Thursday, June 13, 2013

E3 and the Next Generation of Consoles – My Thoughts

Another year, another E3, only this one is a biggun. Sony and Microsoft are about to release their Next-gen console platforms, and Nintendo's Wii U is already out, so the war is on. Only, I'm not sure I care. Don't get me wrong, like every other gamer out there, I read the briefs and watched the highlights of the press conferences. But I think back to the past twelve months, and I can't remember the last time I used my Xbox 360 as anything other than a DVD player or my Wii for anything but Netflix and the scale that comes with the Wii Fit channel.  My Wii bricked itself almost two months ago, and my feelings about that can be best summed up as "mild distress," and even that faded after a few moments.  I'm not gaming less, quite the contrary. It is just that the games I want to play are all on my PC, and they look better than the console version.

All credit to Yahtzee of Zero Punctuation for this... makes me laugh.

That doesn't mean that E3 won't affect me, or the countless others who have shifted to PC as their main (or even only) gaming platform. Many titles have a multi-platform release, and their development cycles take console hardware limitations into account. This means that after a new generation of consoles is launched, PC games get better looking too as the rising tide lifts all boats... and it means that my 4 year old Media Center PC probably won't cut it for the most technically demanding releases within a few years.  And despite all my posturing, it is likely that at some point I may break down and get one of the new consoles, if only to play that platform's exclusives. So, I'll run my thoughts down on them for you.

Nintendo - 

Ok, this company is officially with EA on my list of organizations I won't support with my money until I see some serious changes.  Why, you might ask? Well, if you've been reading here recently, or following me on Facebook, Twitch or YouTube (you are a class act, and probably very successful with the opposite sex, so I totally suggest you go do that,) you know that I've started streaming my gaming daily, joining the ranks of YouTube partners and wanna be partners. If I had in my list of games that I stream, any Mario, Zelda or other Nintendo properties, you might think the Big N would love a fan showing his support and wouldn't begrudge me the few dollars my ads might bring in.  You'd be wrong. Nintendo recently filed a content claim to seize the tiny trickles of revenue "Let's Play" content creators make with their games.  Anger your most fervent fan base, generate bad press and discourage free marketing... all for amounts of money that are insignificant to a multinational corporation. Good job.

YouTubers are promoting our products and earning literally
 HUNDREDS or THOUSANDS of dollars for doing so? As a multibillion dollar company, we've gotta stop that.

It is fortunate, then, that I have no interest in the Wii U as a platform. The console with controllers that act as (and frequently are used as) advanced handhelds feels gimmicky now. Most of the people who use them seem to be using them to cut the TV out of the equation entirely, whick makes the Wii U feel like a very, very expensive Game Boy/DS that has a "Base Station" you can't go too far from. Also, where are the games? Like the last few console launches, the lineup has been tepid at launch, and new titles are trickling out at a painfully slow rate. Nintendo has proven itself to be a company with its head stuck firmly in the past, making the same mistakes over and over again. As someone who was a Nintendo Fanboy and Nintendo Power subscriber from the very beginning, it hurts me to say that I'm done with them.

Microsoft - 

The other console I owned this generation was my Xbox 360. I suppose I've been a Microsoft console fan from the beginning as well, as I had the original Xbox as well. The internet is on fire at the moment with hate for the Xbox One, and I'm right there with them. Running down the reasons why is a pretty easy task, and most of it has to do with the console's hardware DRM. Locking down the Xbox One as a closed platform means you can't rent games or buy used without paying a special fee. Considering that rentals and used games comprised 100% of my 360 play in the last three years, already I'm out. Also, you can't turn the Kinect off, even when you aren't using the console, and the console needs to "phone home" using the internet once every 24 hours or you can't even play your single-player games. Internet based DRM, huh... how'd that work out for SimCity and Diablo 3? Traditionally, those schemes anger customers because the authentication servers go down and prevent legitimate paying customers from playing.

I don't think this one needs a caption.

Wait wait wait. I know, if you've been reading, you know how much I love Steam. Steam needs to connect to the internet, and I can't buy used or rent my games from there either. In fact, Steam itself is a form of DRM. Does that make my argument completely invalid? Nope. I've already committed to a platform that has many of the downsides of the Xbox One. Why do I need another one? I'm looking at the titles coming out, and I ask the question: "What can I do with the Xbox One that I can't do with my PC?" The only answer I'm coming up with is "Play Halo." Well, I don't care about Halo, so... that's that, then.

Sony -

So, traditionally, I've skipped Sony's consoles. I had a PSOne, and played on family and friends' PS2s, and even bought a game or two for them despite not having a PS2 of my own. I never even seriously considered getting a PS3. It was too expensive at the time, and I had my 360, PC and Wii already.  However, if I was getting a console in the next generation at all... it'd be a PS4. I'm not thrilled about PSN Plus adding a fee to play online, but they started the program of giving you free games with that fee (which Xbox Live is now copying.) No hardware DRM restricting used games, rentals, loaned out games, etc. No Kinect spying on you.  Actually decent looking exclusives announced at launch. And then there's the kicker: $100 cheaper than the Xbox One. I always try to get the most value out of my gaming dollar, and next generation, that dollar either stays with upgrading my PC, or goes to Sony.

Watching Videos of this and the Uncharted games makes me wish I'd just bought the damn PS3

It feels like this generation's console wars are over already, and the winner hasn't even released their product.

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