The United States is aflame with Next-Gen fever this month. People are lining up to be the first through the threshold of the new console generation, and in our excitement we are letting ourselves be blinded. Or at the very least, we are letting ourselves have a collective fast one pulled on us.
These consoles are the future; they possess next gen potential. The games we bought a week prior to these launches are not. We are standing in lines during midnight releases to play sub par platformers and beat em ups that are barely as good as ones released years prior. We’re all being duped by this “fake” next gen.
That’s a bold statement, I know, but we as gamers really have to start looking at our hobby/art/obsession like everyone else does there’s. People didn’t run out and buy blu ray players as soon as Sony told them it was the new hotness. 3D movies are still a bigger draw internationally. Why is this? Because in those industries, consumers wait to be impressed. As soon as a gaming console comes out, though, consumers become okay with complacency. We accept the notion that these consoles are investments of both time and money, that will eventually return enjoyable experiences tenfold. But this new generation’s launch titles are a perfect example of why that mentality is damaging. In other words, we have become a community of people who accept the idea of paying 400 dollars for access to a handful of exclusive games, with only a few of them being any where near good.
Why is this? Why is it that the same people that can judge annual series’ so harshly based upon so many subtleties can line up and be so okay with being so blatantly lied to when it comes to these launch titles? Maybe it’s because gamers are just a subgenre of tech junkie, and consumers who are big into tech are generally more susceptible to the “bigger, better deal” phenomenon. When new phones or tablets hit the market, tech geeks rush Best Buy’s to feel the next shiny plastic in their hands, even if the new iteration isn’t much different than the old one. Hell, Apple has made it’s entire business model after that very idea, and it’s the most valuable company in the country. I guess it only makes sense that as the gaming community expands to a size comparable to other big consumer industries, that it would start to adopt characteristics of them. If we are going to accept that mentality, though, we need to put a stop to the “games as art” argument then, because art requires thought and critique, not rabid kleptomania.
Maybe we still remember the time when launch lineups were vast, varied, and had a game for everyone. I remember the Playstation 2’s launch line up being an overwhelming experience for me, because there were so many things to play immediately. Even if only half of them were decent, it still meant that I had over a dozen pretty good, new, exclusive games to play. The Playstation 4 launched in the US with four exclusives, with the general consensus pointing at Resogun and Killzone: Shadow Fall being the only titles worth playing. Sure, games are more expensive to make nowadays, I get that, but our opinions of good value don’t have to diminish because of this fact. Four exclusive games to play for $400 (not including the price to buy these games) does not equate to a dozen or so exclusive games to play on a console that cost $299 back in 2000 (which, for you economics majors, is around $400 now, thanks to inflation.)
And even if half of these exclusives are good, are they really “next-gen?” What I mean is, when I put the game into the console, will I be playing something I really couldn’t have played last gen? The answer, especially in the 7th and 8th console generation has been a resounding “no.” As you may be seeing more particle effects and more dynamic weather, you are rarely ever playing a game that is uniquely forward thinking and innovative, distancing itself from games before it. For the PS3, a truly next gen game didn’t come until 2007 when Oblivion released, and even still the superior version of that game was already available on PC’s. Warhawk came out around August of that year, and with its ambitious multiplayer goals that involved constant connection to the internet for its online only gameplay, it became the first game that was truly something you couldn’t have seen done on a PS2. People sat on the hook with their $600 dollar consoles for nine months before they got the next gen experience they were promised, and even then the game was not stellar!
I pick on Sony because that’s where the bulk of my gaming experience lies, but Microsoft isn’t exactly innocent of this. Xbox 360 owners waited until September of ‘06, before Dead Rising hit the consoles, really testing the new console’s power and memory by packing literally hundreds of models on the screen at once. They waited almost a full year after launch before Gears of War came to the system and completely revolutionized 3rd person shooters. With a pattern like this, maybe the year after launch should be when we’re lining up for these consoles.
We’ve given hardware devs a pass with this for far too long. If we would just stop making these empty launches seem like anything more than the smoke and mirror hype funhouse they really are, then there will be no choice but to provide real content one day for their products. We have to show these big companies that the money in our pockets isn’t a foregone conclusion; an auto-win for their revenue columns. If we start rejecting the crap we’re getting shoveled, maybe we will finally get a real next gen when we are promised it.