Fore note: This article is written by a hardcore gamer, and the target group that this article is meant for is the heavy casual to hardcore gamer. This article is for those that own a decent computer, a current generation gaming console with a library exceeding 15 games, and has a DVD player or decent multimedia center. If you do not fall into this group then some of these statements may not be true to you. However I do feel that your course of actions should be the same as I advise for the hardcore gamer, though you may have less of a reason to agree with me (Mainly in the “Less Focus On Games” section).
The more and more information that is released about the next generation of consoles, mainly about the Xbox 360 and the Playstation 3, the more and more I realize that gaming, as we know it, is dying. For years I have been an extremely devout gamer. I own one thousand, four hundred, fifty-six games. I have owned a NES, SNES, N64, GCN, Gameboy, Gameboy Color, Gameboy Advanced, DS, Genesis, Sega CD, 32x, Gamegear, Nomad, Saturn, Dreamcast, Turbografx 16, Playstation, Playstation 2, and various PC's. I check various gaming related sites constantly throughout the day such as IGN, Gamasutra, Gamefaqs, Gamespot, Penny-Arcade, etc. When any one of my friends has a real gaming question, I'm the one that is called. And it's this vast experience and knowledge that I have that brings me to believe that, Microsoft and Sony are getting ready to bring about the downfall of gamers as we know it. The Main reason for this statement is that these companies have displayed a complete lack of care or concern for the future of gamers or the health of the markets. They have shown hypocrisy and childishness. They have show greed and concentration on defeating an opponent, rather then doing what is right. I will break this down into several sections just to help everyone digest.
The Xbox 360 and the Playstation 3 are both extremely powerful units. They feature processors that aren't even available on the market yet. At the E3 conference, there were no Xbox 360s actually built. What was actually running the demos were 3 G5's. Showing that an actual Xbox 360 isn't even in existence yet. These machines will supposedly be more capable then any PC that you can purchase for about $2000. Now lets compare this to what the Xbox, Gamecube, and PS2 processing power was compared to PC's of their launch time. Top of the line PC’s, around the year 2000-2001, were between 1.6-2ghz. In comparison the Gamecube's clock speed is 485 MHz, the PS2's 294.912 MHz, and the Xbox's 733 MHz. The Xbox being the most powerful is still less then half of the top of the line system. The total memory for the Xbox is 64 MB, the PS2 is 32, and the Gamecube is 43MB. Memory several times over this was available for PC's also. I don't want to go much further into it because I feel this gets the point across.
Now the year is 2005. The fastest PC chips out on the market are 3.6ghz -4ghz, single cored chips. With the prices for the 4ghz chips running up around $900. As far as graphics, a 512MB card has just been released, however it is highly inefficient, with many cheaper 256 chips running faster. Then compare that to these up and coming console stats. The Playstation 3 has a processor unlike that we've ever seen before, the CELL processor, with an 8 SPE (Synergistic Processing Element), though 1 is reserved for redundancy, clocked at 3.2 GHz, floating point capabilities of 2 teraflops, 256MB of GDDR VRAM at 700MHz, 256MB XDR main RAM at 3.2GHz. 3 Ethernet ports and WiFi capabilities, inputs for every major media card, USB 2.0, bluetooth, and the Bluray disc drive that also has yet to be debuted on the market. The Xbox 360 is also on this level, with a 3.2 GHZ PowerPC Tri-core processor, 512 MB of 700 MHz GDDR3 RAM, 10 MB of embedded DRAM, 1 teraflop of floating point, Detachable 20 GB HD, WiFi, Ethernet port, 3 usb 2.0. I could go on and on, but once again, I feel this alone gets across the point.
When I see these numbers, I sit there and a part of me goes, "WOW!! That’s really amazing!!" and it is. To think that a gaming unit is coming out that's this powerful. It's astonishing to think that they've pushed a game machine this far. That's the initial reaction that I get. However, after a while, I realize, "wow...isn't this a little overkill." Doom 3 and Half-life 2 are the most graphically advanced PC games that we have out to date. And as amazing as they are, my medium to hi grade PC(AMD XP 3000, 256MB Radeon 9600, 1 gig ram) that I built 2 years ago runs them on the highest settings with plenty of power to spare. In fact I should be fine with my system's ability to run high graphics for at least another 2 years on recommended (not minimum) settings.
Games as graphically impressive as Doom 3, Resident Evil 4, and Legend of Zelda: The Twighlight Princess are games that are just now starting to tap the full potential of our current consoles hardware performance. If these machines are 35 (PS3) and 12-15 (360) times as powerful, how long do you expect it to take our developers to be able to tap the potential of these machines. My money's on not for another 4-5 years after launch, and even then we'll just start to get there. However, knowing the way these companies run, Microsoft will already be launching it's next machine at that time.
Side note: this starts to invade the PC gaming market, I game both PC and Console, and I own them both because I get different experiences from each device and I want it to stay that way. Consoles are cheaper to produce for and sell greater numbers. However two of the things that have kept the two markets both separately thriving are that the PC market has always been physically capable of doing more graphically, and that the PC market also gave developers more freedom. But with graphically surpassing top of the line PC’s in stats, I fear that a lot of PC game manufactures are going to start making the switch to console, with the fear of freedom along not being enough to keep as many developers as we need in the PC Market.
These numbers that are given are just ways of selling a system. None of them will be put to their full potential for a long time. The videos that were shown at this year’s E3 for the PS3 were all rendered video. That's rendered on a computer that's not even the PS3. So do I believe that they're actually going to look like that? No way, not for a second, but I'll touch more on that in my empty promises section. The truth is these numbers are actually going to prevent us from getting better games for one main reason, Complexity!
Complexity and Development Cost
I've done a bit of programming in my days, and there's one thing that I think programs can agree we hate more then most anything, needless complexity. One of the reason I see many people switching over from Windows operating systems and programs is because they are full of bloated and needlessly excessive code, which takes down the overall quality of the operating system. The processors that are coming out for these systems redefine the term complex programming. The main reason being multiple cores. It's hard enough to get one core to do what you want, now how’s about 3! Or with the cell chip's in order processing. It's going to bring OCD to the processing market!!! HUZZAH!! Wait...That’s a bad thing .
What this equates for the developers and publishers is, more $$$ spent. More complexity = More time working on the project + having higher experienced employees + more of those employees. Time = $$$. Experience = $$$. More Employees = $$$. Thus the statement "more complexity = more $$$" comes into play. What this equates for the gamers is, more $$$ spent. If it's costing the developer and the publisher more to create the game, then they're going to charge you more. Game budgets for big companies like EA are starting to move into 8 figures, and it's already been announced that we can expect games to move into the $60-$70 price range.
These rising costs also prevent us from getting games from smaller independent game companies that can’t afford those big budgets that the giant corporations can. While much innovation does come from big firms, a lot of it also comes from the little guys that are outside looking in, and can get a much different perspective on things then those on the inside can. That is a much different and much needed type of invention.
And what do we get from this complexity. Does it make our games any better? Graphically sure, but aside from that, nothing's really leading me to believe so. Any real gamer will tell you that graphics don't make a game. They definitely can help improve your gameplay. Because no one wants to look at something that's basically ocular rape (I mean you Superman 64). But aside from the initial "WOW!! That looks really amazing!!," it really doesn't make it a good game. Are all these games that are coming out for this next generation going to be any different then what we have right now. It doesn't look it. Because no one seems to be wanting to take any risks. First person shooters and sports games sell well now, so why change it? I'll go on ahead and tell you, this past generation was my least favorite of them all. That's because of one thing, lack of innovation.
Lack of Innovation
What are your favorite games? What are your most memorable games? For me, they're games that introduced concepts that I've never experienced before or changed them. Examples being, in no particular order, Zelda (I, LTTP, OOT, WW), Sonic (II), Super Mario Bros. (1, 3, World, 64), Jet Grind Radio, Metroid (1, Super, Prime), Leisure Suit Larry, Wolfenstein 3D Star Fox, Kings Quest, Final Fantasy (I, III(US), VII), Chrono Trigger, Grand Theft Auto (II, SA), Tetris, Street Fighter (II), and the list goes on. I'm not about to limit it to games; I'll expand that to system concepts as well. The D-pad, shoulder buttons, rumble pack, analog stick, pressure sensitive buttons and triggers. All of those things changed the way that I played games in one way or another.
So tell me, what was really innovative about this past console generation? Not really much comes to mind. We were introduced Cel Shading, which most gamers rejected, specially when speaking about Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. Despite the fact that it's second only to Ocarina of Time as far as sales. Also online gameplay really started to show it's face. Though it is received with such a positive light by reviewers and those who play it, there really aren't many that use it. Only 5% of Xbox users, and 3% of PS2 users are online. I do think online play is a good thing, but something that so few gamers use, isn't something that I can consider revolutionary to the way we play games. And it's not as if Online Gaming is still even predicted to make that much a future impact either. According to Yahoo financial "Online gaming from video-game consoles will reach almost 28 million regular users by 2008." So 3 years from now, we're going to hit 28 millions users. Considering that Sony alone has shipped 100 million PS2's, that number doesn't seem nearly as high, now does it.
So what else has this generation really given us if nothing else other then prettier games. Which I definitely am glad that our games do look pretty, but it doesn't make a game. Nobody's really done anything to add new worlds to the gaming universe, other then a few blips here and there (Kamatari Damacy), but rather, they've just expanded on those worlds. I do understand that we can't be innovative all the time and that for every one game that is innovative there are going to be 50 that copy off of or add on to it. But the attitude of "prolonged stagnatism on game design is death" does need to be kept close to heart. If we're not evolving then we're dying. A real problem that I think contributes to non-innovativeness is lack of focus on the games. As silly as this sounds, it is a real problem, especially for Sony and Microsoft.
Less Focus on Games
We as Americans are very good at naming things for what they do. For example, a cooling chamber in a nuclear reactor, guess what it does? IT COOLS THINGS!!! And what about a rocket booster? IT BOOSTS THINGS WITH A ROCKET!!! Gasp, the wonders of it all. So what do would you think would be the main function a gaming machine would do? Play games? Right?? Right??? Well it's not the direction Sony and Microsoft are pushing it. Which in some aspects, that's kinda nice. And I definitely understand where those who support it are coming from, but I just can't help notice that in a way it brings away the attention of the whole purpose of the system in the first place, to play games.
Generally, the extra features that the units bring to the table are a lower quality then the units that actually focus on that feature. For example, the PS2 and Xbox have DVD players inside of them. But they're really not that nice of a DVD player. In fact, for that extra $100 that DVD player costs you to have in the console, I bet you could buy a much nicer DVD player for the same price. It seems like companies generally just throw in a lot of those extra features so they sound nice, but when you get to actually use them it seems like it's not worth it.
With these up and coming consoles, we're supposed to be able to chat online with our friends, shop at game stores, and play digital movies and music. Which sounds nice, but guess what? My computer already does that, and it does a pretty good job at it too. I don't NEED that from a game machine. It's extra little fluff that I'm sure won't be nearly as high quality as the devices that already handle those features. Make a device have too many functions and they really start to inhibit the device from doing what it was originally supposed to do. Much like that Transformer that turned into 9 different things. At first you're like, wow it turns into a train, a space ship, a giant hand, etc, etc. But then you actually try and turn it into those things and it really doesn't look much like it's supposed to.
Sony has already gone out and said that the Playstation 3 really isn't even a gaming console. Adding so many features to the unit that they are now referring to it as "computer for the purpose of entertainment." Sony Computer Entertainment chief Ken Kutaragi even states "We aren't making the Playstation for playing games."!!!
Even if all these extra features, the units are supposed, to have are top quality and really great things that I will feel the need for, what actually makes me think that these companies are going to deliver? Because they sure as hell have lied to us in the past. The Xbox was supposed to be able to download demo games over Xbox live so I could preview the game before purchasing it. Did it happen? Nope. The Xbox 360 makes the same promise, and while it is a lot more likely to happen now, it's still an empty promise from before. The Playstation 2 said, that we would be able to use AOL instant messenger on the PS2. Last time I checked I wasn't chatting with my friends on AIM using my PS2. Also Sony said, that I'd be able to edit, animate, and add other effects to my photographs before emailing them to my friends, all through the use of the PS2. Don't see much of that, or rather any. The Xbox was supposed to be the HD revolution for consoles. With an abundance of games outputting in 1080i. Truth be told, near the end of the Xbox there are less then a dozen games with that feature. And this isn't just it, there are many more false promises that were given by the companies that never came to be.
So why should I believe them when they tell me that the Xbox 360 will allow me to run an online store for real money, or I'll be able to control ALL of my music play lists for all of my games. Or that the Playstation 3 will be able to age movies (turning normal quality movies into HD quality), or that I'll be able to rip copy protected DVDs. Rip copy protected DVD's!! Wasn't it a few years ago that Sony was on the piracy bandwagon with the torch lit in hand ready to get those pirates!
Hypocrisy for the sake of commercialism
It's no secret that the world that the entertainment industry hates piracy. They hate the ability to download music and movies. Because if they didn't, they wouldn't be suing the pants off of everyone that they can in order to further prevent it's expansion. With millions of dollars spent on anti-piracy campaigns and advertising a year by organizations like the RIAA and the MPAA and the constant push for more restrictive and punishing laws to limit the ability to pirating, the last thing you'd expect is for one of the members of those organizations to be pushing FOR piracy, correct?
Well guess what, it looks like Sony is just such a company. Sony, owning multiple parts of the music and movie industry and being members of the RIAA and MPAA, is now saying that downloading music and movies is a good thing. At the fall of the first Napster, they were in full support of the RIAA. And no one heard them speaking out against anything that the RIAA or MPAA did. That is until they release the PSP that allows you to play downloaded movies and music. Now they are firm supporters of downloading music and movies. I'm sorry, but that just seems a little too convenient.
Don't get me wrong, I think this attitude is a GREAT attitude. I've been saying for years that downloading will do nothing but help the music and movie industry if they gear it properly. But for a company changing their stated opinion on such a huge and very controversial issue as this, is, in my opinion, very hypocritical and childish of company to do. It's like those people that swap teams in a game of UT2k4 right before their team loses just so that they don't get counted as the loser. If Sony would have had this opinion a long time ago, or if they would have stated their opinion before the launch of merchandise that supports their previous opposition, then I wouldn't have a problem with it. But they didn't do it like that, they just changed things for their convenience, to help sell their products.
Patents are in place so that someone doesn’t steal your ideas and milk them for all that they’re worth. It also prevents even more low quality knock offs from flooding the market then already do. Patents are good most of the time, and I don’t have a problem when a game company places a patent for a new and unique game. Such as, Sega placing a patent for the fundamentals of Crazy Taxi. But when a company like Microsoft files for patent on “Scoring based upon goals achieved and subjective elements,” then I think that it’s going too far. Something extremely unique such as Crazy Taxi and Kamatari Damacy is fair to patent, but patenting something as vague as the previously mentioned patent starts to limit the abilities of the game industry. The attitude should be to give back to the game community rather then horde this to yourself.
Under-pricing and The Back-spring it will cause
As I said earlier, the parts that are in these units are extremely powerful, top of the line, and not even in actual existence yet. This being said, we can expect for these units to cost a lot to make. And high costs should be high prices. But in order to stay competitive companies will keep their prices low. When Microsoft announced the price of the Xbox, they knew they were going to take a hit. Their goal was not to necessarily make the most money, but to gain ground. Something that has proven to be very effective for them. Imagine if the Xbox had been priced closer to what it should have been at launch. Given the cost of parts in the unit, it should have been priced about $450. The sales and market share of the Xbox would have been considerably lower.
Wallstreet Journal states that, "Xbox-group losses have been about $1.2 billion a year since 2001." That's insane! And given that the 360 has been promised to launch in the $300 range, you can expect those losses to be far greater than anything they've seen before. Costs to produce that console have to at least be in the $1250-$1500 range. So it wouldn't surprise me if they were losing an upwards of $10 billion a year, from the sales of Xbox 360's. Given Sony wants to stay in competition with the Xbox 360, they're unit should be priced in a similar area, and cost about the same, if not more to manufacture. More mainly because of all the input features, and the Bluray player.
Now at first your reaction should be, "wow, we're going to get these powerful machines for such a cheap price. what a great deal, why shouldn't I buy one?" And that's a very good point. This is one of the greatest deals you will ever get when it comes to purchasing a piece of technology. However, that's only thinking in the terms of now, not in the terms of what is to come. Lets say for the sake of this argument, that one of these companies goes down hard. They are expecting to take huge losses here, but lets say one of them goes down hard enough to drop from the console race. And that Nintendo fulfills Bill Gates expectations of being a "niche player". What do you expect for the next generation of consoles after this one. Do you really think that these either of these companies will continue to take huge profit losses if they owned the market? Most definitely not. You should expect the unit to be priced closer to what it costs. So you can either expect a newer model that features no where near the technological jump that you want, or a unit that costs you as much as a computer. If you don’t pay for it now, they will make you pay for it later.
It's the same strategy Sprint ran before they got ruled against having a monopoly, drop your prices so low that your competitors can't compete. Then once they're out of the way charge whatever the heck you want. And it's not like the anti-monopoly laws would follow suit here because these units are classified as computers.
Just to recap on the points I've been giving, both of these companies are going at this next generation all wrong. They're taking the big business approach, rather then the heart of the gamer approach. Atari took the big business approach back in the late 1970's, early 1980's and it caused the video game crash. And if it weren’t for the NES, we wouldn't have the gaming market that we do today. The reason why the NES succeeded where Atari failed is that it was cheap, it was innovative, it was fun, and it didn't take advantage of or lie to the consumer. It did exactly what it was supposed to do.
Sony and Microsoft as shoving, what at this point is, superficial numbers, misleading images, overpriced run of the mill games, and potentially empty promises down our throat. They think that we as consumers are sheep that can easily be led to the slaughter. Well I for one am not going to stand for it. I'm not going to believe their promises until they prove them to be true. I'm not going to buy into their traps, until they show me pure intentions.
Now what about Nintendo, I'm sure a few people are wondering. I haven't said much about them. And before anybody starts calling me a Nintendy fanboy, I'm going to make this clear that I'm not. I buy just as much for my other consoles as I have for the Nintendo consoles. I'm a game fan. I buy good games. To be honest, I would say that despite it's short life, the Dreamcast was more impressive to me than the PS2, Gamecube, or Xbox. Also, I follow companies that I believe to have good ideals. And I do believe that Nintendo has great ideals as a company. They're not a giant buy out everybody corporation. They have a passion for creating good gaming and doing what's best for the gaming market. And they're very smart about it. Despite their sales being much lower then Sony, they're profits are about the same.
But mainly I think they have the perfect approach to this next generation. They're not showing a bunch of generated video and images. They’re not trying to out power the competition but rather outplay them. Their focus is on gameplay, and their history has proven that. Sony and Microsoft’s sole purpose is to dominate the market, and make money, but Nintendo has shown tried and true that they're there to make great and unique games, and do what’s best for the market. With a president like Iwata and figure heads like Miyamoto you can see that they're in it for the love of the game. They’ve spent a great deal of time and money trying to revitalize the declining Japanese game market. Investing money into thousands of hot spots for the DS, and trying to invent new ways of gaming such as the DS and WarioWare, to try and bring back lost gamers. Though I do wish that they would pay a little more attention to the Americas.
As this is an article about the next generation of gaming. I'd say it's about time I got to that for Nintendo. The Revolution is the exact opposite of what most every problem I have with the Playstation 3 and the Xbox 360. It's power is not overkill. Yet it still is going to be a significant upgrade, about 3-5X's the Gamecube. Which has been the standard for the previous generations. It's supposed to be easier to design for then the Gamecube, with a similar structure and giving developers even more freedom. Not limiting game design to powerhouse companies like EA, but opening the door to smaller independent developers. Which also a side effect is lower cost. Its controller is supposed to be unlike anything we've ever seen and be just as innovative. Given the track record of hardware and peripheral innovation, I'll believe it (d-pad, A B buttons, Shoulder buttons, analog stick, rumble pack). It focuses directly on games rather than features and will be low and appropriately low costing in price. Not to mention the back catalog of every Nintendo game for download plus other third party games as well.
And it’s not just me that's saying that this system is a solid piece of work. According to Square-Enix president Youichi Wada, "not just a portable, not just a console -- it's exactly what we wanted in that it's the birth of a completely new platform," and "From here on, we'll have to challenge ourselves with content in response to what Nintendo offers. We would like to give strong support."
My purpose here isn't to damn Sony and Microsoft and put Nintendo on a pedestal. Though in the end that's what it seems like I am doing. My goal is to do everything I can to prevent what I think will eventually be a second gaming crash. High prices, non-innovative games, and corporate lies are what i think will bring us there. And it just so happens that I feel, Sony and Microsoft are steering us there, and Nintendo is providing a large lifeboat into safe waters. I realize that that I'm not going to stop Sony or Microsoft and that they will both most likely have somewhat high sales. But being as hardcore of a gamer as I am, I can't just idly sit by and not do anything about it. I hope to reach as many gamers as I possibly can, and got them to see what I feel the right path is to be. To not buy into the pretty picture-fest, to not think of the present but of the future. I'm making my stand now and am saying that I won't be buying a Xbox 360 or a Playstation 3. Because all they seem to be to me is the Xbox 1.5 and a super-charged ps2 case-moded into a George Foreman Grill along with a Wal-Mart card reader. Hopefully you'll agree with me. Because we as gamers are the only ones that can prevent the fall of the gaming market, or prevent it from turning into something that we don’t want. And we need to take such actions to secure our future.
Wow...great read, I can't believe I read ALL of that.
Nintendo will soon rise from the ashes and once again take over the gaming market
your tagline here
Like the typical woman in any relationship, Sarah happened to be correct, no matter what she believed at the time.
-Mr. Logan Chesney
I'm impressed. That's the first time I've read an article by a person who uses the phrase "hardcore gamer" and wasn't very annoyed by the time I was finished.
I never really planned on buying the Xbox 360, and I don't have any reason to buy the PS3 either. So I'm going to agree with him.
Man, I wish it were still Nintendo and Sega. They knew how to compete without screwing me over.
Someone who understands the gaming market.
Thank you for pointing this out Tonic. + Rep... right after I spread some around.
My only concern is that, if the market crashes again, will Nintendo be around long enough to pick it up again like it did in the 1980s? Many claim that Nintendo is going do-or-die with the Revolution, but with $74billion in the bank, I think they can last a generation even if the Rev tanks.
All your rep are belong to me
...Wow. This article sums up my entire thoughts about the gaming industry. I can't remember the last time I read something that I agreed with so much.
Big thanks to Ihsiin for the sig!
Smash Bros. Friend Code: 4768-7238-0108
Mario Kart Friend Code: 2578-3745-5774
Wii Console Number: 7428-2244-6935-6135
Wow, well spoken. If only other writers in the industry had the same clear thinking determination that this one has.
Click on this, friends, and learn the sad truth: http://theboard.zogdog.com/index.php...&mode=threaded
Its like, God delivered his testament on us.
But the only God I believe in is Nintendo
I'm not worried at all about Nintendo. I've objected in the past to people's comments fearing that Nintendo will fall if Revolution fails. Heck, some folks worried that Nintendo would fall if GameCube failed, and yet here we are moving on to yet another generation with Nintendo as a contender. The fact of the matter is: Nintendo doesn't have to dominate the market to hang in there. Some seem to believe that Nintendo will collapse if they end up in third place again with Revolution, but that just isn't so. Not being first, or even second, doesn't by itself equate to the end of Nintendo. They're a business, and all they have to do to stay in business is make more than they're spending, and they don't have to take a huge share of the market to do that.Originally Posted by tonic
Do I want them to do real well with Revolution? Absolutely. Do they have to do real well to make it past this generation? Absolutely not.
Truly a man after Mach's own heart.
I want him on my team. He belongs within the hallowed halls of Nintendo Now.
Ephesians 6:12: For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
I think Jesus is on Nintendo's side.
Of course, they're the company standing up for wholesome entertainment in games.
Ephesians 6:12: For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
A nice article. The author describe my thoughts exactly (which I couldn't explain to my friend...). How do you +rep?
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