FPS and PC gaming fans--not only that, but it could give the indie (or homebrew, if you prefer) game market the legs it needs to stand on. Independant companies are important to any market, and it is going to be pretty well impossible for a small developer to get his game into the market on one of the big three consoles. An open platform console would allow these little guys to get their game into people's living rooms.

Steam is pretty much the perfect example of the way games are going to be distributed in the future. To counter piracy on the open platform, software could be distributed with a similar client, requiring the internet connection to activate. Of course, if developers wanted to release their game freeware or open-source, all the better.

I'd like to see this idea become a reality--an open linux platform where open-source communities can port existing linux software and transorm the console into all manner of crazy things. A bittorrent box hooked up to your television, or a small FTP server. Maybe hook it up to your surround sound and use it as a MP3 player. Hook it into your network and watch all of your shared media right on your HD television. I would personally buy one for Ben Heck.

Emulators will undoubtedly among the first things ported to this system. They are whenever a console is hacked. They can be tricky to get perfect, but they open up a huge library of great old software. And I don't think I should have to pay a bunch of Wii points or whatever to play Super Mario Brothers 3, which I happily still own despite my NES being in something less than perfect working order. But after emulators, where do we go from there? I would hope that some of the talented minds and communities that work on hacking consoles could move on to developing homebrew games so we can see some little guys starting some innovation in the medium.

If I had my dream team working on this, the console would be manufactured by either ASUS or Gamepark Holdings, Korean creators of the GP2X, which actually IS an open platform, open-source portable system. As long as I'm dreaming, I would also like Valve to create the Steam-like client. I would also like to see them develop some software for the system to encourage homebrew games, maybe releasing Half-Life as a free game with the system to allow modders to create their own HL based FPS games.

I suppose I will have a lot of time to obsess over this, as we will likely never see anything like this.

C'est la vie.


Natasha said...

Good for people to know.

EZG said...

I literally thought nobody would ever read this.

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