Friday, 22 November 2013

Next Next Generation Is Here - Are You Excited?

Even if I hadn't mentioned it numerous times, I expect regular visitors to Red Parsley have managed to work out that I tend to prefer using older computers and consoles to more modern ones but this hasn't always been the case. I suppose that would be impossible if you went back far enough and indeed, in the 80's and early 90's I greeted news of upcoming new systems with as much interest as everyone else, particularly when they were new Sega systems.

Sega's Dreamcast: the last good console ever. This is fact...
Probably the new hardware launch in which I had the most interest ever was that of the Dreamcast. My beloved Sega had suffered a combination of bad planning and plain bad luck when it came to the Saturn but I was confident the Dreamcast would address all these issue and more, and owing to the scarcity of new games for their 32-bit machine during its final year or so, magazines such as the Official Saturn Magazine were filled with little more than Dreamcast-related hype. Never before had I been so excited about a system launch - I was certain Sega's new machine would take the world by storm. But alas... despite being very popular with those in the know, it failed to achieve mainstream success, and when it went down it took the vast majority of my enthusiasm for the gaming industry with it. From that point on, I've had little interest in new systems, even if I've (occasionally) wanted to.

To illustrate that point, I've never owned a Microsoft system, I had a PS2 for a short while, but only after a friend gave me it and I still barely used it, I bought a GameCube only for the Burnout games, and as I've talked about here before I bought a PS3 almost exclusively for its Blu-Ray playback abilities. This is pretty much the extent of my post-Dreamcast gaming activity.

Someone has etched 'PS4' onto these roof slates...
The last/current generation (depending on where you live) of consoles - the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 (Nintendo seem to be independent of this cycle now) - have dominated for much longer than is usual though, so it's no surprise to have heard much about their respective successors over the past few months. What is surprising, however, is that nearly everything I'd seen plastered all over the various social networks regarding the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One (or 'xbone' as some have amusingly taken to calling it) has been negative. Both machines look like ugly black slabs (or two slabs glued together in the case of the former) and the list of annoyances prospective owners have discovered seems to get longer and longer.

The news that neither machine would be backwards-compatible was an unwelcome blow but Microsoft's machine had it worse to start with. It wasn't well received at its unveiling where it was presented as an 'all in one' multimedia machine - a jack of all trades if you will - and many hardcore gamers felt abandoned. Something else that made big news was Microsoft's new policy that tied each game disc to one users account; try to play the disc on another account and a fee has to be paid first. This has basically destroyed the ability to lend a game to your friends and has also damaged the second-hand market which is such an invaluable lifeline to many non-rich gamers (much of my collection is pre-owned, for example).

This shot impressed me I have to say...
Another problem that was heard soon afterwards was the highly DRM-centric nature of the machine which actually required it to be online in order for games to work. Okay, it doesn't have to be online permanently but you are required to 'check in' at least once a day. Many games will also apparently be heavily reliant on downloadable content. This isn't anything new of course, but some new games will apparently be released without some of their content - which can then be bought online for an additional fee, obviously. Add to that the fact that the bundled Kinect getup had to be connected to the console permanently and the Xbox One was starting to look like a major let-down. Surely Sony wouldn't disappoint with their next machine?

Many stuck up gamers already considered Sony's machines to be more prestigious and so would buy the PS4 regardless of practically any possible drawbacks, and it did seem to be the most gamer-friendly option, but it still wasn't perfect. It seems Sony do not share Microsoft's desire to create the ultimate 'set top box' - audio CD's and MP3's apparently don't work on it for one thing, and it shares the Xbox's 500GB storage space which might sound a lot until you find that Sony's machine will use around one fifth of that straight away for its firmware. It will also be necessary to install every game, and the remaining storage space will be sufficient for about 14 games. Is that enough? That's not even taking into account the inevitable deluge of 'updates', not to mention any other stuff you might want to download such as PSN games, demos, movies, etc.

An unnecessarily-bulky CD player?
I suppose few of these things are what put me off the new machines though. I'm not running a big-name, professional website here so this was never meant to be an in-depth, impartial comparison between the two new systems - I don't have the time (or the interest to be completely honest) to research the subject that thoroughly, so these various stories may be exaggerated or straight out bullcrap for all I know. The reason I have even less interest in these machines than the previous generation (something I didn't think possible!) is that nothing I've seen so far suggests that they'll be anything other than just more of the same. All the things I dislike about modern gaming are not only going to be back but will almost certainly be much worse, particularly those endless, incessant updates. Grrr!

The games, too, will no doubt still take longer than 80's cassette-based games to get up and running, and I'm confident they will offer even less innovation; the list of launch titles, for example, features mostly sequels - Assassin's Creed, Need For Speed, Call of Duty, Battlefield, Killzone... all IP's that made their start on the previous generation (or even longer ago than that). Plus, what launch would be complete without the latest 'updates' of all the EA Sports games? Even if the games were interesting, they'll still be a tremendous pain in the arse to play, to their full potential at least. There's no longer any point in being a console owner as far as I can see - the whole point of them is supposed to be whole plug n play thing but they're just as much of a pain as PC's now.

So, as far as I can tell, the PS4 and Xbone (tee hee!) are little more than blah, blah, blah. I suppose I'm hardly impartial but I couldn't help but be slightly amused at all the vitriol they seemed to be receiving - "Could this finally be the day when the good, decent people finally realise the futility of their hollow pursuit?" I thought of exclaiming before not. All over Facebook and Twitter were people listing the many reasons why they wouldn't be buying the machines. I rejoiced unto the night.

This guy knows the score (innit)...
But then, as the release dates approached, attitudes appeared to be changing. Some announced pre-orders had been made for their preferred choice, or even both choices on a few occasions. Some were selling their PS3/360 systems and game collections to fund their new console purchase. Some misguided souls had even sold some of their retro hoard to a similar end. Many social media friends and acquaintances were fast-approaching orgasm-levels of excitement over the impending releases. I say 'were' as both machines have now been launched of course, even here in the UK which tends to see new hardware later than most other countries, so such breathless anticipation has now been replaced by numerous 'unboxing' videos, photos of the new systems sitting proudly on shelves or tables, and many ramblings of a related nature. Curiously, I have yet to hear any opinions of actual games on the systems but I'm such they're on the way too: "Wow, this new update of a game I've been playing in various forms over the last ten years is amazing and looks slightly better than previously!"

Have these people forgotten so fast the contempt they had apparently manifested toward Sony and Microsoft? Lord knows but I guess I'll just leave them to their Assassins's Creed 28, FIFA '14 November Edition, Call of Duty: Grimsby Takeaway Siege, and whatever else they deem to be the next evolutionary step in gaming, but I don't think I can understand such excitement, not to mention subsequent expenditure, purely for the sake of slightly better graphics. Perhaps I'm a bit of a hypocrite - I did after all get just as hyper about the MegaDrive, Saturn, and Dreamcast launches, but this time around I just don't get it - is it just the buzz that usually surrounds the release of new hardware, because beyond that I really can't see much to get excited about. I think the guy in the last picture above sums up my thoughts on the matter...


  1. Agree with many of your points. Yearly franchise updates just a big yawn. Weekly firmware updates get tired very quickly. That said, console refresh long overdue. Sony should be given credit for it's game focus, indie friendly attitude & recently introduced background loading.....

  2. Yep, it does seem the best of the two at the moment doesn't it? I suppose we'll find out just how good they are over the coming months!

  3. Xbox Live is why I stay with Xbox.

  4. Have you got an Xbox One then? Or do you intend to get one?

  5. See what happens, unless Xbone gets destroyed I'll probably stick with it. I did have a PS way back when it first came into this world and I loved it. But as time went on I didn't like the poor quality with most games, only the odd one being worth buying. Then we got PS2 and it was pretty much the same deal plus it was a common machine, a chav machine hehe.

    The Xbox was just a classy alternative and has always been in my eyes. I have always been the same, when it was Nintendo vs Sega back in the day I was a staunch Nintendo follower and never swayed from the mighty SNES. Had the N64 for a while but had to give in when it folded in on itself with lack of games.

    The only other battle was a no brainer between Atari ST and Amiga. Amiga of course won easily but it took time to get me across there too haha Atari were always a strong name with gaming through my early life.

  6. Haha, don't let my ST-loving friends hear you say that! :P I know what you mean though - I often wanted all or most systems but I couldn't afford them all so I stuck with my favourite too - in this case Sega. As I said in the feature above, I've actually never played on any Microsoft console - I'm not sure how, I keep meaning to buy an original Xbox! Oops :P As you said, we'll see...