Good thing it told me. Source: Jeremysaid.com
Let's be honest here for a minute. You WHAT? I'm... sorry, I think I have to call the police.
Er, let's start over. If we're truly honest about it, people tend to be pretty picky, and that includes gamers being picky about their games. And that's fine! After all, we're dedicating our most valuable resource; time, and usually at least some of our income toward a leisure activity. It only makes sense that we are discerning about how and what we play, and cater our playtime to match our preferences, as we do most other things.
Something that is truly still a marvel to me, when I stop and think about it, is the fact that there are a few companies out there spending billions of dollars in an attempt to entertain me. Oh, of course they do it with the intent on making even more billions for themselves, but think about it; so much time and energy is used to create something for me to enjoy (and by "me," I mean us gamers). Except Steel Battalion
, I do think they made that one just for me personally.
With so many cash-grabs out there, so many cynically produced mass-market clones, and scandalous backstories in our industry, it can be sadly easy to miss the end goal; something for me, or my friends and I, to spend a little time with and get something out of during those precious few moments we're not in the middle of something we have to do. (Or putting off something we need to do. I'm sure there's a scrapped ad idea in an office somewhere with a picture of a raging house-fire next to a fireman playing a Gameboy.)
And this brings me to my real point: we gamers pick Ford/Chevy style sides and play favorites with these huge corporations, as if they are rival neighborhood kids whose temporary alliances give free candy at the end of the day. Of course, the companies themselves encourage this, with constant jabs and swipes at each other, that often reminds me of a couple of T-Rex's' with lockjaw trying to punch each-other with small, goofy arms. The whole scenario is pretty silly, needlessly developing conflict over entertainment products.
As with most all conflicts, the origin is money. The companies want profit, and most gamers really don't want/can't afford to buy another box for under the TV, not to speak of the hassle of keeping multiple devices hooked up and updated.
If only the back of my entertainment center were this organized. Source: networkworld.com
And yet, with every system software exclusive or touted hardware edition, in the end it can be easy to miss the real point; are we still able to just play and have fun with this stuff? How can we keep up with all the fascinating developments, the whirlwind pace of new tech, and cool games that we like without getting caught up in the needless fray that pits one company against another?
It's easier for some of us to not automatically have bias for or against these video game giants, but I find that those folks usually don't have as much interest or investment in our hobby, or they in fact do have built-in biases that go about unintentionally or even unaware. I'm not saying everyone who loves games has such biases for or against certain game companies, just that most of the time if we think we don't have a bias, it's the way it is embedded into us that makes it invisible.
There are also those who proudly admit their bias and take ownership of discounting or denouncing a grand swath of products and devices made to entertain, solely based on the fact that it comes with a certain brand stamp on it (though often from the same factory as preferred items). And why bother to argue? As the saying goes, stereotyping sure is a time-saver.
I think the best scenario is to distance ourselves a bit from the respective companies and evaluate our relationship with them. It is always important to lay emotions down and be honest about why we tend to lean toward one direction or another. If I like Coke, I can still have a respect for Pepsi (and the unwashed heathens, er, I mean friends and folks who drink it). What's more, "unplugging" from a preferred bias and giving an honest evaluation to the 'other side' is not only a healthy exercise, but who knows? Maybe there's more to like 'over there' than you first thought. (Hey, Wild Cherry Pepsi's not too bad. Maybe I just haven't gotten over Crystal Pepsi.)
So with that in mind, here's my admission of bias on the giant corporations and conglomerations taking all of the money and time I should be putting towards real world problems, like training to be a Rally driver.
Next the Bros' are teaching me to be a doctor. Sweet. Source: Gamesradar.com
a.k.a. M$, XBone, XBot, just buy a PC media center already
I enjoyed the original Xbox library more than most, I think, and the notoriously huge box founded my love for console LAN gaming. All told, the first two MS generations of hardware saw more fun in multiplayer at our house than everything else in the era combined. The 360 still has what may be my favorite overall modern library of games. Times changed in the last few years though, beginning around the Kinect era and into the One. I don't think it's cynical to assume that Microsoft saw a huge potential in the tech behind Kinect, and their answer to the runaway success of the motion-control-centered Wii. Unfortunately, the tech that was demoed and promised only materialized into the same inconsistent, flailing motions for which their competition was also derided Eventually, fewer games came out that I wanted to play, and after a while I realized the PS3 library began capturing my interest far more.
I assumed, like many of the 360 faithful, that the One would be my natural next-gen ticket. But as details began to emerge, the One's focus on being a multimedia box held no interest to me whatsoever, and so I feel a lot of the machine is wasted on someone like me. And the One's controller I find oddly less comfortable, especially in reference to the near perfect 360 controller (whose only flaw was corrected with the switchable D-pad).
Recently the One has grown back in my favor as there are more games I'm interested in around the corner. Plus, Rare Replay
was practically more of a system seller for me than a new Halo
. I'm glad I own one of these, but the One has some catching up to do to compete with my PS4 preference. Sony
a.k.a. the best and worst at marketing, that company that wants to sell you a steak that still tastes like hamburger, those guys that don't have Halo
I've got such an up-and-down relationship with this company. I enjoyed the original PSX completely. Lost interest in the PS2, especially since for several years I had to fix them for a living, but after a few years the PS2 library really impressed me. Then the PS3 felt like an expensive joke for a long time, until it surprisingly grabbed my preference in the later 360 years. I could never get comfortable with the Dual Shock line of controllers until the PS4 though.
After MS failed to impress me in the lead up to new consoles (combined with a more expensive initial price), the PS4 won me over, and continued to do so with many excellent releases. I have a strong initial bias of the PS4 over the One, though that lead has shrunk this year now that the One is finally coming out with stuff I like. I am glad that I can just enjoy both, although until the One releases a similar accessibility feature for southpaws like me, my preference will always be with the PS4. (Can't express how much Sony impressed me with that!) Surprisingly, the Dual Shock 4 came out of nowhere to be not only the first Sony controller I felt natural with, but my favorite of the newer systems. Nintendo
a.k.a. the toy for the kids, two Wiis taped together, what you play while waiting to find Amiibos
I've been a Nintendo fan through it all, and the Wii U continues to be the system that no-one seems to want until they come over and play it with us. Instead of going on about the great games and features of the system, I want to detail what I've come to believe is the biggest difference between "The Big Three, " and why I think Nintendo is such an outlier.
As video games transitioned from its origins in groundbreaking technology and experiments in play to a sustained entertainment industry, for the first few decades video games adhered to the recreational toy market. After the 'introductory' price of the system, each game purchase was a self-contained product for play and subject to the whims of what entertained the player. Each game, each product, was a one-shot purchase the player invested time and money into. The first 'goals' of gaming involved competitive play against another person, then asynchronous high score competitions, and then 'complete-able' objectives, allowing a player to 'finish' a game.
Around a decade or so ago, video games began to really shifting from a product you buy and into a service you pay for. DLC, map-packs, and other add-ons altered the market to where buying a game was just the start; now there is continued support and development after the initial purchase. This has had many consequences for good and ill; bugs can get patched and fixed, but games are often shipped with the expectation to do so later; a great game can have more great content added, but the potential buyer is now wary and may just wait for a later 'GOTY' version; and tellingly, those that grew up on a product instead of service model often feel somewhat cheated that 'all the content' wasn't included in the initial purchase. Sony and Microsoft are no longer using the 'games as product' model, but a 'games as service' model; you pay an initial fee for the 'base' game, and content comes out for it to digest over time. The service is the key, not the product. Games with Gold and PlayStation Plus are the prime example; you just pay monthly to consume new games.
And in that divide, we have 'old-fashioned' Nintendo.
Nintendo is, at heart, a toymaker. It sells toys. It sells them as complete packages, and you are expected to enjoy them for what they are. This philosophy is apparent in almost every aspect of their video game history.
Nintendo systems often come out like they were designed in a vacuum, without real input from their direct competitors. The company itself readily admits it doesn't really try to directly compete, but instead builds its own products to satisfy a broad range of customers. Odd features, strange designs, alternate input methods, all point to a design intent that isn't interested in catering to established markets as much as, well, making new toys for folks to play with.
Nintendo is known for selling odd peripherals that they don't much support, but that is largely because the peripheral is often primarily made for the initial purchase, and any other support is a bonus and not the expectation. The Super Scope Six, R.O.B., the Wii Fit Board, you name it. They are all expensive one-shots with a little support afterwards, but mainly designed as something you buy and play for what it is at the time of purchase.
Nintendo is less interested in online services that Microsoft and Sony, not because it is incapable of creating fun online experiences, but because like the peripherals just mentioned, Nintendo is more interested in selling a complete product and not a service. Nintendo wants to generate interest in its products, and seems to only really delve into online services for selling its digital back-catalogue and giving longer legs to existing popular self-contained products, like Mario Kart and Smash Bros. In fact, Nintendo seems to only do one thing really close to selling a service at the moment, which leads to...
From a marketing standpoint, it seems like idiocy to severely limit supply to certain markets when demand is so great. Surely Nintendo realizes how much money it is losing by not having products to sell, right? Ah, but what if Nintendo was more interested in continually generating customer interest instead? I see Skylanders
figures on sale and everywhere. What I don't see in those product lines is how much constant demand Amiibo figures still generate, almost a year-and-a-half after being introduced, and into a pre-existing market at that. Amiibos took the industry by surprise because for once, Nintendo isn't as interested in one-shot profits as it is generating a constant-demand market it can continuously sell to. In the most left-field way, Amiibos have become the closest thing Nintendo has done to selling a service instead of a product, an item that has no foreseeable completion, a never-ending (as of yet) treasure hunt.
Many of the Nintendo faithful have developed a hunger for the service model of gaming, and expect Nintendo to fit that mold, and if it doesn't, that it will fade away like every other nostalgic toy (until the inevitable Michael Bay reboot). Others, like myself, find invaluable worth in a toymaker who still makes one-shot, complete-as-they-are toys. I think there's room for it in the market, now more than ever.
Some toys apparently ARE better than video games. Source: Boomsbeat.com
So there you have it. My thoughts and reflections that hopefully expose my personal bias in 'The Big Three' (R.I.P. Sega) at the moment. And I'd like to hear yours! I mean, if we can't all have civil conversations about what we like and dislike about video game
companies, what hope do we have to engage in important conversations, like politics, religion, and how we all hate mobile gaming! (I jest! I jest! I love Space Team
. And Snake
. And... those other good ones.)