Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Console Conundrum

Literally within the day of my rebooting this piece of Internet paper (which was almost a month ago which, yes, I'm a lazy bastard who never keeps his promises) Sony had a rather lengthy presser that was essentially the "shot heard 'round the world' letting us know the next generation was coming (to any Wii U owners in the house getting ruffled over this line of thought all I have for you is a "that's cute").  For an industry that has had the longest running cycle in its history and a consumer base that seems to becoming more restless as they feel the current product lines becoming a little thin at the least, repetitive with untold sequels at the most, this was really what every one was waiting to happen.  Developers and publishers would now finally be able to start showing off their wares they've been working on ever since they felt the generation was coming to a close and those not already on with Sony would watch the company's pitch as to why they should hop on board. Fans, of course, would finally get to satiate their ravenous appetite for new hardware and finally get a gander at what the next generation would look like (y'know, if they haven't glanced at a PC game in the past 18 months). Basically, it would be a learning experience of advancement in graphical prowess, if Sony was going to go deeper into the gimmick side of things (i.e. "motion" or some other schmancy control scheme), and basically what their open arms approach would be on the business and consumer relations side of things as the industry starts heating up over the next year. Personally, I learned arguably the most valuable lesson about the industry after the conference was over, and that was the video game "fanboys" are now the world's most pathetic group of humans and are a blight on society at large.

Holy shit, I do not think I've actively seen so much forced whining out of a group of humans as I did post-conference for the PS4. The floodgates opened almost immediately, with the "worry worts" worried that Sony was coming for their old game libraries via the exclusion of backwards compatibility and the claims that Sony developed tech to nullify previously owned games (in fairness, they were correct about former and Sony has developed the latter though some analysts believe they will not bother using it). Then came the PC-only gaming crowd to brag about how the graphics on their rigs with $2000 in the latest video cards and cooling systems can already do what was being shown and to also prove once and for all the PCers are the hipsters of the gaming industry and should be stoned with full cans of PBR. Then came the standard affair, Sony fanboys being way too excited about what was there (which, I'll say now that I thought it was a really good conference that had both its pluses and minuses that I'll get to later), the XBots where there to rain vitriol on everything shown and talk about how "their" next console is going to reign supreme again, and the Nintendo guys were still waiting around waiting for Pikmin 3 to FUCKING FINALLY come out. It was all a cavalcade of individuals showing that they do not understand the meaning of the word "objectivity" and that in fact it may have been systematically removed from all their dictionaries.

This is the main conundrum I alluded to in the title in that console makers are now going to have to deal with some of the most entitled, aggravating consumers out there these days. I legitimately feel bad for console developers moving forward because their market is a beast that constantly wants fed and wants their meals catered exactly to each of them, despite their enormous numbers. Part of this is the console maker's fault of course; this past generation more than ever, as the market has exploded, the makers have tried to make their machines all things to all their buyers and done whatever they could to get consumers to latch onto their brand in an era where people use such devices as their status symbols. These buyers need to be tied into everything now via these devices, entertainment apps that let them use their favorite TV/movie watching programs, they need to be tied into their social networks, have the marketplace for the newest games for downloads, have online integration and on and on. And that's fine because that's the way things are; that's where the marketplace is and that's the price of doing business. They also want their backwards compatibility, because that's a thing they had on three consoles ever and it's a travesty of justice that all the stuff gamers bought for a generation are now obsolete; as it has been with almost every single piece of tech down the ages, from 8 track to cassette, VHS to DVD, Laser disc to the trash bin and so on. Never mind that in order to make this happen with the PS4 the architecture would have to be built with two systems of chips in place and would immediately cost upwards of $600/700 to buy, because that's also a no go since the world will end if this system comes out higher than $500, if the outrage of the $599 launch PS3 was any indication.

Alas, because Sony also realizes this is another piece of steak the beast feels it is being withheld from them, they are probably working on a way to bring all those old games to these new systems via the Gaikai streaming program they purchased last year.  But this is where we're at; console makers have been promising their users the world for a generation now (like a bunch of idiots) and now gamers expect the world (because the term "realistic expectations" does not exist in society any more). And this is why I simultaneously would not want to be in anyone's shoes at these gaming companies and why I do not feel any pity for them at the end of the day as the next generation rises on us. I simultaneously feel some old school remorse for Nintendo as their new system flounders after creating what I feel to be a pretty nifty new controller device but have to shake my head at them not learning after the past three years of the Wii's irrelevance that gamers buy consoles to PLAY FUCKING GAMES on them, games being the thing that Nintendo did not bother to bring to the table in five months of Wii U's being on shelves now. I don't pity the decision Microsoft will have to make with its next console as well, as it has the tough decision of how much it will want to push its Kinect tech in the next cycle, the Kinect being either the key to that system's differentiating itself in the market besides whatever online tweaks they make since they're the still the top of the heap in that regard. Really, I don't pity any device maker as the tech industry - mainly since the prevalence of smartphones and tablets has hit - has willingly (stupidly) become makers of items that now have to be all things to all people and those people are definitely out to hold them to that standard.

Oh, yeah, I guess I should actually cover what all Sony said during that two hours as well. Heh. In all honestly, I guess I found it somewhat tedious in its amalgamation of trying to be both kind of an info dump on what the system will do and a business presser in trying to give developers and investors and idea of what they plan in the market and hope to achieve with pushes in social media and whatnot and then also balance pulling in interest from gamers for the event by, y'know, showing some goddamn games. Like the wall these systems may hit in the future, the press conference suffered from trying to be everything to everyone. But, all that said, I did like what I saw even if it was sometimes (understandably) boring. But, hell, I've basically written presentations like this during my MBA classes, I'm shocked it was as packed with interesting stuff as it was on top of all the time spent trying to convince me I care about the "Share" button.  I liked the specs they gave us and appreciate that last minute jump to 8GB of RAM and think that's a good sign Sony plans on being in this next gen for a long while. And I like what we saw on the games front. Yeah, I wasn't exactly excited by some of the properties I saw - never really have any intentions to play another Killzone again and I really wasn't much of a Halo guy so I could care less about the new Bungie product - but what else are they supposed to do when launching a new system? Familiar properties - especially ones like those two projects that are very graphically intense - are pretty key when rolling over into a new generation and I think they balanced things out quite well by announcing some new IPs and delivering on continuing game lines I already love like inFamous.

I will admit though, in full disclosure, is that if I do have any "fanboy allegiance" it lays with Sony right now, so I was not a particularly hard sell on their new unit, as long as they totally didn't cock up this presentation. Yeah, they fucked up royally with the hacking incident almost two years back (the way they held their data AND the bullshit slow way they kindly let us know about it) and the system was pricey, but those have really been the only hiccups in my experience with Sony product since they entered the market back in 1995. I've owned many a Nintendo product and honestly have to admit they just haven't really catered to my interests in gaming experiences for a while (which is fine, they get by just fine with what they do, it's just not usually my swag) and I personally just am not a fan of Microsoft's business model (I'll be damned if I ever find myself ponying up $60 a year for the "right" to play my games on an Internet connection I already pay $60 a month for) and the failure rate this generation was very off putting, even though they made right on the warranty front. Really though, what it comes down to me and console loyalty is games, pure and simple, and I just happen to believe Sony has the best assemblage of In-House studios in the industry right now and that extra hit of three or four system exclusive properties a year makes a big difference for me on top of all the Third-Party ware that hits alongside them. And, to round this out, nothing I saw at this debut for the Playstation 4 led me to believe this not be the case going forward. Now, if Sony comes forward with an announcement they want the same $60 a year Microsoft is getting, I will officially lose hope for gaming at large. I guess we'll see by November. Cheers...

No comments:

Post a Comment