So. How about that new XBox?
I was set to comment nearly an hour after the conference about how the next gen slate ranks so far, but after that show, I honestly couldn’t tell you what I actually felt. To an extent, this was expected. Yesterday was meant to unveil the system, show off some features, with the actual games coming at E3. We got that, sure, with a lot of unexpected kicks to the teeth after. And thus did the hyperbole machine activate and operate at maximum capacity.
Rather than knee jerk it, I let it roll around the rest of day. And the morning after, nope, I still have no idea how I feel.
If Microsoft’s aim was meant to allow me to count my electronic life’s blessings and hold them dear, mission accomplished. I’m a 31-year-old gamer with healthy disposable income, a reliable unlimited internet connection, and access/interest in cable. How fucking awesome is the XBox One going to be for me? Everything that box does is relevant to my interests.
And still, I have no idea how I feel.
There are others who know very damn well how they feel. Pissed off, betrayed, disgusted, ready to give Sony their hard-earned money. And sorry, I can’t even muster that much. We don’t even know what Sony’s machine looks like, aside from maybe having the Facebook logo plastered across it metaphorically if not physically.
I can muster a great deal of sympathy, for sure. There’s a good cross-section of gamers who have been completely aced out of the new gen. People who buy used? People who buy a game, then trade it among their friends? People who game offline exclusively? You guys are jackrabbit screwed. Microsoft obviously no longer wants your money, but let’s face it, from a business standpoint, they never really had it to begin with, which is the whole idea behind this online-activation thing to begin with. You think gaming’s an expensive hobby for you, for a company to lose money every time it sells you a system, for a development studio to nearly go bankrupt every single time it makes a new game, seeing the money that could go into rewarding their efforts go into Gamestop’s pockets, or nowhere at all outside the initial purchase had to be aggravating. So, yeah, I’ve even got sympathy for the devil in this situation.
And yeah, I’m less than thrilled about backward compatibility being gone, but, ask a programmer: Emulation requires several times the horsepower of the original hardware to do, and it’s a bitch to program. I love Microsoft for doing as well as they did, working on getting specific original XBox titles to work on the 360 well into the new console’s lifecycle, and Sony’s efforts resulted in slick HD re-releases, but that was resources that could’ve been spent fixing the new instead of enabling the old. It’ll be annoying, but a harsh reality.
But even this, I still don’t have an emotion for anything I’ve seen in the last 3 months.
The reason I feel nothing is that, for all of the talk yesterday about how the new XBox is now essentially the snazziest Roku ever made, both Microsoft and Sony seem hopelessly oblivious to the fact that there is only one reason to get either system instead of a Roku: The games. Both seem to be caught on this idea that separating from the herd means that a gamer’s gaming system needs to be more than that to work. This is more proof that neither company learned the correct lesson from the Wii’s successes, or their own. Ironically, neither has Nintendo, but I’ve written that diatribe before. The Wii was a money printing machine for years because they managed to make people who don’t play games WANT to play games. Their problem was that the creativity stopped once they found their old people/”I love Super Mario Bros, I’m such a nerd”/7-year-old-with-obliging-parents niche. Netflix, News, Weather, and the other crap was a bonus. When you turned on the Wii, 90% of the time, you came to game. Core gamers stuck with MS and Sony because they had better ones to play, and more exciting ways to enjoy them, zero of which were tied to my ability to watch the goddamned Price Is Right in the same place.
So, Microsoft? Sony? Nintendo doesn’t really have games right now, and you’re stripping away our ability to play the shit we’ve already purchased from you. For a good cross-section of folks, you’re stripping away their ability to play altogether. If my hobby is going to be an exclusionist hobby, then this obnoxious black-panel country club you’re trying to build in what used to be a reasonably affordable neighborhood better be worth it. No one should be apathetic walking into an exclusive club. If they are and still pay to get in, they’re assholes. The ones that aren’t need more reasons than what you’ve given us.
I’m far more inclined to keep my 360, my Wii, and my PS3 right where they are if I want to play all the games I’ve accumulated over the years, a good portion of which I still haven’t beaten. I can watch Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and Blu-Rays on my PS3. I have a Roku in my bedroom that streams live TV. I can post to Facebook from my phone. Fuck sports.
What I still don’t have is next gen gaming. Not graphics engines, or motion control, or spec porn, or mocap dogs. GAMING. When do we get to see that?