Posted by Dustin Spencer on Feb 25, 2013

Console Wars and The Generation of Unnecessary Scrutiny

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I want all of you are reading this to take a deep breath and follow these words. Close your eyes, just for a second, and think of your childhood, with you playing your favorite game. I don’t care what it is. Whether you were battling the Elite Four to finish the main quest in Pokemon – or trying desperately to finish Donkey Kong Country back on the SNES. Think of a happy memory, where games brought you joy. Go ahead, the rest of this read will wait.

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Done? Well, how did that make you feel? Nostalgic? Blissful or at ease? That memory you had is probably why you continue to play games for a form of entertainment. You see, we all have had epic adventures with Nintendo, Sega, Sony, Hudson, and all of those famed names of the past, but it is beginning to be harder to appreciate that simple art of joy that one video game can bring in today’s industry. Between season passes, pay to play, and the general politics that have affected gaming culture such as sexism, race, and other tropes – its nearly impossible to walk up to a friend and say you had a good time without hearing some sort of argument.

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I hear a lot that gamers are scared of the inevitable second crash of the industry, but looking around – it would be hard to argue that this “crash” isn’t already taking place. Instead of looking forward to an upcoming title or revival of a brand, more and more are just looking for a way to scrutinize, putting their own tastes above anothers’ as that is their form of personal satisfaction. Do we really want the Wii U to fail, or the Playstation 4 to tank upon arrival? No. We simply want games to feel like what we are familiar with, and if a developer challenges that opinion, it is our un-natural instinct to attack with sharpened claws. Who cares about how much fun I had with New Super Mario Bros. U when they can have just as much fun telling me it was a pointless rehash? Who gives a shit if you liked Heavy Rain, because I will show you that your own experience was null and void due to David Cage running his mouth? Did I press a button out there? Are you feeling me? Well, welcome to the generation of blind scrutiny and mistrust, and pull up a seat, because you are the star player. In fact, we all have been for a long time now.

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That is what this industry has become, and like it or not, you have to see the bad before you can indulge in the good. Look at EA for a second. During their E3 2012 conference, they spent the entire presentation for decent looking products like Crysis 3 and SimCity to let us know that they thought of us as consumers, and nothing more in-between. To EA, we are a giant walking and talking wallet – ready to throw down money in order to further their own status as the biggest publisher in the industry. EA have went out of their way to look at other successes, and have attempted to craft them into their own – just to make a buck. EA have a odd little marketing plan that works, as they cash in on the now. For every Resident Evil, there was a Dead Space. For Borderlands, there is the up and coming Fuse. Honestly, if it wasn’t for BioWare and the once great but now monetized Sims Franchise, EA would just be a company of clones. Clones are not a bad thing – as every idea can indeed be polished to make a better product, but when you are releasing a half-assed shooter just a small bit in advance of Call of Duty‘s release date in order to make a buck off the impatient crowd (Medal of Honor, I’m looking at you), then it’s not the consumer you are caring about. EA took advantage of those gamers, and now blames the same market for it’s failure.

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Now look at GearBox. Yes, we all love Borderlands, but other products the developer pushed out have to lead to extremely negative critism, such as Duke Nukem Forever and the more recent Aliens: Colonial Marines; which was hyped with false footage that tricked gamers into believing these would be amazing revivals, but launched as anything but. I get Randy Pitchford has to get us excited before we loosen the grips on our wallets, but the whole A:CM fiasco this year has made me mistrust advertising even more than before. Moving on, Sony is great, as they have been trying to get us excited about their products, but have left the Vita high and dry while still trying to get us to care about the Playstation 3 – even though there will not be proper implementation of backwards compatibility for their next console aside from Cloud Streaming. To myself, that is like saying “You win a lifetime of ice cream, but we are giving it to you now so you better eat it fast!”. What happens to all of those PSN games that come out before then. What are we supposed to do if we want to play offline? Do we just hook up both consoles and hope the PS3′s online support will stay, or do we wait for more HD collections to release so we can pay more for something we already own?

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Oh, and Nintendo. Can’t forget the big N. I love Nintendo, I really do. I am not really a fanboy, but I feel that Nintendo try the hardest to get their base to stay loyal, and I respect that approach greatly. No matter how much it hurts them, they listen to their main group of fans that grew up playing on their consoles, giving us Mario, Zelda, and all the Pokemon we could ever want, while introducing gamers to new techs that they would have shyed away from if it wasn’t for those famous faces attached. With that said, Nintendo is far from perfect. Instead of tackling the competition as they did with the Wii, Nintendo have took a seat in the back this generation – and have played it safe. Mario has become such a common yearly release that even the most hardcore fans are beginning to lose interest, and the lack of Wii U titles during the first quarter after release has lead me to look elseware for a quality gaming experience. I know, there is little third party support for Nintendo’s main consoles, and it’s been that way for years. Instead of fighting to keep the big guys like Activision and EA interested in publishing on the Wii, Nintendo are yet again ignoring the outside market and trying to build their own success with first party fare. That again is respectable, but not very clever considering how cut-throat the industry has become.

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As for Microsoft – don’t think I am just going to act like they are pefect little angels either. Go turn on your Xbox 360. If you are not a gold subscriber, you will probably see an ad to get you to go Gold. If you are already a member and are not expiring soon, the menu has become an unwelcoming cesspool of ads and self gluttony. These are not games being advertised, as right now I see Nelly’s new video, pointless Surface promotions, and spots for the movie Ted, which by the way you can purchase for twenty bucks off their service. Sure, to Microsoft – the Xbox 360 is an entertainment device, but that is not why over half the owners of the console have it in the first place. When the Playstation 3 launched at $599 and Nintendo took the casual route this generation, those consumers went to the Xbox 360 due to it’s lower price tag that still was equipped with a unit featuring decent specs. Sure, I agree that charging for the online is a good thing due to the quality of service the 360 has behind it, but Microsoft have taken advantage of their crowd heavily, forgetting that these are the same consumers that jumped ship due to price and visuals alone. Go ahead, don’t give us a clear answer if the Xbox Next will be able to play used games, but remember – if $200 will stand in the way of a good portion of your customers switching to the Xbox 360 in the first place, then not being able to save money and buy used will be an even better reason to load up on a Playstation 4 or Wii U for the next generation.

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Phew. That is a lot off my chest. Yes, that may come off as a bit ranty, but I hate to see how gamers are no longer treated like gamers anymore. We grew up, and publishers now know that those kids that are trying to relive happy memories have full time jobs and income of their own. No GameStop, it’s not “Power to the Players”, it’s Power to the Publishers. They decide what we enjoy, and while I respect the indie scene for trying to bring back that freedom to the public, those voices are not loud enough to rid the industry of the greed and lack of understanding we are seeing each and every day. It’s tiring, but we put up with it because there is no choice. If I had to give anyone a pat on the back it would be Nintendo due to their passion they bring to the ballgame of the big boys, but I am even weary of that as Nintendo can not stay in business if they don’t start to compete. “There is my Xbox, Playstation, and Mario console” just isn’t going to cut it this generation, and while Nintendo Directs have promised more software for the Wii U, it’s hard to say just when that spark of creativity will ignite to give that console it’s special flare.

These are the problems all gamers face everyday, as every console has a loyal base who are more than ready to tear down the others down due to the obvious and in your face greed, ignorance, and shortcomings that each major publisher has. My advice? Ignore it. Ignore the stupid accusations and childish attacks that these billion dollar publishers make, Ignore the fifteen year old forum commenter ripping your own memories to bits with the obvious truths, and just play. I know, it’s so hard to enjoy something when it has been scrutinized, but do it anyway. I remember when I would play Socom 2 long ago, I would take a minute and stare into the sky. Back then, seeing moving clouds was something to appreciate, and soaking in the environment was half the fun of being in on the battlefield with the 15 other online players involved. Same can be said about Viva Pinata, which had a relaxing and soothing “recruit them all” styled gameplay, featuring some of the most charming and colorful models we have seen this generation. Who played Just Cause 2 and jumped from the highest points possible – just to feel the rush? Now who also built an extremely robust house with 100 rooms in Minecraft, with a ton of traps and imagination attached?

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That is what I am talking about here. It’s not about the bad, it’s the good. As gamers, we are treated terribly each and everyday – yet a good portion take it in stride and continue to make the situation better for themselves by focusing on the aspects of entertainment these games bring to us. No one wants to hear that the console they are playing on is terrible, as we deep down already know that we are just money to the people that bring us joy. While petitions and getting our voices heard do work sometimes to change things, the publicity attached usually never touches these billion dollar companies, and instead hurts the developers that spent thousands of hours in dark rooms trying to live out their dream – as shit rolls downhill. When people don’t understand something, they turn their misunderstanding into fear, and fear is the easiest human emotion to be converted into anger and scrutiny. By attacking Nintendo fans for liking the force-fed Mario titles, Sony fans for giving in to mediocre service, and Xbox “Elite” for turning their console into an unfocused advertisement hub, nothing is achieved. It’s an endless circle where no one is a winner, and those great experiences mean nothing because you have then taught yourself to hate the hobby you once enjoyed by certain press, angry gamers, and snobby analysts alike. Does the industry need fixing? YES! But it’s not always our job as consumers to do that.

Now, yet again…think of the last time you were in a boss battle, had a tiny bit of HP remaining, yet still managed to pull off the win and beat a game entirely due to some quick thinking. Take a moment and think of why you play games, and think about why they play games. By “they”, I’m meaning the crowd that has a different taste, or a different preference for a console. Console wars are pointless and screaming about the unpreventable will achieve nothing. This generation is coming to a close, and we are left in the rubble of hatred and bias that has left us as the most defensive and loud generation in history. Heading into the next era, do we want to be remembered as the generation that scrutinized, or the generation that shook it off and played? Next time you see someone conjuring a heavy Metacritic attack or a ton of hate emails for any of the above, stop, and go see how fast you can get through the first level of Sonic. It’s time we shut up and let the endless chains of arguments end, so we can go back to enjoying the greatest industry on earth yet again.

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  • Xam

    Nintendo is the only company which focuses purely on gaming, which makes them unique among the current big 3. They aren’t in the business of selling overpriced digital movies and media, which is what Microsoft & Sony are really going for lately. I personally want a gaming company first and foremost, and i will never buy “Ted” or any crap like that on my console.

  • Anton

    It won’t have video game crash of 2013. Otherwise, None of people will ever have a video game console if this happens.