Note from Lionel: For folks that haven't seen Jose's previous State of the LAN Party entries, check out part I, part II and part III.
We saw how the LAN party evolved with new technology and how it inspired Alienware and how Alienware helped change the look of many LAN parties. With faster, more portable systems we saw LAN parties rise. With high-speed internet and MMO’s we watched as membership diminished. Everyone grew older, but we were still gamers, the question was, what games will be played and how will that affect the LAN party.
When the XBOX360 was introduced, Microsoft realized with the success of XBOX Live on the XBOX that pushing forward with online community gaming was the future of console gaming. If there were a few gamers who still did not utilize the online universe of gamers beforehand, once the 360 hit the shelves even they joined in.
The 360 also brought a new type of LAN to gamers, the Console LAN or Local Play Lan was established where people would bring together multiple XBOX systems and connect them in order to multiplay. This allowed gamers to use separate television screens since for many the split screen was not a viable option.
What made XBOX live so successful was the variety it brought to gamers. You could play the hottest games like Halo 3 or classic favorites such as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. For better or worse you could chat online with fellow friends and gamers which gave console gamers pretty much all the tools a LAN member would use when gaming at a LAN party.
Software developers also realized the market created by the 360 and the Playstation 3. More computer titles were being ported over to the console. Not only that, but there were much more FPS and RTS games developed for consoles than ever before.
Many in the industry knew that computer gamers also owned a console and wanted the switch from the PC to the console to not be a shock to the system. Both 360 and PS3 were designed with top end processors and video cards. This allowed players to experience games on par and sometimes better than their PC counterparts.
Those looking for a lower cost gaming system turned to consoles to experience high end graphics and gaming without the high end price tag of computer gaming units. With online play complete with patches, demos and downloads, the console gamer had everything they needed.
By the time consoles invaded my LAN party we had reduced in size to just a few friends, but the new presence was noticed. Games like Rock Band and Guitar Hero replaced the twitch action games we played before. It saddened me at first. I believed some of us were getting too old for fast paced FPS games. Honestly I thought it was a fad, but numbers don’t lie. Interactive party games are as hot now as FPS games were ten years ago.
I embraced the change. I enjoyed playing those games (even those on the Wii) and I remembered the point of the LAN was to have fun with friends which we did have. The connectivity we have today can bring us closer together if used correctly. Having access to your friends 24/7 through XBOX Live, IM programs, FaceBook and Ventrilo can be a wonderful thing even if it does lessen the need for LAN parties.
In the end those of us who grew up during the gaming revolution will continue to be gamers for a long time to come. The games may change and the way we play them. Friends come and go and places we play will change, but the main goal stays the same, have fun.
The future of the LAN party may be more virtual, larger groups of gamers playing from their home with others across the world. With gadgets such as the iPhone sporting multiplayer capabilities, we may find ourselves having impromptu LAN parties from our phones while waiting for our oil to be changed or at the doctor’s office.
The great thing about technology is it adapts and changes the landscape. More and more people will have access to the tools to allow them to play the games they want and with that will come a community to join and interact with. The LAN party is ever changing, but will never die. As long as there are gamers there will be games and a means to play them.