The Headset Dilemma

Lifeline requires a headset to play, but ships without one. At the nearby EB (at a new and very convenient location — they’ve been expanding a lot in this area), I stared blankly at the game wall for a good five minutes thinking about this headset dilemma.

It would be easy to deride Sony for not including a headset with the broadband adapter, but the comparison to the XBox Live Starter Kit is an unfair one. Lifeline is an offline game so if it were to ever appear on the XBox, and if you did not have Live, you’d still need to get a headset anyway. That’s not the issue here.

I stood there, Lifeline in hand, evaluating all my headset options. There was the Logitech headset; the (naturally) more expensive Sony headset; the original SOCOM with headset; and Karaoke Revolution, also with headset. Either pick essentially doubles the price, so I went for the best bang for the dollar option — I got SOCOM. Then came the realization: tactical-shooter-loving Karaoke fans are getting shafted!

More thoughts came rushing in as I took the games to the counter: the headset is slowly becoming the next essential peripheral. The last such device was the rumble-pack, and that became a standard. Tactile response is now an invisible feature — ubiquitous, integrated, and essential. You rarely notice it anymore.

There is every reason to believe that headsets will become the next rumble-packs. They enhance communication (voice chat), they open up new avenues for interaction (voice commands), and they provide a direct means for “secondary audio” (see Manhunt’s director commentary). The next generation should have headset support right from the get-go*.

* They should be bundled in with the systems to force the developers’ hands, but that ain’t gonna happen**. There’s more money in selling it seperately; plus it decreases the overall cost of the console. The feature — or the option — should be standard, though. It is becoming an essential peripheral.

** I wonder what Nintendo’s thoughts on this would be. They’re always on the gaming peripheral frontlines, but headsets*** somehow seem un-Nintendo-like. Hmm

*** I’ve written “headset” far too frequently. Are there any synonyms? Ones that aren’t as unwieldy like “line-in/line-out”?

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