So let’s say you have a game on a single platform. You’re essentially limiting yourself to people on that platform and even those people actually need to be in front of that platform to consume your product. Call of Duty on the PS3 can only be played at home, in front of a TV, for example. Move your product out to a multi-platform environment and you open the doors to more customers. Call of Duty is on the PS3, 360 and PC but they don’t talk to each other.
The next step is to integrate those platforms and essentially become platform agnostic. In the CoD example, this really just boils down to enabling multiplayer across all platforms. But what if we take it a step further? Mass Effect 3 recently did this with their IOS Infiltrator game, where progress in that game affected your progress in the console version. WoW has done this with it’s mobile armory, Rift with it’s mobile lottery/chat machine. Heck, quite a few EA games have used Facebook to improve gameplay. They are all united through a unique ID, for the given company.
This integration is, more or less, at the hardware level, with each game being a distinct environment but what if we took that to the next level with integration between variances of the game. This isn’t new, as the first versions where New Game + (Chrono Trigger was the first to try this new mode out successfully) but that was always limited to you completing the game in order to experience it further in your next one. What happens if you’re in the middle of a game and realize that you don’t like your story and want to start over? In typical fashion, your accomplishments in one partially completed story are not found in another.
Some MMOs have changed this a bit. SWTOR is bringing in Legacy stuff but you need to trigger the events after a certain point (level 35-ish) to have access. WoW and Rift have account bound pets/equipment and features. Typically things that don’t have an in-game advantage other than meta. Sharing costumes is a personal thing, not an in-game power thing.
Taking this to the next level is starting at level 1 and having character integration between everyone in your squad. A mini-guild if you will, with a shared bank, shared achievements (with individual markers) and all the meta stuff being shared across all players. If my Cleric in Rift has done all the raids how do I prove that I have the experience in them on my alt Mage? When I /ignore a character, I’m actually trying to ignore the person on the keyboard. Same with adding friends.
We’re closer to this level of meta gaming than ever before, where the person behind the keyboard is identified primarily and then the characters they are playing. The logistics are there for it to happen – you already have a unique ID on the game you’re playing. Hash it, spit out another hidden number in-game and let people use that to track you.
Perhaps in a few years we can move along with games that interact with each other, a-la Mass Effect decision points, so that my identity with game company X is integrated into all their games. Maybe when I buy a new RPG it defaults to my saved preferences and character settings. I’m sure there are other facets that could move the game industry forward, so that the attachment to a game is deeper than the pixels on the screen. Certainly there are advantages for both me and the game companies – and I can’t wait for both of us to experience them.