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Ever since I've got my hands on my first amplifier back in 2000, I've been a bit of an A/V junkie. There is something cool about having a media center in my living room that makes everyone want to game at my house. Fact is, I've got the best A/V setup of any of my friends, and it's not even a close call.
And as of late it's been the Playstation systems that have been the center of it all. Now I know I can run out and spend $500+ on a full featured Oppo blu ray player, and I'm sure they have some advantages, but for my money, PS3 is probably the best blu ray player in the world. Not only is it sleek and sexy, but also backwards compatible with one of my all time favorite systems (PS1), but also has all the features of a smart device including a fairly large hard drive and plays its own games to boot. I do lament the loss of PS2 compatibility (which seems like more trouble than its worth) but despite that the PS3 is my multimedia hub.
Am I the only one who gets excited for this?
To go along with that, I've also decided to replace my PSP that was stolen back in 2013. Now I know what some of you might ask, why not get a Vita? And that is a fair question. I kept rolling it around in my head, and as much as I was annoyed at the UMD format, I decided that the PSP was the better call. Basically, PSP has the library of games that I'd much rather play, and I didn't want to be locked down to Vita could offer digitally. Also, stoage is a major expense for Vita. For the PSP it's a much easier issue to tackle, especially since you really only need a small amount of storage for saves. I also want to be able to play PS1 games, so I can either buy them digitally and play on PS3 or PSP (Vita can't play them all for some reason) or stream the games to my PS3. I've already got a 32GB card on order. I also love the idea that the PSP can easily play and transfer media files via USB, no extra program needed. So I feel pretty justified in my decision.
They were made for each other
Now I have two setups at home, a 50 inch plasma for my old school gaming which has a PS3, modded Wii (for 8-16 bit games) Dreamcast, Sega Saturn, and N64, all adapted for HDMI. In the not to distant future I'd like to output those systems with RGB scart, but that's expensive and complicated. So for now upscaled S-video will have to do.
My modern setup has a 60 inch plasma with a 7.2 surround sound setup. That's got my second PS3, Wii U, Xbox 360 and Xbox One, all of them using a wired connection except Wii U, so everything is high speed low, low drag. My tablet which has all my media files can stream audio to my amplifier and act as a second screen via the Onkyo app is pretty amazing. My plan is to replace my second PS3 with a PS4, and get a Vita for off screen play. I'm not sure how easy it is for Vita to stream media files to PS4 so if anyone could enlighten me, I would be most thankful. Both PS4 and Vita have some notable memory issues. Vita's are well documented so I don't feel like I need to beat a dead horse. But the PS4's seem to be ignored. Fundamentally, it works the same as the PS3's except it eats through storage space much more quickly due to the manditory game installs. Without the option for external storage, and having to live with the caveats of a laptop drive, it makes it hard to make the PS4 a media hub. So I'm hoping that by the time I'm ready to buy there's going to be a larger hard drive included or more options available. I could very well see in 5-6 years that I could put in a 6 TB SSD and have a 128 GB Vita ready to share content. As for now though, that's just not a possibility.
I could make the Xbox One my media hub for my modern setup, but it's not quite optimal. The Blu ray aspect of the Xbone is servicable, but I feel like it's not as feature rich as it could be. Sony has always had great playback software. I'm also a big fan of the second screen functionality, I suppose my tablet could do that with Smartglass, I may need to look into it futher. That seems like it could be useful. The idea that I had was to be able to watch blu ray discs from the second screen, and from my understanding there's no way to do that. Wii U could do that if it actually played Blu Ray movies, but it's the least media friendly console I've seen since the Gamecube, and that's saying something. A total missed opportunity if you ask me.
Sorry if I ranted on rather than having a distinct point, just thinking out loud I suppose. If you guys have any suggestions or information to add I'd love to hear it. I don't have all the equipment I need so my knowlege of some of it is limited. Long story short I just want to have a badass A/V setup that allows me to consume it any way I choose. I've got some pics in the gallery for those who want to see them, and if you have some pics of your A/V or PC gaming setup I'd love to see them too.
Nintendo's been acting kinda funny lately. No, not their normal shenanigans like prentending the internet doesn't exist, and producing low quantities of high demand items. This is a lot more subtle, something you have to look a little closer to see.
We all know that new hardware is planned years before anything is released, but usually companies are hush hush about it, until they have something concrete to demonstrate. But Nintendo has actually been surprsingly vocal considering the Wii U is only a couple years old.
First off, they have already admitted to having production lines working on ideas for the next system. But what's strange is that they've also said they already have a clear direction on what their next system will be. They've even gone so far as to talk about the "fusion" of a handheld and console in one.
So I want to know what is: what is Nintendo planning? I can say this much, historically Nintendo changes direction every two generations. (If you've already heard my explanation of this bear with me.)
The NES, SNES and Game Boy all share a similar philosophy on hardware: a compeitive piece of tech that has the end user and developers in mind. These are the systems that had the best third party support, and were generally well made and without gimmicks.
Pure, simple, fun
The N64, Gamecube, GBC, and GBA were more focused on "less is more". They were all about delivering more powerful hardware, cutting back features deemed unneccessary or superflous to get the bottom line price while giving optimal game performance.
Pretty impressive for a $200 box back in 2001
The Wii, DS, 3DS and Wii U take the opposite approach. They forego power in lieu of features, innovation and price. They make every attempt to stand out from their compeitiors and have far less consideration for third party.
Where else can you do this?
While you could call out the pros and cons in each approach, it's hard to deny that in many respects Nintendo needs to adjust their thinking for their next system. I think it's pretty apparent from their comments, that this is very much what they intend to do.
So, what of this fusion? How can they possibly combine two technologies that are so different? Believe it or not, this might be something we start to see in the current generation. In, case you haven't noticed, Nintendo often starts implementing their next gen ideas late into the current gen cycles.
The FX chip and accelerators put into late SNES games show Nintendo was pushing towards a 3D future. Look at Star Fox, Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island, the Donkey Kong Country series, and Killer Instinct. Late into the Gamecube we saw things like Odama. Donkey Kong Jungle Beat, Donkey Konga and Mario Party 7 & 8 which used new interfaces to bring some new ideas to the table. Should it be any surprise that we start seeing some of the fusion ideas implemented into Wii U?
The one consistant is that the handheld and console will no longer be distinct. Games like Smash Bros and Monster Hunter 3U already allow for you to use the 3DS as a controller. Add the fact that the "new" 3DS is implementing better specs (possibly to accomodate better Wii U functionality) the homogenization of features between the Wii U gamepad and the 3DS with the current information that we do have and I believe the fusion idea isn't as far off as you might think.
What does surprise me a bit is to see Nintendo not implementing any kind of 3DS player into the Wii U. After all, the Wii U gamepad already has all the features of the 3DS and then some, all it would take is a simple USB adapter to make the connections complete. The biggest obstacle would be updating the firmware to acccomodate to the 3DS cards, but other than that it would be totally feasable. It's not like Nintendo is new to the idea of letting you play handheld games on the console.
The obvious and clear advantage to making this fusion is development. No longer would Nintendo's fanbase be divided between handheld and console, nor would there need to be seperate marketing and development. Not only could this allow for an incredibly broad range of software, but would also help fill in the gaps so there wouldn't be months of dry spells. I've always said, there's plenty to play on Nintendo systems as long as you have both their handheld and console. The gaps releases is what turns people off.
So why not do it? The elephant in the room is the technology gap between handhelds and consoles. Nintendo traditionally is two generations behind on their handhelds; GBA emulates SNES, DS emulates N64, 3DS emulates Gamecube. So even with a potential next gen system being able to produce graphics on par with 360 and PS3, that would still be really far behind for a 9th gen console. Even with all the other tech, it would be a hard sell for consumers to buy system that's so dated.
Then comes this issue of price. Imagine if they made a system like the Wii U, where the 3DS XL was the controller, how much would that cost? Even with Sony somewhat implementing that tech with the PS4 and Vita, they aren't bundled together. At best they might be able to sell them together for $500. I can't see Nintendo going that high to combine them.
And even then, what would you do if you did manage to make a beast like this? Would there be 50GB games on a handeld? How would you design the games, the interface, and the world? Like it or not, handheld games are designed differently than console games, and for good reason. It just wouldn't make sense to make a game like The Evil Within on a handheld. It could be done, but that's not why people like handhelds. Pokemon would be terribly boring on a console, grinding is only tollerable becaus it's a distraction. I could see possibly making games that would only be playable on the handheld aspect of the fusion, but then doesn't it lose its advantage. Why not just have them seperate then?
The only legitimate solution that I could see to most of these problems is cloud computing. Theoretically, you could store everything in the clould and use a 4G connection to play these games on the road. But given Nintendo's historical reluctance to implement online features (let alone pioneer them) I'm not sure that's a step they themselves would be comfortable making.
Could it be anything like this?
The fusion sure is an interesting idea, but I don't see how it could work, even with technology 3-4 years into the future. One thing is for sure though, Nintendo's next system will be very interesting to see.
Post Script: Just for some futher speculation and food for thought, here's a video from Review Tech USA that might be on to something.
It's the Christmas season, and with all the gift giving a lot of people are getting shiny new consoles. There really is nothing quite like getting a new console on Christmas day, the feel of opening up the box, that new manual smell, and getting all your updates, it's all kind of magical.
Okay, so maybe that new manual smell is no longer a thing, and doing all the updates are at best, a an inconvenience, and at worst, impossible because the servers are down. Acutally, come to think of it, getting a console on Christmas day isn't as glorious as it was when we were kids. But I suppose there's a price to pay for all the tech packed into modern hardware.
And even though I didn't get a new console for Christmas, I did buy one on Black Friday, an Xbox One. I got to thinking, what games would be best for a new console. You may not think about it, but there are certainly games that lend themselves better to a new console than others. That is to say, they are more "complete" experiences, games can be played for longer sessions for various reasons. So I thought I'd tackle this topic. What's a good game to get, and what do you want to avoid?
When I got my N64, my first game was Diddy Kong Racing. My dad probably picked it because it was a racing game (which he's always seemed fond of despite not being a gamer) kid friendly, and being $10 cheaper than most other games on the shelf. He didn't know it, but DKR was probably the best game he could have chosen.
Diddy Kong Racing has it all, it's an easy game to just pick up and play for short sessions, but a game you can also spend hours mastering all the tracks. It has an adventure mode which gives you a nice sense of progression where you take on challenges one by one, and it unlocks content for the multiplayer aspect which is a ton of fun. Maybe it's just the nostalgia talking, but it's just one of those games that pretty much nails everything, and is a perfect first game.
Fast Forward a couple years and my next system I got for Christmas was the Dreamcast. With it I got Soul Calibur and Slave Zero. While Slave Zero was a forgettable mech game, Soul Calibur Was glorious. it's yet another shining example of what happens when a developer puts their heart and (pardon the pun) soul into a game.
Even without a VMU I had a ton of fun with Soul Calibur. Not only were the graphics/sound stellar for the time, it was fun just to fool around with the game, not even making any real progress. That's a telltale sign of a great game. I played the arcade mode to death, and when I finally did get my hands on a VMU I started tearing though mission mode. To this day I don't understand why all fighting games don't have some equivalent. To me a fighting game without a single player is like a FPS without a campaign. Sure if the gameplay is good enough, it can stand on its own, but the experience is so much richer with a single player component. It teaches you the game without harsh penalites, gives you content to unlock, and adds variety to the gameplay.
So the inevitable question then is, what modern games fit this criteria? There's quite a few games actually. In fact I would say that's one thing that most modern games try to acommodate to. In my humble opinion, games are more accessable than ever, and the better for it.
If I was to reccomend some games for Wii U for instance, it would be pretty easy. I would say the Mario 3D World bundle is a great call. It's got a great single player experience, but you can easily add multiple players with any combination of controllers, the gameplay variety is there, multiple characters each with their own attributes and tons of secrets to unlock. I'd also say Smash Bros is a great call for the same reason, as is Mario Kart 8, but they aren't as strong from a single player perspective.
The Xbox One has the Master Chief collection. Now granted this is almost all old content, but the graphical updates, new modes and options and online play for games that haven't been accessable for some time, it's a fantastic package. Even as someone who has spent hours upon hours in the Halo games, it's still compelling to go though those games yet again.
And on the Playstation side I would say Uncharted 3 is a fine example. Not only are you getting a stellar campaign that has puzzles, platforming and action, but also there's co-op and a robust multiplayer. No, the multiplayer isn't quite the best of the generation, but it's a lot of fun and there's enough there to keep you busy long after the capmpagin is over.
Now ideally, a complete experience should have both a compelling single player and multiplayer component, co-op never hurt anything either. That being said though, I don't feel like an aspect of a game should be thrown in just for the sake of it being there. Games like Resident Evil 4, and Arkham City are amazing experiences on their own and have an abundance of content. Neither of them "needed" a multiplayer component, but their respective sequels got them anyway. (In RE4's defense, it was the next logical evolution and I myself wanted it.) Does anyone talk about how much fun they had in Resident Evil 5's Versus mode, or Arkham Origin's mutiplayer? There's a reason for that.
A game should feel organic in that regard. I see no reason for throw away modes that can't keep a gamers interest. As much as I love Hal Labratories, they are quite guilty of this. Yes, they have a ton of modes, and while most of the content is good, there's some useless filler material. Subspace Emissary was mediocre, and Smash Tour is a confusing mess. If you are going to make a mode, make it worth my time.
Finally, a game should feel complete without the need for DLC. That's why I have a hard time reccomending Call of Duty. Don't get me wrong, it's a fun game with a rubust multiplayer, but the campaigns are often short and aren't very replayable. There's not enogh content on disc to justify the full asking price. That was my biggest gripe with Titanfall, there was not enough to keep me coming back, regardless of how fun the core game is.
Those are the best games of the generation. The games we all look fondly back on, the ones we spent countless hours with. Whether it be catching 'em all in Pokemon, finding that perfect shield in Diablo III or getting that S license in Gran Tourismo, developers should strive to make a game that you'll play for months and remember years.
Last month I wrote a blog on my first impressions of the Xbox One I had just purchased. I went over the positives and negatives, and just how I felt about the system in general. I was more than a little disapointed how long it took to download and install games, the menu system, and the memory system. Needless to say, I feel like it was more critical than it probably should have been. Truth be told I've been having a really good time with the system. So much so, that it's somewhat rekindled my love for the brand. So I thought I'd take the time to explain my stance on the Xbox, why I like the brand, and why the Xbox One is worthy of your gaming dollar.
First off, let me say that I understand that most of the community here at Destructoid isn't a fan of the Xbox. From my expereince, most of the gamers here are either fans of Sony, Nintnedo or PC, with some overlap between them. Xbox seems to be the odd man out. I can't say I totally blame you guys either. Microsoft has pulled some pretty crazy moves over the past 13 years. Some of these moves I understand, some I don't. I've often likened Microsoft to Activision, they put out some good products, but you almost feel drity buying them. I'd just like to put that argument against Microsoft to rest. I understand they have some anti-consumer policies, probably moreso than anyone else in gaming, so you'll get no argument out of me. I just feel like we tend to focus so much on the negative, that we tend to forget when they do cool things.
With that out of the way, I'd like to focus on the positive. The thing that attracts me most to the brand in general is the ecosystem. What do I mean by that? Well I'm glad you asked! I mean that the Xbox brand, historically has had a system that caters to the hardcore, from the first day they came out, they have focused on games and franchises meant fo gamers like you and I. Look at the original system, you have Halo and Dead or Alive 3, as the flagship launch titles. If you picked up the system day 1, you could have 2 games that can be played for hours upon hours. Long after the single player content was gone though, there's still more that can be learned, multiplayer matches could be customized and replayed for weeks, if not months. I've always said a system, needs 2 killer games at launch, and this is a prime example of Microsoft's appeal to the core gamer.
They didn't stop there though. The following year they packaged in Sega GT 2002 and Jet Set Radio Future together for their holiday bundles. Not only were those two totally different games, but they are hardcore experiences with plenty of replay value, and to top it all off there were some demos in there as well. While this is a common practice now to bundle in some games for Christmas, it wasn't like that in 2002. But it was just a cool thing that they did, they didn't have to do it, but it's such a cool value add, it makes the system that much more compelling, even if it was only for the holidays. That may not seem like such a big deal now, but back in 2002 that was pretty forward thinking, now everyone is doing it. So you can thank Microsoft for that.
That's part of the Xbox ecosystem. But that's not all. Xbox live is also very much part of that. From the very beginning they had a vision for the future of gaming. The original Xbox had so much more to offer the core gamer than the PS2 from a hardware standpoint. Nearly every game had 480p support (sometimes even HD resolutions) 16:9 mode and Dolby Digital. The system even came in with a built in broadband adapter, an internal hard drive, and sold for the same price as the PS2. Most PS2 games didn't support widescreen or 480p, and the soundcard was incapable of supporting Dolby Digital in game. As a result, Xbox almost invariably recieved the best console ports, plus some even got additional content.
Fast forward to the Xbox 360, and still, the Xbox brand had the better expereince. While the PS3 was technically more powerful, the cell processor made development difficult, particularly in the early years of the system. It's just with the Xbox, everything was well laid out, the OS was responsive, the options were there, it was super easy to purchase and manage content, and games just ran well. That's why the Xbox 360 was my system of choice last generation, it put the fewest obstacles between me and my games. I loved that I could play custom soundtracks to my games and chat with my friends regardless of what games they were playing. It was so convenient that I could take out my hard drive and pop it in my friend's system. Sure, Live requried a subscription, but for the most part of the generation, it was heads and tales above PSN. I played countless hours of Gears of War and Halo both online and LAN, I just forgot how much fun I had with those games.
Another part of that ecosystem is compatibility with PC. I love that not only are my standard controllers natively compatible with my PC, but so are my arcade sticks. I personally loved the idea of Games for Windows Live. Yes, the PC community has rejected it for various reasons, but the idea was at least cool. You have one gamertag between the two formats, sharing your friends list, achievements, and everything is unified under a user friendly menu system. You've got to at least give Microsoft props for trying to simplifiy and unifiy PC gaming, even if they botched the execution.
So what about the Xbox One? No doubt it has lost the "better experience" advantage that its predecessors enjoyed. The system is weaker than the PS4 and now it has the best ports with exclusive content. I do see this as a real issue to be honest. Even the differences between Live and PSN are fairly marginal. Sony has indeed taken a page out of the Microsoft playbook. So what is Microsoft to do?
Surprisingly, exactly what they are doing now. The price cut for Christmas as a bold move, and they won the season because of it. I think they should keep the $350 price point, it would be difficult for Sony to copy that in their financial situation. They need to keep investing in hardcore franchises like Titanfall, Rise of the Tomb Raider, Killer Instinct, and Halo. These are the games that keep me interested in the platform. But they also need to borrow Sony's gameplan and start investing in new IP's and indie games. At one point in time Microsoft was on the forefront of digital distribution for conle games, they could easily be the system gamers go to for unique digital games.
At this point, they need to work on their OS, their PR, and focusing on games. No one minds that Kinect is option or that apps are a part of the brand, it's all the time spent focusing on those kinds of things that turned gamers off. Thankfully we can see the results of the 180 pulled after E3 2013. Phil Spencer is doing a bang up job of cleaning up the mess that Microsoft created. I want to see more like we've seen this year. Focus on us, the hardcore, you just might us back.
So as you all know Microsoft temporarily cut the cost of the Xbox One down from $399 to $349 and bundled in a couple of Assassins Creed games. But better yet, black Friday sales pushed the console down to $329 and (depending on the store) gave some other goodies with it.
So here I was planning on not getting a new system this Christmas. I was actually planning on making a more informed decision next year, but for some reason I didn't. I mean I told myself I didn't need a new system, the system with the most compelling lineup for the foreseeable future was Wii U. But still, sometimes you want games made by people other than Nintendo. And those games aren't coming to Wii U.
And that's when I saw the Black Friday ads, that's when I caved. Honestly, I usually think about a system long and hard before I buy in. And while it's been on the forefront of my mind for months, it was (and frankly still is) too early to tell what the better system is. But none of that mattered, Xbox One in the span of about 17 months went from a console that I had nothing but disdain for, to a console I stood in line to pay for. Even knowing the history of how that came to be, I'm still befuddled that it actually happened. Before I knew it I was coming home to set up my new system.
Me on (Rebecca) Black Friday
So this brings me to the point of my blog. What do I think of the Xbone? Well...it's complicated. See there are things that I really like about it, and things that leave me scratching my head even more than my decision to purchase the Xbox One. So I'd like to share my thoughts, impressions, hopes, dreams, and whatnot; lets start with the good.
It's actually a really hefty piece of tech, like when you pick it up you feel the weight, that's generally a good sign when it comes to electronics. This is not a rule set in stone mind you, but a general truism, that if it's heavy, it's well built. I'm not crazy about the size or the huge vents on top, but I am about the philosophy behind them. We all remember how big the original Xbox was, and how Microsoft went out of their way to make the 360 more compact, and that they did, problem was, it was a heat box and the reason so many of them failed. Microsoft learned from their mistakes and made the system larger to allow for proper ventalation. I'm cool with that, espeically since it doesn't sound like the 360, which was like a jet engine. The Xbone is actually wisper quiet, and if it's reliable I really don't care that it's big. And think of it this way, they can always go back to the drawing board later and revise the hardware to make it smaller. I also like the 3 USB ports, HDMI in (even though I'll probably never use it), and the touch panel, all of which are nice touches.
Now I can't really talk about anything but the 2 games that I have (Master Chief Collection, Killer Instinct) but I must say these are two games that I've wanted for some time, and have enjoyed both quite a bit. The interesting thing is, they are both exclusive. Moreover, there's a few more exclusives that have my eye, Titanfall, Sunset Overdrive, Ryse (if I can get it for less than $15) Dead Rising 3 (same deal) the upcoming Quantum Break, Halo 5, the new Gears and the upcoming Tomb Raider game (even if it is only timed). Furthermore, it has the third party games that will never hit Wii U, even if they did they wouldn't look as good. They may not be true exclusives as some are coming to PC, but I'm primarlily a console gamer, it's a moot point in my eyes.
You know what the first thing I thought when I got out on the controller? AA batteries, again?!? WTF Microsoft, get with the times! But my second thought was, finally they fixed the D-pad! That has been a horrible blemish on last gen's best controller. But I do like it, it's comfortable, the triggers feel really nice, (the jury is still out on them vibrating) not too heavy, not too light, the analog sticks feel sturdy and repsonsive, and the face buttons are nice and clicky. From my understanding the battery life isn't too shabby either. It still doesn't trump the Wii U pro controller, but I didn't really expect it to either. Point is, it's well designed and comfortable for long sessions of gaming.
Okay, enough praise. I want to adress the bad, because it's the reason I'm still waffling on the system.
The install times
I knew that one of the caveats of both the PS4 and Xbone (by contrast to the Wii U) is that every game requires a manual install before it can be played, even disc based games. I get it, I don't like it, but PC has been that way since like the dawn of PC gaming. So conceptually it wasn't new to me and I knew that I would have that do deal with regardless of which console I chose. I had heard through the grapevine that they were longer than PS4 but I had no idea how long. It's bad, really bad. It's apparently because of the remnants of the always online DRM that was initally planned and is how the system operates. But now that it's gone, shouldn't that clear that up? Apparently not. I had to download the Master Chief collection and install a 15GB patch. That took hours! I can't even tell if it's possible to do in standby mode. Games simply take too long to be playable. I'm used to load times, patches, even DLC, but this is just too much.
An hour before a disc based game is playable?
Now I know another part of the orignal plan for the Xbone was for every system to include Kinect (don't even get me started on how stupid that logic was), and that the interface was designed around it. But why is is so hard to navigate around the system menus? The metro Xbox 360 interface was designed around Kinect, and can certainly be a little cumberson at times, but this is an all new level. To date, I'm not sure why I have to have an app to play blu ray discs, why it doesn't support 480p or 1080i, how to delete games off my hard drive, or how to download in standby. I know it's a game console and my system of choice (Wii U) can't do the multimedia tasks, but then again it was never touted as such. Microsoft claims it's an all in one entertainment device. So far it's fallen short of both the PS3 and 360 in that regard.
The hard drive setup
I can live with the fact that the Xbone isn't as powerful as the PS4, after all, the most powerful system of a generation has never been the most successful, and there will always be differences in power. But it's the little things that get under my skin. The on board 500 GB hard drive is too small, and it will need to be upgraded. While this is also true of the PS4, the PS4 will let you upgrade the internal hard drive. As it stands it won't be long before I will need to attach that 1 TB drive I have laying around, and it will perpetually be there. It's a situation I'm not to crazy about on Wii U, and it somewhat irks me that it has to be replicated on Xbox One. Yes, I'm aware that PS4 doesn't support external storage, but I feel it is the lesser of two evils. I dread having to send in my system if my internal hard drive fails, because that would brick the system.
I can say for sure that my first impressions were less than stellar. I had the hardest time having to set up wifi (for some unknown reason), the system has bugged out on me a couple of times, either temporarily freezing or refusing to turn on despite being securely plugged in. Long story short, I've never felt so unsure of a console the day I got it...not even with the Atari Jaguar.
Don't get me wrong, it's a nice system for a lot of reasons, and these issues can (and most likely will) be resolved. It's just that it's a year after launch, and there's so much that feels unfinished about the Xbone. For the first day or so I was contemplating returning it and getting a PS4. But then I thought of the reason I bought it: the exclusives, and it's the system my friends are playing. So I decided to hold onto the Xbone for the time being. If by next year at this time I don't like the direction it's taking I'm just going to cut my losses and get a PS4.
Oh and on a side note, I'd like some advice on getting things set up better on the Xbox. Any hints and tips in the comments section would be greatly appreciated.
Before I begin, I know I haven't been around much the last few days or so, vacation means less time in front of a PC and more time doing whatever. But I'll be back to my chatty opinionated self next week. In the mean time here's a blog to tide you over.
Anyway, to the topic at hand. I've been hearing rumblings from people on the internet about consoles going the way of the dinosaur. That is to say: people think consoles will no longer be a viable concept for delivery of gaming content. I've heard the arguments and I have to say I totally disagree for a number of reasons. But in order to make my argument against it I have to explain why people believe this.
This video is from a guy named Adam Koralik with Figure it Out productions. He's an old school gamer and one who talks a lot about the industry quite a bit, so needless to say we have a lot in common. I don't always agree with him, but I can usually see where he's coming from. The video below is his stance on why he feels the way he does. I normally don't like to ask too much time from people but it is necessary to discuss the topic at hand.
The first problem with this stance that I want to address is the hole in the market that this would create. See, you can't just take out a product that the market embraces and not replace it. Sure, Blockbuster is no longer a thing, but in its stead we now have Redbox, Gamefly and to a point, Netflix and PS Now. People have rented games and movies ever since the physical media has existed. For a lot of people, it makes a lot more sense to just want to borrow something temporarily. It's cheaper, its convenient, and allows access to potentially a lot more content.
What Adam is proposing is that the current method of consoles would just simply cease to exist. That's like saying that they'll stop making DVD's because you can stream movies now. I foresee physical distribution, digital distribution and streaming games all being part of the future. I have no qualms about all three coexisting.
The way I come to that conclusion is by looking at similar entertainment markets. It's impossible to deny that digital distribution has been incorporated into all the markets, not just gaming, but why is it that only gaming will discontinue physical distribution, or local processing power? You don't see people foregoing DVD's, Blu Ray's, CD's, or physical books? Even the PC market still has physical releases for all the AAA games, even if it is all digital. Even then, you still have local processing power, it's not done in the clould. The physical media is part and parcel of the console and exists and will continue to exist for a number of reasons.
First off, people like them. I know it sounds like I'm over-simplifying but there will always be a demand for a physical product. People like boxes, with artwork and manuals. People like knowing that they can take a disc over to another persons house, lending, borrowing, trading, and the like, it's one of the resons consoles still exist in a world of PC's. Why else do you think the Xbox One announcement of their "plan" for used games was met with such resentment? People like the sense of ownership that comes with a physical release. This goes for music as well as movies. Those people predicting back in 2008 that blu ray would be gone by now have shut their mouths, and this is even in light of all the streaming services currently available.
The PSP go was met with very lukewarm sales. And while you could attribute that to the fact that the platform went from physical to digital so quickly, the exorbitant price tag, and incompatibility, I still think console gamers just aren't ready to go digital only.
Going digital only means a lot of things. It means you will have to have a reliable internet connection with a decent speed. It means that your console will inevitablly be a brick when the servers for that console are shut down. It means capacity for hard drives will have to be much larger than what is currently offered. And it means you could possibly be alienating a massive percentage of the population with those requirements.
In theory, a digital only console could be made and be successful, but frankly I'm not sure if people will accept it. I also think the online infrastructure isn't where it should be. There are parts of not just the US, but the rest of the world that don't have access to fast enough internet to support a digital only console. Sure, you can do things like firmware updates, download small games (less than 1 GB) and maybe stream video one at a time with DSL (2-3 Mbps). But if you want to download modern AAA games, have a smooth experience for online play, or even stream games, you are going to need something 4-5x that speed. Those without access would be unable to game if consoles took this direction.
Again, I need to reference the original plan for the Xbox one. I can see Microsoft was wanting to push a future like this, but obviously the gamers have spoken, and MS was forced to retreat from their overzealous ambitions. PS Now is in the same boat, I don't know a single person excited at the concept of paying by the hour to play games.
Obviously both Microsoft and Sony made terrible decisions with pushing towards a digital future, and perhaps if approached with more wisdom and respect for the gamer, it might have been more successful. But as it stands both attempts thus far have been an utter failure. And even if they were a success, none of that would be the death knell for physical media and local processing power.
Now as far as the big 3 bowing out, I would say that any of the three could. But I don't think all three would. It wouldn't make sense.
Nintendo doesn't do anything else but games. They have gone on record as saying that when they exit the hardware busiess they exit the gaming business. Nintendo has been around the longest and have ventured into far more than just gaming, and even now they are talking about wearable tech and quality of life products. I do wonder what would happen to the house of Mario. Those IP's are worth millions and I can't help but wonder how Nintendo would say afloat without them. Perhaps they would pull a Sega, not in the sense of making third party games, but that they would just scale so far back that they hardly exist at all. Maybe Nintendo of America and Europe would cease to exist and they would only make Japanese products. I hope to never see that day.
Sony is in a different place. I feel like if anything, they would focus on gaming only as that is by far their most profitable division. I for one wouldn't mind seeing that at all. Perhaps they could allocate the proper resources to support the Vita in the way that it deserves. Perhaps they themselves could make their own games with their own internal studios. It might actually be the best thing for the Playstation line as their exlusives tend to be lackluster.
I do agree with Adam on the Xbox in the sense that it has never been a profitable brand for Microsoft. They could possibly just drop it entirely, but it could be more of brand name for sports and entertainment. It could be a gaming box the same way the Amazon Fire is. But since the posting of this video MS has made many strides in distancing themselves from the Don Matrick era. E3 was all about the games for the Xbox this year, and thus far that strategy has been working to their advantage. So I wouldn't count the Xbox line out yet.
One thing that Adam has failed to mention is that just because one company would bow out, that another couldn't be there to take its place. Atari basically bowed out and Nintendo took their place, Sega bowed out and Microsoft took their place. The point is the market would be left with a gap if one of them left, and I'm sure there are others chomping at the bit to throw their hat into the ring; perhaps Apple or Samsung, maybe even another big publisher? Can you imagine if Ubisoft or Square-Enix made a system?
I do see the problem of AAA games being released unfinished and unchanged from their previous annual incarnations potentially causing a crash. I also see current gen consoles falling short on performance without unique features to back them up (with the exception of Wii U) potentially contributing to said crash. But those are other issues that needs be dealt with, and that's something I'd like to tackle in another blog.
Sorry to be so long winded, but I thouht this issue should be discussed. What do you guys think. Are consoles as we know them doomed, or are these just arbitrary setbacks that will resolve themselves?