It’s the same old story. Every few years the video games industry sees a fresh wave of consoles and the market embraces this new generation of hardware, the media attempts to whip gamers up into a frenzy over what is going to be a revolution in video games entertainment and we’re all expected to follow along like sheep and buy into the expectations of Sony and Microsoft and immediately purchase the latest hardware and move on from our existing systems. If we were to believe everything that we’re told, we can’t enjoy new games without owning new hardware and that now the likes of the XBox One and PlayStation 4 are on the market all of our tech is immediately obsolete and we must upgrade if we still want to enjoy high quality gaming.
I beg to differ though. While we may be in an era where the technology may be the best we have ever seen inside home games consoles, is it really a time that’s as innovative and fresh as it has been in the past? I don’t think it is and it’s why several years after the release of both the PS4 and XBox One I’ve still not made the move to either platform and I’m still in no rush to do so…
As a gamer I’ve owned (or still do own) systems from every console generation from the 70s up to the current generation with the PS Vita but from a home console point of view, my last system was the PS3. Without trying to label myself as a Sony fanboy, at least in a console sense I have been relatively loyal to Sony since the original PlayStation was released so forgive me if I focus on the PS4 for much of my points but it’s my primary frame of reference. That’s not to say that I don’t own and use other systems – far from it, but console wise Sony generally has been by brand of choice.
The Appeal Of Next Gen Technology
I’ve learned to be a lot more critical these days when looking at games and gaming hardware. While I was impressed with the PS4 when Sony announced it originally all those years ago, as games started to be announced and subsequently released a few things became apparent. The majority of titles being released were nothing new. It was the same array of first person shooters, racing games, third person action games, open world games, sports titles and while the visual side of things was a step up from what the PS3 was capable of offering it didn’t really feel as if there was anything new in terms of gameplay. The only times that games were being offered as exclusives for next gen systems wasn’t because they needed to be exclusive from a technical standpoint but because publishers wanted to encourage their own customer base to join the next generation userbase.
Are The Games Really Any Better?
That’s the million dollar question. When you compare games across systems right now how do you judge whether a game running on one machine is genuinely better than another? This question has been running around for decades and was the source of countless playground arguments back in the 1980s between Spectrum and Commodore 64 owners, each insisiting that their computer was the best. Each had its own strengths and weaknesses when it came to raw capabilities but strip all of that away and what you were left with was the same game running on both machines. As long as each system ran it to the best of its capabilities then both the Spectrum and C64 owners were left happy.
The same can be said of contemporary consoles. Does a console being able to run FIFA 17 at 60fps in 1080p resolution make it a better game than another machine running it at 720p resolution? Of course it doesn’t. The “enhancements” being made to PS4 and XBox One versions of games, and especially the never-ending flow of HD remastered versions of older games, doesn’t improve the gameplay of any – it’s nothing more than window dressing.
It Needs WHAT To Run??!!
With great power comes… sorry, wrong quote. Well, actually with great power there does come something when it comes to next gen consoles. When it comes to gaming, sadly long gone are the days of simply putting a cartridge or CD into a console and just playing a game straight away. Both systems come with their own caveats that make that somewhat restrictive to some gamers and downright repulsive to others depending on your personal circumstances. First up, as has been the norm for some time with modern consoles, if you don’t have an active internet connection then you’re going to have problems. Each system will need to download regular system updates but if you’re planning on playing online, you’re already going to be looking at a subscription charge on top of your regular internet bill. And just hope that you live in an area with a high speed internet connection because you’re going to need it… if you thought it was bad downloading a 4 or 5Gb patch for the PS3, imagine being told that you have to download a 70Gb update patch.
It’s no wonder that they’re shipping both with 500Gb and 1Tb hard drives as standard but when games need to install to the hard drive as standard as well even a 1Tb drive isn’t really sufficient. By giving people games each month included with their XBox Live / PlayStation Plus subscriptions, even a 1Tb drive won’t last long…
Is It Ready Yet?
Being a fan of retro gaming, one thing that appeals to me – regardless of the system – is the fact that games can be loaded up and just played. Whatever the game is, since the day they were purchased 20-30 years ago there has never been a need for updates, patches, nor have we been force-fed a plethora of downloadable content for our favourite games to prolong their lifespan. When you purchased a game you knew exactly what you were getting, how much it was going to cost and that it would be 100% complete and ready to play straight out of the box. Even right up until the PS2 / XBox / Gamecube era, this was the case but something changed after that point. With the relative ease developers had to be able to offer updates for their games there seemed to be an influx of updates to games. It seemed to be a case that almost every title being released needed to download patches at some point in its life, whether it was to address bugs found, tweak settings or make adjustments and all along it just gave the impression that games simply weren’t being tested as rigourously as they used to be.
It’s not just the patches that are proving frustrating for me though. Now this isn’t something new to the latest generation of consoles having plagued the previous generation (PS3 and XBox 360 as well), but it’s a situation that certainly seems to be getting progressively worse with each wave of AAA titles that are released. While I’ve never – in principle – objected to the idea of expanding games through the use of DLC as a way to enhancing the original release and extending its lifespan, in recent years this has been taken to ridiculous levels by publishers. More often than not these days games are being released with an array of DLC being made available on the day of release. Surely if this is intended to be additional content created to enhance the game then why is it being released simultaneously with the game itself? This is the industry taking greed to the next level. I appreciate that the costs of developing games is growing at an alarming rate – something many don’t truly appreciate – but if content is available from the day the game is released then this should be included with the purchase price.
If content is created afterwards and is intended to genuinely add to a game (new levels, new characters etc) then releasing it weeks or months later and charging is fine but it’s clear from the start that publishers have planned their DLC campaigns from the start with most titles these days and I’d wager that most of this has already been developed when the game is released and it is only the release dates that haven’t been determined. The fact that many games are released with optional “season passes” is testimony to this. It’s simply a way for companies to sell us an unfinished game and then charge us more for the rest of it. Sorry, but I’m not buying into that.
To a limited degree I can understand part of the logic behind it. With the high development costs of games in today’s market and high retail prices many gamers are eager to recoup some of those costs once completing these games by selling them or trading them in. Publishers get no income from the second hand market but they can receive some income from DLC sales regardless of whether the game itself was purchased new or used.
On the games front, I have to be honest and say that there aren’t many games that have caught my eye with the PS4. At most, less than a dozen have made me think about wanting to get one so far and that’s certainly not enough to justify the investment. The one game that grabbed my attention at the start received a port to the PS3 and Vita but having amassed a digital collection of around 200 PS4 titles already I’d need a 2Tb drive before I even started and I just don’t feel that the investment is worth it for a few games when I get far more out of my other consoles, especially my PS Vita and retro systems which meet virtually all of my gaming needs.
Are You A True Gamer?
There are those that would argue that I can’t consider myself to be a “true” gamer if I’m refusing to buy either a PS4 or XBox One. The real question is how would you define what a “gamer” is? Is it someone who eats, sleeps, and breathes games 24/7? Someone who owns all the latest games and consoles, completes every game they own earning every trophy/achievement along the way? Someone who has been around since the dawn of the first consoles in the 70s and can tell you about virtually every game and console ever released? Or is it someone who owns a DS and plays games for an hour a week, has fun for a bit and then goes back to their everyday life? The reality is that all of them apply. A gamer, put simply, is someone who plays and enjoys games. It doesn’t matter if you’re good at them, complete what you own or if you can’t even get past the first level of Super Mario Bros. It makes no difference whether you’re a PlayStation trophy hunter or if your trophy collection is barely into double digits. If your entire collection is 8-bit cartridges and a couple of modern games, it’s just as valid as someone who has only just started out with an XBox One.
The truth is that everyone has an equal place in the global gaming community and we’re fortunate enough that there is enough diversity out there still that we are all catered for. From companies still supporting retro platforms to all the developers releasing titles for the PS4, XBox One and shortly the Nintendo Switch. As long as you’re happy with your chosen gaming system or systems, just don’t feel pressured to follow the pack and buy a system because everyone else is – just make sure what you own is the right one for you, whether it’s a brand new machine or even one that’s over 30 years old! Buying your system rather than someone elses will give you so many more years of happy gaming!