Words with Friends

A big part of my freelance writing business has to do with covering the technology industry, particularly when it comes to mobile gadgets, the Internet, and gaming. And playing video games certainly isn’t the same as what it may have been even five years ago.

Simple Complexity

The interesting thing is that it seems like gaming has almost come full circle. If you consider early games like Pong and Frogger, controls were simple. Anyone could play them, but there were certainly people who were much more skilled at them. Over the years, video games got increasingly complex, including the introduction of increasingly complex controls. For someone who is uninitiated, diving into a session of Call of Duty on the Xbox 360 can be very intimidating. Diving into the intricacies of Street Fighter X Tekken can be even scarier.

But at the same time, we see the exact opposite trend happening with casual, online, and mobile games. Anyone can play (and understand) Angry Birds. From Farmville to Draw Something, these games have low barriers to entry, opening up the gaming market to demographics that have long since gone untapped. But there’s another phenomenon that’s picking up steam: increased integration across platforms.

Console Agnostic

It used to be that if you wanted to play XYZ game, you needed to purchase the specific ABC console. Duck Hunt was only available on the NES. Diablo II could only be found on PC. And even when games were available on multiple platforms, the experiences were completely separate.

That’s changing. If you consider Words with Friends as an example, it can be played on a variety of smartphones and tablets. Your play is all connected to the same account, so while you may start the game on your Android device, you might pick it up later on your iPad, and then in a separate session through Facebook on your laptop. It’s (nearly) seamless.

What this means is that while you could click here to play some online bingo today, you could one day continue that session on your tablet, on your smartphone, and maybe even through an app on your “smart” TV. The experience simply continues from one “console” to the next. The platform itself is becoming less important, because they are being unified into a single experience.

Play Anywhere Against Anyone

I heard a story a few days ago that they were indeed working on a new Super Smash Bros. video game over at Nintendo. While the details are scarce, one key component is apparently some form of unified experience across the Nintendo 3DS handheld and the Wii U home console. What I hope this means is that someone on a 3DS can play an online match with a friend who is playing on a Wii U.

This certainly won’t be the first game to offer cross-platform interoperability, but it does lend itself to this emerging trend. Microsoft looks like it’s heading in that direction by integrated Windows Phone, Xbox, and Windows PCs in some way. The industry is recognizing that “mobile” doesn’t necessarily mean that the user is on the go. A TV, computer, tablet, and smartphone could all be simultaneously within arm’s reach.

Everything is connected and everything is interconnected. That’s how we’ve come to expect to experience the pervasive online world, and gaming will soon be no exception.