Discussion Friday is a segment in which I look at either a recent news story or an always relevant issue and discuss my personal opinion on it. I try to stay objective, but overall, this is about me and my experience as a videogame player who spends most of his time either playing or discussing videogames.
Why do people swear their allegiances to things? Fear? Love? A need to be part of a group? Well, no matter what the reason, whether psychological or sociological, every media outlet has seemed to latch on to what has been dubbed by years past the Console War. The Console War is an all-out fight for videogame supremacy amongst the three consoles that are currently available: The Playstation 3, the Xbox 360, and the Wii. All three have their own advantages and disadvantages, and people have found it necessary to remind everyone of their console of choice's pros and their sworn enemy's cons. But what does it all really mean? What does the Console War really add up to and why does it even exist? Let's try and find out.
Let's talk about politics, American to be exact. As we all know, we have the first Black President to ever be elected into office, and his name is Barack Obama. He is a democrat. Why is he a Democrat? He says he is of course. Who did he compete with to get the seat that he currently resides in? John McCain, a fellow senator. Senator McCain is a Republican. Why is he a Republican? He says he is. What is the difference between a Democrat and a Republican? Lots, not the least of which being one party recognizes themselves as Democratic and the other as Republican. What we have here is a little thing that I like to call The Great Illusion.
We have the two largest political parties in the United States, two separate groups that are based upon different ideologies and both seek different goals in accordance to what they want the country to be like. However, when does one stop being a Democrat? When does one stop being a Republican? What we have are politicians who have gone to the lowest common denominator and settled the sum of their beliefs, ambitions, and goals into one lump sum and have conformed to the views of the majority to become part of a larger group. Politics in America are measured by partisan competition; not what one believes as an individual, but what the many believe as a whole. Or rather, might believe.
In this country, you must recognize yourself as either a Republican, a Democrat, or an Independent, meaning you have to base the sum of your beliefs and opinions on what the qualifications for each party may be. In the beginning, America had no such party system; in fact George Washington didn't belong to a party. He thought the whole party system, which at the time soon began as a fight between Federalists and Anti-Federalists, would tear America into factions rather than unite us as a whole. That's why today we have a liberal news station and a conservative news station; people get so mindlessly devoted to only what they want to hear and see that they complete blind themselves.
The Console War can be seen as a comparable "dilemma"; we have competitors that we can align our interests to and devote ourselves to and entertain ourselves with the fight for the chosen one. Much like how News sites will often comment on an election as a battle of numbers, who's winning by what percentage, game journalism sites will comment on who is in the lead by stating sales numbers. Since product quality is a subjective parameter, we base the battle upon numbers: number of exclusive titles, number of units sold, etc. What this means is that the whole war is based upon one thing in reality; cold, hard cash.
Whether the company is Sony, Microsoft, or Nintendo, each company is only in the business for one reason, and that reason is money. As the most profitable form of entertainment for the past couple of years, and as a growing market, the videogame market is one in which a company can make lots of money. What is the best way to do that? Hardware. Consoles. Whatever you want to call them, these devices, whether profitable by unit sold or not, will make money as long as the sales are in the right places; the company's products. Why would Nintendo ever want to develop a game for Sony's Playstation 3 when they could just as easily make the same game for their own console, there by earning money on each unit sold of the game as well as put pressure on interested consumers to purchase the console it is on; Nintendo's.
What does this all mean to the gamer? Well, companies don't call us gamers (Neither do I, but you must admit "gamer" is much easier to write than "one who plays videogames"). They don't call us customers. They call us consumers; people who are nothing more than the amount of disposable income they have that they will devote to the company. The best way to catch the consumer's eye is with advertising. Or rather, propaganda.
The picture above is a screencap (A distorted one as to fit my strict 640x365 pixel requirement for all pictures on this blog) taken from a commercial advertising the Playstation 3. That last sentence seems ridiculously unnecessary given the content of the picture, with images of The Playstation 3, it's new lowered price point, etc. Raise your hands boys and girls, who has seen this commercial? I will assume that if you live in the United States and watch television regularly, the answer is yes. Sony's new advertisement boasts that the Playstation 3 does "Everything." Whether or not this is true is debatable, as is their use of the word "everything", but the point is that it's selling point is it's versatility.
Now I don't need go into where these "arguments" can be found, but the main attack against the PS3 is it's lack of software, or as many of the soldiers in the internet console would so articulately put it "PS3 AIN'T GOT NO GAEMS." NOw, you don't have to be an intelligent person to know that this attack is basically ridiculous; Sony's machine has an incredibly wide variety of games, both exclusive and non-exclusive, that is equal or greater to any other console's current library. Just to name a few, you have Uncharted: Drake's Fortune
, Resistance: Fall of Man
, Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots
, Little Big Planet
, Killzone 2
, and tons more coming out like God of War III
and Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
; and those are all just some of the console's exclusive
Now, your opinion on the quality of Sony's library not withstanding, any sane person would look at the list of games and say that it is worthy of the price point; the sheer amount of exclusive titles makes it a purchase for anyone interested. Now let get off of the subject before I start sounding like some rabid fanboy. The point is, at the end of the day, Sony has the marketing and the library to make lots
of money. Are they doing that? Kind of. Can they be doing that? An emphatic yes. But no matter how well they are doing financially, Sony will always have it's fanboys, who blindly throw dollars in their direction simply because they follow whatever they do, no matter what it is, just as Microsoft fanboys and Nintendo fanboys will.
Whether it was the advertising, the library, word of mouth, or a nostalgic connection, people will totally devote themselves to supporting their console of choice and refuse to believe any negative thought against the console choice. Let's take Nintendo for instance, who has probably the biggest fanbase out of any of the three consoles. I am not a Nintendo fanboy; I own every single Nintendo console from NES to the Wii, but I am not a Nintendo fanboy. Why? I don't judge companies, I judge games, and as far as I'm concerned, they've made both good and bad games.
As a person who is relatively ambivalent to Nintendo (Every company really, but that's not the point), I have my gripes with them. For one, I think that they have literally the worst
E3 presentations of the three; they are dull, boring, and embarrassingly forced. Secondly, I think that the Wii itself is an incredibly underwhelming device when it comes to functionality, especially compared to the other consoles available: It has an internet browser that doesn't support many video formats, it doesn't have the sense of community the other consoles have, it limits inter-personal interactions by forcing friend codes upon us. Hell, it doesn't even play a DVD, a feature even the PS2 had.
Does this mean I dislike the Wii? No, it has plenty of good things about it, including a relatively good library of games and tons of potential. What does this all mean? It means as a person who has no connection to any company in particular, I am able to state my honest opinion about the device without apprehension. A Nintendo fanboy wouldn't be so nonchalant. A fanboy would admit no fault in the design or function of the console, in fact, he would probably try his hardest to state what it does
do over competitors. With that, Nintendo has just earned hundreds of dollars from one consumer, and they have millions of similar people.
The problems with this kind of mass devotion are many. For one, unquestioning allegiance means that you never have to impress your audience; appeasing them is just good enough. Take Nintendo again for instance and this year's E3 announcements; Super Mario Galaxy 2
, New Super Mario Bros.
, Metroid: Other M
. What do these three games have in common? Each of them are simply installments in old, established, and not to mention profitable, franchises. Did they wow the audience? Of course, the audience was full of Nintendo fans, as well as the media, who are arguably also Nintendo fans. They did nothing new, nothing risky, and nothing surprising; they did what was expected of them.
Now does this mean I'm not excited about each of these games? Of course not, I'm looking forward to each. But it doesn't mean my feelings about Nintendo have changed at all. This is a problem, which leads me to the next problem with mass devotion; market stagnation. I'm a person who likes games that do things differently; I don't particularly like sequels. To me, the main reason they over-saturate the market is because they are safe. Traveled territory. They do things that have been proven to be profitable before. Am I thrilled about a new Metroid
game? Of course I am. Would I have preferred a new game that was a major announcement just as the other games were? Much more than another Metroid
You see, we all know what Metroid
will give us in the end; there is no question over what it will do or attempt to do. With a completely new game, developers can push the envelope, do something different, and on a system like the Wii, they could do something that will completely revolutionize the way we look at the console, and maybe even videogames. Will a new Mario
game do this? Probably not. With no risky manuevers, we won't get game-changers and revolutionary games; we'll simply get things that we've been playing for years, and will probably be playing for years.
Ultimately, what the Console War means is different to everyone in it or following it; to the companies themselves, it's all about money and how perpetuating their dominance over other competitors will make the money. For the media, it's all about the story; as an already hyperbolic series of news outlets, the Console War simply gives them something to generate more of the same story. To the fans, it's all about being better than the others; which console sold the most, which one has the best software, and which one will win in the end. This triangle generates a different needed ingredient that fuels the endless fire that is the Console War.
What will the Console War determine in the end? Last generation, the clear "winner" was Sony's Playstation 2, but did this do anything for anyone? Sure, the PS2 continues to sell hardware and software, but that's more the quality of the device rather than the outcome of some made-up battle. It's a fight that has no meaning or consequence, yet means everything to each person involved. Really, to me, as well as many others, I'm sick of hearing about it. I know he's a hot topic on DTOID, But David Jaffe upheld the same opinion as myself and asked the question that I asked in this article on the Bonus Round on Gametrailers, to which, no one could respond with anything better than that it was what people wanted to see. If that's not the definition of meaningless, I don't know what it is. The Console War, in reality, is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.
LOOK WHO CAME: