The next-gen feature no one is talking about

There’s a lot of talk about what should and shouldn’t be done on next-gen systems.

In this ever-developing market, however, there is one feature that absolutely needs to be a part of every system intent on having an impact on the market over the next 6-7 years. Detailed patch-notes.

Yes, seriously…

It seems like the most obvious thing in the world, but it’s something home consoles have yet to get right.

Fire up an Xbox game for the first time in a few months and chances are you’ll be prompted to update it. Yet, instead of telling you why your game needs to be updated, Microsoft just expect you to do it.

In this day and age, that’s unacceptable.

Yes, Microsoft put a lot of detail on their website about what the latest firmware update will add to Xbox, and yes, Gearbox will write a full blog post about what will appear in the next installment of Borderlands, but if you’re not willing to surf to those places and read around, as far as you’re concerned, you could be downloading anything. Informative patch notes need to be available on the console prior to downloading. It’s a two-way street of basic communication, and right now that’s not happening.

As a result, you’re placing an incredible amount of trust in both Microsoft and 2K, assuming that this critical update won’t break your game irreperably or add a feature that you’re not especially comfortable with.

That trust has not always been well-placed. At some point in your gaming cycle, you’re likely to have downloaded a patch that has actually caused more problems than it fixed, and have had to wait for a follow-up patch to be released in order to fix these issues. If only you’d not bothered updating in the first place…

Developers are talking about ‘always-online’ connectivity, subscription models, better support for indie developers, higher resolutions and improved overall quality, but sometimes it’s the simplest things that are forgotten. There needs to be better communication between developers, publishers and consumers.

Take a look at the Apple AppStore, for instance. Every update is optional and always accompanied with a full list of foot notes. The consumer has the opportunity to read the notes prior to downloading and can then decide if they want to put it on their iPhone or iPad.

Don’t get me wrong, we’ll probably never be free of downloading patches on home consoles. If anything, they will become more essential and impossible to avoid as games continue to progress and develop. Multiplayer servers rarely support anything other than the most up-to-date version of the game.

That’s not an excuse to keep consumers in the dark.

The 21st Century gamer is smarter. Many of them are coders, or they’re trying to design their own games, or are writing a blog about games. Some may already be in the industry. It’s unfair to try and fob them off by saying ‘you wouldn’t understand what’s been done’ or ‘the updates are so minor they’re not worth talking about’.

The industry needs to be more upfront. Consumers deserve better. If a developer makes those notes accessible to the player, without them having to go searching every single update, it shows they’re supporting the game after release and exactly what they’re fixing. It shows they care, and it can even be of further benefit to the relationship shared between developer and consumer.

Have you ever downloaded a patch and wondered what it actually contained? Did you ever determine what it does?

Shout about it below and let us know.