I've said it a thousand times in this space: The most important advancement in this generation of videogame consoles isn't Blu-Ray or universal HD graphics or surround sound, and it's not motion sensing controllers. It's online distribution of small-budget games via Xbox Live Arcade. The ability to purchase games-on-demand for just $5 to $15 a pop not only gives an audience to developers who wouldn't otherwise find one, but it also makes gamers like me much more willing to experiment with titles in a time when nearly every major release runs $60.
The Seattle Times has an interesting article in today's paper about this system, focusing on the upcoming XBLA game Schizoid, which I look forward to downloading when it releases.
Read the full article here.
And what a pleasant surprise on a day when news breaks that EA is trying to buy Take-Two for $2.0 billion dollars. It's good to be reminded that all is not mega-corps and stifled creativity in this industry. And as long as systems like XBLA are in place for the little guys -- the ones not beholden to a Board of Directors or unafraid to take a chance on originality -- to get their games in the hands of players, then good, original, sequel-free content will continue to come our way.
As for the EA deal, my fingers are crossed that it doesn't happen. Take-Two has a long run of scandal and has been in trouble for a while, but EA has an even longer history of ripping the soul out of its acquisitions and leaving them shells of their former selves. EA is where good development houses go to die. And there are too many good development studios under the Take-Two banner for this to be anything but a potential nightmare in the making. Great for anyone with a financial stake in the matter, bad for everyone who enjoys playing quality games. If this deal goes through then EA and Activision will essentially own most every major developer in the western hemisphere, with just a few exceptions. They are swiftly becoming the Ford and GM of the gaming industry and just ask those guys how things are fairing lately.