Here we are on the precipice of the next generation of video games. Nintendo has launched their latest console in the Wii U. Sony has announced their new behemoth of a console, the PlayStation 4. Valve has the SteamBox in their future. Oh, and of course, a new Xbox and Kinect 2 are coming soon as well. Not to mention the new kids on the block, the Ouya and GameStick, are also on the way. Yet, I keep feeling as if it is way too soon to leave this generation behind.
Looking back on the current generation, seven years have passed since the Xbox 360 launched. Six years have passed since the Wii wiggled its way into every grandparents’ credenza. And the PS3 arrived last but not least. Personally, I’ve had a ton of life milestones since these consoles launched (bought a house, got married, had two kids, earned my Masters’ Degree). I’m sure you’ve had your fair share as well. Nevertheless, I am having a miserable time leaving behind my Xbox 360 (and, secondarily, my PS3).
There are a several of reasons for this separation anxiety. First off, the games currently out on consoles do not look that bad graphically. When exploring levels on Mass Effect 3 or Dead Space 3, I don’t look and think that these games appear even remotely dated. In fact, their gorgeousness makes me think that even more is graphically capable on our current generation consoles. Keep in mind, I am in no way including the Wii in this generation. Those games looked like muddied crap from launch and the Wii U is perfectly justified. Compared to what I am seeing on the high end PC games, the consoles really don’t seem to be graphically behind the ball.
Secondly, in this economic climate, asking gamers to drop another $600 on accessories and a new system seems ludicrous. Spending money on gaming systems felt less irresponsible before the housing crisis, the under-employment debacle, and the skyrocketing cost of gasoline. But in an environment where filling up a tank of gas = the price of a brand new game, forcing gamers to invest in a new system feels foolish. Furthermore, with so many inexpensive masterpieces unleashed on Steam and on iOS devices, $60 games and $600 consoles is borderline asinine. Just take a look at the console sales on the Wii U and you’ll see what a crappy economy can do to an innovative but expensive console.
Let’s talk about loyalty next. It’s starting to look as if all of the downloadable games that were purchased on an Xbox 360 or a PS3 won’t play on the new systems. If that’s the case, why the hell would I ever upgrade to a new system? With hundreds of games, add-ons, and more bought on my Xbox, why would I continue to support a console maker that doesn’t support me? Microsoft encouraged all of its users to buy content in their Marketplace. And how do they repay us for our loyalty? By making us buy that content again on a new system. While Apple and Steam allow gamers to transition games to new hardware, if Microsoft and Sony can’t support last generations DLC to the future, the sales figures on all of their digital content will collapse.
Finally, the stockpile of Xbox 360 games I currently have in my possession demands my loyalty despite the arrival of a new system. All indications point to the new consoles not being backwards compatible. This is despite the fact that the attach rate for this generation is easily the highest in console history. Just because I have a stack of 20 awesome games that I haven’t completed, I’d rather stay in the past with my dusty old Xbox 360 games than to upgrade to a shiny new system with no launch games.
Look people, I love seeing innovations in video games expand the market and improve the experience. But in everything I’ve seen so far, these new systems are not justifiable. I wish that instead of spending so much time on replacing their hardware, that Microsoft and Sony would work on better first party titles. This Christmas was especially weak for new first party games and the future’s not looking much brighter. It’s too late to call back the PS4 but there’s still time for Microsoft to reconsider blowing its load. There are just too many flaws within this time frame to help any of the console makers succeed.