Here I am, on an average Monday before the winter holidays looking over the latest Newegg holiday deals. Unrestrained drooling usually commences as I add 2-3 video cards to my shopping cart and pile on RAM like turkey on my plate at Christmas dinner. A modest setup of high- to mid-range video cards, RAM, and processors is barely over $1000 anymore. Weíre talking about a machine so powerful it makes my PC of five years ago look like a digital clock.
And yet here we are, stacking a new peripheral onto a five year old console that companies swear is still bleeding edge technology.
Five years ago, I laughed at the Xbox 360. Its graphics engine looked like some weekend hack job compared to the PC gaming to which I was so accustomed. The world praised the success of the Xbox 360, but the system never could compare to the experience that I could get on a PC.
A few years went past and the systemís engine finally shone through and I could resist no longer. Games like Halo 3, Fable 2, and Gears of War proved that the system could create incredibly vivid environments and an enjoyable online experience as well.
But what were the draw backs to these games?
For starters, a four to five-hour long story mode, a forced emphasis on multiplayer to achieve a full experienced game time in excess of 20 hours, lack luster plot lines ripped from B movie scripts, or endless NPC dialog no one can stand.
And itís going to continue. Gears of War 3 comes out in early 2011 on the exact same console. The 360 could barely save replays on endurance tracks in Forza 3, yet weíre anticipating the release of Forza 4 sometime next winter, with no significant difference in the console. Activision has been throwing out Call of Duty into the market with the exact same engine for the past five years and is expected to release its sixth title on the 360 by the end of 2011.
I can't blame the developers. The console market is a monster. We dive head first into last years hit title regardless of the fact it would have barely been considered an expansion pack 10 years ago. Once upon a time games didn't declare sequel status until the engine was completely overhauled. Today, developers can launch DLC a week after launch and actually charge us for it and we still pay for it.
The PC market is barely stable, the core group being unwilling to change in order to broaden its demographic and clinging hopelessly to dedicated servers and dust-covered LAN support. This is a group that explodes into a violent tantrum when new DRM is announced and resorts to rampaging thievery as a result. Itís almost impossible to be marginally successful in the PC world and create competent, innovative technology that utilizes half of the graphics and processing power that a new PC is capable of today.
The worst part is the people we depend on for insight into each game prior to release fell into the same cycle. They are either taking hand outs or getting wrapped up in the hype, because these titles miraculously churn out 9's and 10's every year without stopping. Did Black Ops really deserve an 8 if the multiplayer wasn't bugged? Did Fable 3 even live up to a 5.5? You are supposed to use the entire 10 points of a rating system, you know. IGN and Gamespot are even worse, dishing out 8-10s for participation across the board.
Are we blind? Or are we willingly ignorant? We cling desperately to our system of choice and puke bias the moment our love is threatened. We hush innovation out of our mind like some radical church fearing a scientific explanation. I may be ripping on the Xbox 360 in this post, but the Wii and PS3 are doing the same exact thing. Re-release, old school remakes, last yearís holiday blockbuster making a sequel by this Christmas. Every. Single. Year.
In this last decade I canít point to any real gaming experience that defined the time frame. By the end of the decade, the gaming market has become so stagnant with sequels, re-releases, and remakes I canít even see through it.
In 2011, letís be a better community. Letís tell developers what we really want. Innovation in this market is evaporating and we as consumers are to blame. I want a new console announced in 2011 that pushes the boundaries of what a console can do and I need the communityís help in convincing Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony that we arenít a mindless mass of cash-filled wallets begging for the same crappy soup. read