Can't we all get along?: If one company ruled the industry (Opinion Piece)
With the Nintendo Wii U, Sony PlayStation 4, and Microsoft XBOX One all out in the wild (in most places), gamers are snatching up their console(s) of choice, mostly enjoying their new investments. Unfortunately, due to sensational media headlines (does "CAN XBOX ONE CATCH UP TO PS4" or "NPD CHARTS SHOW EXUBERANT SALES OF TITANFALL" ring a bell?), overbearing dependence on exclusive titles, hardware power disparities, etc., gaming isn't what it used to be and has lost some of its charm. It's almost a much more hostile form of NFL fans fighting each other or East Coast/West Coast rappers spitting on people with different interests and styles for living on the other side of the United States (possibly against their will, given some circumstances). Well, good ol' jostling buddies never hurt anyone, but fanboyism really is a problem to the common gamer. It's a self-imposed limitation on what someone can play. I wouldn't consider it fanboyism if, say, XBOX One has all the games someone wants to play and can live with the "gimped" version of multiplatform games--for the record, I wouldn't say it's gimped; most games still run just fine, just not as well as PS4 it seems. The issue is not in picking a console and enjoying it because you don't have the time/reason/money to invest in another console, but in perception of consoles one DOES NOT own.
If the next guy is happy, live and let be. It's as if someone has chosen differently and there's a need to explain why your choice was the right choice...like you aren't sure yourself. So for a moment, let's live in the mind of a fanboy: someone who cares deeply about sales and wants one console to crush the other consoles. With the cost of development these days, let's imagine, in each scenario, how the industry might change if each company "ruled the world", in a manner of saying.
Good old Nintendo. If many of you have been gaming as long as I have, you have fond memories of "Sega does what Nintendon't!" and other silly slogans. Well, let's consider that Nintendo is having a rough time with the Wii U. Their strategy doesn't appear to have changed too much in response to the growing popularity of their competitors. Yes, they recently decided to license their characters to third-party companies for second-party uses, but that really means we'll be seeing Mario, Link, and company in more contexts. This also means we might finally get a new F-Zero game (seriously, it's been way too long). So that sounds all good, right? Well, let's consider Nintendo's history. In the third-generation console "war", the NES destroyed its competition rather easily. The result? The birth of the SNES, a console with more buttons, backwards compatibility, and better graphics. Not particularly impressive. Then along came the Sony PlayStation which put a bit of strain on Nintendo, causing quite a bit of clamor. Nintendo responded with the N64, which--while my personal favorite of the 5th console generation--couldn't put a damper on its use of 3D visuals, BUT Nintendo managed to create a controller with a joystiq for movement in a 3D environment, prompting Sony to up its game with the original Dualshock. When the GameCube came around, the controller was completely different and very ergonomic (still my favorite controller to this day; yes I'm serious). When the PlayStation 2 dropped, it was chaos for every other console and completely made a joke out of Nintendo, Sega, and the newcomer, Microsoft. Nintendo saw how much ground they've lost and responded by creating an all-accessible console: the Wii. Berated for its more "casual" approach, it still managed to best the PS3 and XBOX 360 and inspired them to make games more accessible through PS Move and Kinect.
So here we are now with the Wii U. If Nintendo had the industry locked down, what would happen? Personally, I think they'd stop trying to innovate aggressively and they would be content with hardware being marginally more powerful every generation. If the NES to SNES and Wii to Wii U trends are valid projections of Nintendo's habits, we can expect that they would do everything in their power to take it easy; maintain a semi-premium cost and not move very far forward with control input. Only in the face of considerable pressure did Nintendo really make a move. We can see that, when successful in beating out competition, Nintendo keeps a naming theme to their brand. If you liked Nintendo, try a SUPER Nintendo: if you enjoyed the Wii, try the new Wii U. Basically, capitalizing on the success of their previous successes. Don't expect Nintendo's next console to be a "Wii" of any kind.
Sony has a very interesting history. From the new guys who came out on top with PS1, to the badasses who took the world by storm with what many argue is the greatest console of all time, the PS2, to falling from grace somewhat with the PS3, and now to the well-received PS4. The PS1 ushered in a new era of amazing JRPGs, "The Real Driving Simulator", and much more. The PS2 introduced DVD playback, backwards compatibility, pressure-sensitive buttons (and ability to use the PS1 controller for games that didn't make use of the pressure sensitivity), built-in rumble for every controller, and what many consider the progenitor to Kinect and the Wii remote in the Eye Toy. Many people have incredibly fond memories of gaming on the PS2. I certainly did and I only regret being too poor to play more games than I got around to. It was the least powerful, but the wealth of quality games was damn near confounding. Sony was riding on a high of two successful generations. Then, along came the PS3: a year behind the XBOX 360, released 2 days before the Wii, and at $600. Sure, it had free online, a blu-ray player, and a SIXAXIS motion controller, but the games were embarrassing early on and it didn't have force feedback. It was a "cheap" blu-ray player at best with no games. Then, the games started coming. It made an extraordinary comeback which shows the strong arm of the PlayStation name, but it never overthrew the Wii and it lost tremendous footing in regions they once dominated. PS3 was also incredibly difficult to develop for and everyone bought XBOX 360 for their multi-platform titles; they ran better and the online infrastructure made PSN look like a joke. I think that, following the hacking of PSN a couple of years back, Sony realized they had everything to lose and finally awakened the inner beast that was asleep since the PS3 launched. PlayStation Plus gained amazing offers, the exclusives were getting great, they became much more supportive of developer interests, etc. Now with the PS4, Sony is actively advocating the "little guys" with indie support, an affordable entry price into next-gen, and some ambitious titles on the way. Oh, and the controller is a significant overhaul from previous generations and it functions as a solid, fast, well-connected machine. The PS4 is the phoenix rising from its ashes and is doing so much to gain back its following with VR, anticipated updates, and the return of fan favorites such as Kingdom Hearts and a Final Fantasy game with tremendous promise. All in all, Sony is doing everything to win gamers back...but what will happen if/when they do? It's hard to say with Kutaragi gone, but I believe we've already seen Sony using its arrogance and name when they had the industry in their hands. The PS3 was the product of that arrogance, launching a year late, very costly, with no reason to own one right away. Sony thought they had the world in their hands, and it cost them dearly. Even now, Microsoft will not be content unless they win this and Sony has identified them as direct rivals. Thus far, they managed to take back some of their market share, but let's wait to see in the long run.
When the original XBOX launched, it was something of an "Avenger console", sort of taking on the moniker of a Dreamcast incarnate. It even had some of Dreamcast's exclusive games such as Shenmue 1 and 2. The original XBOX was more of Microsoft getting their feet wet and seeing how they could succeed in the console market. Though they didn't succeed in making the biggest impression, they learned from their failure and created the XBOX 360, a solid platform with some pretty epic launch window titles. Say what you will, I loved Condemned: Criminal Origins and Burnout Revenge on XBOX 360--still my favorite racing game of all time. It gave us a real online network, system OS (still prefer the original "blades" design over the tiled interface), dedicated Home button, console wifi, DLC for console games. Very ambitious and it had a great adoption rate in most regions. Sadly, it was also plagued by a rather considerable CPU failure rate, but Microsoft did well by consumers by replacing models before a certain time frame. The XBOX 360 was a great console that took a lot of the wind out of Sony's sail. It was just the much more appealing option for a number of years. Once the Kinect dropped however, a lot of gamers felt that their interests in the console diminished a little but, but still bought games in abundance. If there's one thing XBOX gamers did well, it was buy games. Now, we have the XBOX One which got off to a terrible start. I don't need to get into details on that. Odds are, if you're on the internet reading this, you know all about it. Either way, Microsoft had a lofty vision for their console that really wanted to usher in an all-digital era of DRM, system checks, and an always-connected Kinect. Following the negative feedback, these decisions have been rescinded, and thankfully so. It did however put a damper on Microsoft's plans to augment the console's power across all games with their Cloud; if every XBOX One customer had internet, we might actually see games more readily stand on ground with PS4 games. That's a bit of an assumption, honestly. I don't know much about their Cloud and I doubt anyone does outside of Microsoft. Let's wait on that.
So how would Microsoft behave if the industry was theirs? Well, perhaps we would have a "#DealWithIt" situation with the digital era of games. Personally, I'm not ready to make that leap and I'm glad most gamers agree with me. It was a very sudden transition and gamers would sacrifice privacy and freedom to further Microsoft's agenda. Thankfully, the gamers have spoken and humbled Microsoft with a lesson they still appear to be paying for. Make no mistake, XBOX One is selling very well. The problem is that it's being compared to the PS4.
So there you have it. An opinion piece of what would happen to the industry if any one company took it by storm and tried to hold it captive as told by DarXyde. Feel free to comment, but please keep it clean and rational.
Game on and inspire competition.