Bit Slap: Modern console warfare


It happens every time I walk into Best Buy, which happens more than I’d care to admit (I receive Christmas cards from the families of several employees). I wander past the 3DS and Vita, stop, look, mentally weigh the decision of buying a new console with being able to continue to eat, and then I move on to the DS and PSP games. I’ll admit it, right here and now, I’m not ready for any new consoles. You shouldn’t be either.

The start of June brings E3, and many news outlets are speculating on console announcements, Wii U news, and glimpses of the very future of gaming to be shown on stage through flashy Powerpoint presentations. I really really hope not. E3 this year should not be about jumping onto a new ship, but rather showing the public the very best in gaming to appear on current generation consoles in the coming year. Now is the time when we should be seeing the absolute pinnacle of this generation’s gaming rather than pushing the reset button.

I think a lot of my aversion to a new console has to do with how this generation has spent too much time throwing around new ideas and hoping one will stick. Sony’s Move was a complete non-starter, I can’t remember the last time I played mine and the only mildly interesting game I’m looking forward to is Sorcery. Kinect has yet to prove that the peripheral can replace a standard controller, and vastly overestimate the size of people’s gaming spaces. Now there is news that Microsoft wants to release an inexpensive version of the 360 that requires a subscription to play.

I’m sorry, what? Guys, consoles need to stop trying to be smartphones (and vice versa, but that’s another column) and focus on what they do best. You know, games. Hell, there seems to be a divide on what an actual COMPLETE game entails. DLC has become such a standard that it’s starting to seem like we’re buying four wheels and an engine but paying extra if we actually want the full car. That’s an analogy, right? Can we all make a deal, gamers, press, and developers, that we’d all just like to play the next great game with a controller on a console we already own, and pay around $60 for the entire experience?

The Wii and upcoming Wii U seems to get ripped apart, unfairly I’d argue, for not constantly pushing the HD and graphical power that gamers seem to crave. However, this approach forces developers to differentiate themselves from the crowd with actual gameplay. Some experiments have failed (Metroid: Other M) while others have been met with overwhelmingly critical success (Xenoblade Chronicles). This is the approach the PS3 and 360 need to be taking right now. Stop trying to push graphics or thinking “we’ve hit the ceiling, we need a new consoles to push the polygon limits” and work with what you have. Some of the best games were released at the tail end of the PS2 life cycle (Persona 4) and developers were familiar enough with the hardware to work around the limits and make games that were about THE GAME. Square-Enix needs stop experimenting with the technology, demos, and promises and release a game worthy of the company. Bethesda needs to take the buggy PS3 game-hate and either stop releasing altogether for the console or perfect development for the console. Big ideas remain ideas if you still haven’t learn to implement them with the current technology. You know who is really taking advantage of knowing the consoles, Activision. I’m not the biggest fan of the CoD franchise, but I won’t argue that those teams know what they’re doing and how to release the best possible experience for their fanbase.

There’s also a really big elephant in the room that people seem to not want to talk about. Consoles are freaking expensive. Yeah, you can grab any of the current gen consoles for under $300, but remember the $600 PS3 or the $400 Xbox 360? Most of us don’t have the money to invest in an entirely new system, new online membership, new controllers, games, peripherals, blah blah blah. This happened to the PS3 when it was released and the PS2 was still going strong. Why pay nearly a grand for a new console and a small selection of games when you still have a perfectly playable console and a huge library of awesome games? I haven’t bought a new game in over a month, which is really huge for me. Instead, I’m going back and playing some amazing games I glossed over. Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker; play it.

So let’s put the pause button on jumping to the next generation. Even if sales are starting to slow down, everyone has to remember that this is also due to the fact that tens of millions of people OWN the consoles. We don’t want the privilege of buying a new console, we want a return on our investment in the form of mind-blowing games. Is that too much to ask?