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nintendoll avatar 9:03 PM on 09.16.2008  (server time)
The Golden Age of Gaming? I Hope Not!

After reading a post entitled The Golden Age of Gaming on The Escapist, I have to say I was unimpressed by the arguments made. While technology certainly allows us to advance further in the capability of game systems, I'd be pretty disappointed if this turned out to be as good as it gets.

The big three today are quite different than one might have predicted 10 years ago. People might forget this but the "big three" almost 20 years ago were Nintendo (NES), Sega (Genesis), and Hudson Soft/NEC (Turbografx-16). Some people might question the legitimacy of Turbografx being in the mix, however its Japanese counterpart (the PC-Engine) was enormously successful in Japan. In fact, the PC-Engine was still producing games up until 1999, giving the system a 10-year lifespan.

During this time period, companies were super-competitive. This allowed for not only better deals on systems (such as pack-in games) but a demand for better games. All of these systems seemed to be neck and neck in their time, and having a good game library was absolutely essential. Games in that time were not as well-established in the average consumers life, so extra effort was needed to make a profit. Especially in the cases of the rivalry between Sega and Nintendo, since each system had a clear mascot. Titles with Sonic or Mario had to be good; they were company bread-winners.

Today's big three don't feel the same kind of pressure. Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo are all very financially well-off, and can afford to whore out their mascot characters into shitty games (see: Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games). If you can't develop a good game it's not really a big deal. You can just make overly simplistic casual games (Nintendo), rely heavily on third party support (Microsoft) or only put out decent exclusive games intermittently (Sony). The end result is a completely disproportionate amount of shovelware vs. good quality games.

Advances in technology in the context of today's consoles are a mixed bag, and probably vary based on personal opinion. So instance, I don't really give a shit if the Wii doesn't have a DVD player inside of it. I already have a 360, PS2 and a DVD player to do that for me. The addition of internal memory seems to be working out decently for now, but how is it going to change when all games require installs or patches? People are already complaining about lack of space, and Nintendo's response is a nonchalant, "Oh, just delete your older games," a statement echoed by Cammie Dunaway in an interview with Buying extra memory for systems is an expense that shouldn't exist; Microsoft makes it even more costly by forcing you to buy their specially-formatted memory. With downloadable content becoming more and more popular, the issue of hard drive space is one that will be more and more critical.

Downloadable content itself has been hailed as part of this "Golden Age" of gaming. This is, again, a subjective view. Peronally, when I spend money on something I like to be able to physically hold it, store it, show it off, etc. DLC is subject to all sorts of problems, mainly concerning system crashes. In many (but not all) cases when your console bricks, whatever DLC and save files you have are lost. So it comes down to personal preference: do you want a game that can be physically damages (through scratches or cracks) or a game that can be lost through hardware failure? The pros and cons are about even on this one.

The games of our time can't even live up the lofty "Golden Age of Gaming" title. While there is no doubt in my mind that 2007 was a fantastic year for gaming with titles such as Bioshock, Rock Band, Guitar Hero III, The Orange Box, Super Mario Galaxy, Call of Duty 4, Puzzle Quest, Halo 3, Persona 3, and Forza 2, this also needs to be taken in context of how many games were produced. In 2007, there were 800+ games released. Hundreds upon hundreds of games were released last year, and only about 20-30 of those games can be considered above average to exceptional. It has come to the point where more people expect upcoming titles to be bad than good--take a look at the discussions surrounding the new Sonic game and it's plain as day. It's just tough to get excited about games these days, especially with titles like Alone In the Dark getting my hopes up with gorgeous screenshots and the promise of an enticing storyline, only to slam me back down into a world of failed game play elements.

I want to be positive about the current gen gaming consoles, I really do. But each company is falling over itself in bad attempts to attract more customers, instead of trying to improve the quality of their games and products.

And no, Microsoft's new dashboard and deal with Netflix is not improving the quality of their product.

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