Friday, 6 April 2007

Console wars - how stupid can one be?

Let's get this out of the way first. I like my video gaming. I am predominantly a console gamer because I think their games are more fun than the few game formulas that PC games repeatedly offer.

Now that my personal madness is out of the way, I just want to unleash my verbal hell on all of those jackasses that dispute on the net which console is better. I swear sometimes in this world I think that a lot of people carry the collective brain of a goldfish at best. You see people in fora argue all the time which console is best, they talk about system specifications and they argue with passion like their life depends on it. It is just silly really. I mean what is the fucking point, it is not like us, the average gamers, are making any actual profit from the machines sold. We are not Microsoft, Sony or Nintendo stockholders to be that dogmatic about "what is best" and "what rules and will sweep the competition away". To some extent this stupid gamers' conflict resembles the eternal argument among men "if size does matter". Well lets face it people, regardless of size we all want to have sex and do it, so does it really matter at the end,lol? With this blog entry I 'll try to highlight the strong and weak points of each "next gen" console without tiring with useless technicalities. On with the show then. I 'll present the consoles in the order they have been commercially released.

Ok, lights on! Here comes the
Xbox360. According to the company, it is the ultimate console yadda yadda , it is going to smoke the competition and for fucks sake it is a Microsoft product how bad can it be.

Let's see the reality behind the hype with some pros and cons. Not an exhaustive list just some brief comments so dont kill yourselves with despair just yet:

Pros: Xbox360 was the first next gen console to be released almost a year and a half ago, if memory serves. This means that game developers had more time to get to grips with the hardware and what it can do. The first quality titles are either out (e.g Gears of War) or down the pipeline (e.g. Alan Wake, Bioshock, Halo 3). Microsoft is more experienced now with the console market after the "hit and miss" behemoth that was the original Xbox. Hardware wise the machine is leaps and bounds over the Xbox, supports HD display and doesnt look half bad compared to the bulky Xbox. Plus Xbox Live is by far the best on-line console service around. In addition one by one the cool PS3 exclusives will be appearing on this console as well so that is always a plus from a commercial point of view. So this console has all the rings and bells of a next gen console. Surely it is a must buy then.... well let's see the cons first.

Cons : So far apart from Gears of War no other game justifies the purchase of this console(we are talking about value for money here). The regular gamer doesnt own an HD TV at the moment so what is the point of buying a console that you ll take full advantage of only if you own such a TV (they are not exactly cheap are they now...). Console on-line gaming is not yet as popular or intuitive as on-line PC gaming and that is that,like it or not. Microsoft still has a lot to learn about the console market. Just take a look at Japan for example. Xbox360 doesnt sell well there because at Xbox360 headquarters(probably stationed at one of Bill Gates' bathrooms or something,lol) they dont get the mentality of that native market. For some people Xbox360 is the means to transfer PC games to the console market but the average console gamer thinks PC games are tolerable at best. I mean after the millionth RTS (Real Time Strategy) and FPS(First Person Shooter) you eventually want something more. Plus there is no substitute for the mouse and keyboard combo for such titles. So there you go, not all is rosy in planet Xbox360.

On to the next contender...

The Nintendo Wii!!! Ok, after you are done with the belly laughs due to this genuinely hilarious name let's see what this bugger has to offer :

Pros: You swing the remote and it copies your movement on screen. Come on people how cool is that! The potential of this control method is enormous if nothing else to attract the non-hardcore gaming audiences that have been alienated by today's gamepads with tens of buttons and button combinations. The actual console looks really nice as well doesnt occupy a shit load of space. The Nintendo franchises are all in place and ready to attract gamers to the Wii world. Another cool feature is the ability to stay on-line 24 hours/day even when the console is off, with updates and stuff being added to your console and games. The virtual console web interface will also give access to the Wii owner to play classic Nintendo and Sega games by downloading them for a minimal fee. But let's face it, this console is all about the innovative control of the games and pure fun. Plus the price is really good compared to the overpriced pieces of hardware that other companies sell. Lastly, the games for Wii have the lowest developing costs of all the trio of consoles so that is always good for game companies to hear (in spite of this fact they will be a bit cheaper retail wise as well).Is that enough though?

Cons: The console is seriously underpowered as far as hardware is concerned. Essentially it is a Gamecube on steroids which doesnt really say much in this era. By warming up to the "casual gamer" Nintendo seems to alienate the "hardcore gamer". Hardcore gamers are the ones that spend a lot on games though, so that market should not be excluded from this console. As with all consoles the games will be the "make or break" of this one. Nintendo will offer at some point the usual franchises Mario, Zelda , Metroid which are all top notch and all but there is only so much Mario you can take. At the moment the console has a distinct lack of "must buy" software and when the latest Zelda (essentially a Gamecube game forwarded to the Wii format) is your best purchase, the gamer seriously questions the necessity of investing on the Wii. On-line gaming is questionable or even non-existent at this point on the console so that may be also a deciding point for some gamers. Above all though, the Wii's greatest innovation maybe it's greatest downfall as well. A new way of controlling games means external game developers need to think "outside the box" and devise new ways of controlling games without making them too easy or too hard. Only time will tell if they are up for the challenge or if they are willing to be bothered...

Wii is done and dusted so lets move on to "the monster of monsters" the
Playstation 3. Apart from the strong brand name is there actually anything else to this I wonder...

Pros: It is the most powerful machine of the three hardware wise and the untapped potential of this "monster of a console " is huge. Theoreticaly this seems to indicate that in a couple of years time the available software on the machine will be really something at least as far as graphics are concerned. The PS3 on-line service is seriously improved compared to the atrocity of the PS2 on-line interface. The PS3 is home to a lot of beloved franchises like Resident Evil, Devil May Cry, Metal Gear Solid which will surely spawn quality sequels sometime along the way. It has a huge brand name which made gaming a favourite past time of many rather than the hobby a few fanatic nuts. Essentially it is the continuation of two very successful consoles and the company knows how to make good games and decent hardware. Guaranteed to have a monster catalogue of games like all playstations before it.

Cons: It is too damn expensive....Let me rephrase that, it is ridiculously expensive and a lot of gamers dont give a toss what it has to offer as long as THAT retail price remains. Sony made a grave mistake to take its consumers for granted thinking that they would flock into shops and buy whatever has the playstation logo on it regardless of price. That was a serious mistake... A lot of the so called PS3 exclusives(including major franchises) will be appearing on the "cheaper but not yet cheap enough" Xbox360. So why buy the more expensive console for those games if you can play them on a cheaper one. I just dont see the point. Another stupid thing is the lack of a vibration feature on the controller. This damn feature has been a mainstream feature of controllers in the past decade or so and it seriously adds to the immersion of the gamer. Instead Sony opted for a bastardized version of the Wii controller which really is just plain stupid and offers nothing. Lastly, at the moment the console has no killer titles released for it and who the hell is going to give THAT amount of money to play "lightly polished PS2 games". If you consider that this was the last console to hit the market that is inexcusable for a company like Sony. Lastly, the HD TV argument for Xbox360 applies to the PS3 as well.

So there you go. Three "next gen" consoles ready to conquer the world...Not really folks give it a year maybe two and then we will talk again. Just because companies want to force us like sheep to buy overpriced products (just consider the 60-70 Euros of a "next gen" console game which will last like what 6-10 hours max, no value for money there). Think before you act, squeeze every last ounce out of the so called "last gen" consoles and wait for the truely next gen titles to arrive. Till then be smart and dont get carried away by the hype. You ' ll only see your bank account trembling and that is not a pretty sight...unless you are too rich to care which I am not, lol!

p.s. 1 : Hope you like the accompanying cartoon strips I made them myself...Kinda of rushed the design process of those but I consider them a nice diversion from reading text.

p.s. 2: PS3 and Xbox360 are really quite similar in their pros and cons, so I kinda of made a compromise among their strong points and weaknesses in order not to repeat myself. After all it is still early days...

Take care of yourselves all!