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I have heard about the GPX, but i don't really think the embedded market is mature enough in terms of performance, but what about the home console market ?

I'm not talking about last-generation graphics, because that would be economically impossible, but what about an hardware as fast as a playstation 2/Xbox 1/Gamecube ?

For games, the trick would be to ask some editors to recompile their best sellers for the new machine: those games being from the PSX age or even older console generations, I think this would have a very low cost job and they could still make some good profit, but I need to know if this is doable technically, considering the architecture which can be quite exotic.

Do you think it would be a viable project to talk about to investors ?

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Might want to consider making the platform very cheap. It might be able to tap a market or integrate into the market very well if the console is cheap and if the games are cheap as well. (not dirt cheap, but cheaper than PS3 games that are like $60, if I saw a decent looking game for $25-30 that was new, I'd buy it) –  Michael Coleman Jan 8 '11 at 21:31
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Hasn't the Dreamcast been the 'open console' of choice for the past decade? –  espais Jan 11 '11 at 12:03
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3 Answers

up vote 9 down vote accepted

A truly "open console" is an oxymoron. What consoles bring to the table, for developers and users, is a standardized platform - a fixed set of well-understood hardware and software. For developers this means less time testing and less worksforme bug reports. For users this means guaranteed compatibility and a base level of stability and quality.

What both parties give up to the platform owner for these benefits is control. For developers, they agree to be bound by approved APIs, and give up some revenue from the product. For users, they agree to only install licensed and supported software.

One could talk about "open consoles" in the 70s and 80s, when the difference in price and power between a "gaming computer" and a "real computer" was enormous. But today, it's not meaningful. What defines a console platform is the lack of openness, in exchange for those benefits. Right now we even have platforms running the gamut of tradeoffs - PC on one end, Wii/PS3/Xbox 360 retail on the other. On the more open platforms, like the Android, we can see the compatibility and user support problems of the PC emerging.

But the value of each platform in that continuum is based on how much or how little control it takes away from you in exchange for simplicity of development/use - and with so many platforms, consumers and developers finally have the ability to vote with their code and dollars as to how much openness they want. Just don't be too surprised if, for the mass market, it's less open than PC enthusiasts are used to.

There is another, wholly useless, way to think about "open consoles", and that's in terms of hardware fetishism. (And it's what I see from a lot of people interested in the GP2X/Pandora/etc., as well as PS3 and DS homebrew.) Playing around with novel low-level hardware is fun. But it's really a secondary characteristic of what defines a console, driven by the desire to drive down component costs and size and power consumption, and to increase platform lock-in, and unfettered by the need for Win32-on-x86 compatibility. If this is why you want to do "console development", you're probably better off getting an Arduino or something.

I really don't mean to disparage low-level programming. I personally enjoy it, as a software developer. But if that's what you mean by "open console", you're really romanticizing what consoles are, and ignoring the reality of why they're still around after two decades of high-spec low-cost general-purpose personal computing devices.

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I strongly suspect that there's simply no market for it. (Except for a small number of geeks/developers that would be attracted to any new and open hardware)

There's plenty of devices out there that can play games very well, many of which are open, or 'open enough' for indies. We can already develop for a wide variety of computers, phones, and tablets.

Whilst consoles are much more limited, we do already have Xbox Indie Games (XNA), and there's active homebrew scenes for some of the older consoles such as the Dreamcast (and I wouldn't be surprised if we see a thriving PS3 homebrew scene soon?)

I suspect that in the future, we'll see a mainstream 'box under the TV', maybe a future iteration of something like Apple TV, that's not a traditional console, but is good at playing casual/less demanding games, and has an app store which is reasonably open to indie devlopers.

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The home console market is more open to indie developers than at probably any other time in it's history.

You have downloadable games on PSN/XBLA for sub $2m budgets, and the XNA channel offering distribution for basically $100. On the PC side you have Facebook/Flash which is a platform offering distribution to millions of potential users with minimal cost, not to mention countless flash/unity web portals.

In the mobile space Android, WinPho7 and iOS offer options that are again at bargain entry price points compared to previous mobile options.

Why would you want/need a custom piece of hardware?

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In fact I was thinking about how the 3D game market was going to be, since it requires experienced people, which needs to be more and more experience for cutting edge graphic systems, I was wondering if it would have a good impact for the industry to think more about simple 3D products rather than "see my big shader ?". I was imagining tomorrow as if 3D programming experience would become scarce. –  jokoon Jan 9 '11 at 2:16
    
-1 What's the relation between game prices and indie games? XNA is not a valid option for almost any successful indie. Getting devkits require to already having been successful as indie OR to have a veteran team. Mobiles put players in a different way of mind than consoles and are not suitable to every category of games. I think it's not only about hardware, it's about having a common hardware plus common OPEN api, plus a centralized place to distribute software AND a really low barrier to be allowed to develop and distribute your game. –  Klaim Jan 9 '11 at 10:18
    
@Klaim: "XNA is not a valid option for almost any successful indie." - XNA is not XBLIG; XNA is a fine platform for development. XBLIG may not be making a lot of money, but XNA is still an open API, for a console, with a low barrier to entry, and with XBLIG, someone else handling non-discriminatory distribution. (And no one in this answer mentioned game prices except you.) –  user744 Jan 9 '11 at 14:12
    
Two good points (misread the $ values). I'll retire the -1, this answer seems valid. However I still don't think XNA is a valid platform for indie dev. Good for developpement for most games, but not for something like the best-sellers XBLA games. edit> I cant retire my downvote without an change in the answer. –  Klaim Jan 9 '11 at 14:24
    
@Klaim: XBLA is a distribution platform. XNA is a development platform. Games on XBLA can be written in XNA, such as Schizoid or ilomilo, or with other tools; probably 90% of them could've been written as easily or easier with XNA. Games on XBLIG can only be written with XNA. You are comparing XBLIG and XBLA, not XNA and XBLA. –  user744 Jan 10 '11 at 19:30
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