Saturday, December 14, 2013

The death by suicide of console gaming?

This has been a pretty pitiful roll out for the next gen consoles, mostly due to the absolute train wreck that was the XBox One debacle. I mean, tying games to your system thus crippling if not killing any sort of used game market? Damn. Sure PS4 has benefited from it, and the WiiU has more than a few games I look forward to playing once I get one, but I can't help but feel it sucked the air out of the room. The overall mood of the gaming community seems pretty dour right now. In fact, I and a few others think the whole industry is headed for a crash in the next year or so.

So with this mood in the air I keep hearing that maybe this will be the last generation of actual consoles. Now I've heard this for the past three generations now, mostly from PC gamers. PC gamers can be insufferably smug sometimes. "Oh, you play on an XBox? How cute. But my PC version has much better graphics." And they're right. PC games have better graphics than their console counter parts. I remember years ago getting Activision's Spider-man game from 2000 back when it was new for the PC because I didn't have any consoles at the time. Years later when I got my PS2 I went and got the PS1 version of that game and yes, the graphics were indeed better in the PC version. But do you know what makes the Playstation version superior in my eyes?  I can still fucking play it. Having dug the PC version disk out recently I can tell you it is not compatible with any computer I have now. But I can just pop the Playstation version into my PS2 and play it well over a decade after its release. And that has always been the main advantage consoles had over PCs. You could keep your games forever. I still play my Genesis and SNES all the time. But consoles are throwing that away.

It started with the last gen abandoning memory cards. Why the fuck did you abandon memory cards? They were the greatest damn thing to happen in gaming. You had your saved game right there on an easy to store little card. Why save it on the console? Let's say I want to take a fighting game over to a friend's house to play. Well say goodbye to all the characters I've unlocked. And forget about if your console breaks (red ring of death anyone?). My Wii just shit the bed recently. Sure it's easy and cheap enough to get a new one thanks to all those non gamers who bought it years ago for Wii Sports and got bored with it, but goodbye to all those characters I unlocked in Mario Kart. Goodbye to all my saved games on there. And then there's the shift to online modes, DLC, and games only available through XBox Live or PlayStation Network accounts. In other words, much like the abandoning of memory cards we're moving away from physical copies to just digital. And the online stuff, sure that's great for the six months you're average game is popular, but then those servers dry up and you have a hard time finding people to play with and eventually the servers go offline completely. And if the developers put more effort into the online shit than the game then the stuff you're left with is pretty poor. And the digital only games. Ugh. I would love to play Sonic 4, Mega Man 9 and 10, and the new Rocket Knight, but I'm not going to get a pay a monthly fee to get an Xbox live account, buy those games, have to keep paying a monthly fee to have access to them, and eventually lose them when my system breaks or the servers go offline or something. This sort of atmosphere might be great for the hardcore PC gamer, who spends tons of money to get the best and newest equipment, gets the newest game, is fine with a monthly bill just to play the damn thing they already bought, and plays the hell out of it to the point where they're fine with moving on to the next thing in a year. But I'm a casual gamer. I play video games SOMETIMES. And when I purchase a game I want to keep it until I'm done with it, not until the general gaming audience is done with it. This shift to a PC style gaming atmosphere is making it seem like if you're not willing to pour your every bit of your free time and money into this hobby, then you just aren't welcome anymore.

So the real advantage that consoles had over PCs is disappearing. Consoles are trying to become little PC's. And they're never going to win that battle. They can't out PC the PC. So it seems to me entirely possible consoles might die with this generation. But it will be a death by their own hands. Now if you'll excuse me, I think I'm going to play a little Sega Genesis.

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