Just wait: the Xbox 720 might be the hate-magnet this next gen
Something odd struck me.
As gamers, we can be a very passionate bunch. We can be excitable. We can be hateful. We can be downright mean. One thing I've noticed is that our beloved "gaming journalists" aren't too different from the rabble they try to inform with their articles, Top 10 Videos, and exclusive interviews. Journalists can be just as irrational and hateful, too.
A well-known aspect of human nature is that the mob likes to see the big guy fall. This is especially true in the West, where our histories were carved out of the skulls of the kings, despots, and tyrants that we overthrew to bring our civilizations to their current state of being. We always root for David, not Goliath. We cheer when the nerd, not the burly jock, wins the beautiful girl. And, as gamers, we love it when the arrogant gaming company takes a few hits to the shins, forcing them to bow.
I'd like to open this up for discussion in the comment section below, but I predict that Microsoft's next console will be the main source of hate (especially from gaming journalists) in this upcoming gaming generation. There are a couple of factors that lead me to this conclusion, but let's start off by taking a look at Microsoft today compared to the Microsoft of 2004-2005.
- gives a lot of public conferences discussing the future of the Xbox brand and makes huge showings at the main gaming shows (E3, GDC, TGS, etc)
- shows an aggressive attitude toward getting more gamers over to the Xbox brand
- shows an eagerness to acquire more exclusives, or at the least bring formerly-exclusive Playstation franchises over to the 360 as well
- focuses on hardcore gamers, especially the online gaming community
2010-present day Microsoft:
- stays silent between major gaming conferences and only shows off two or three exclusive titles at big shows
- shows an aggressive attitude toward moving into the casual market while diverting time, marketing, money, and entire studios toward the casual market
- shows a defensive attitude in regards to new games and new IPs, settling to get exclusive DLC or timed exclusivity
What I'm trying to point out is that the Microsoft of today is not the same Microsoft of 7 years ago. As such, the Microsoft of today is not the Microsoft that people fell in love with 7 years ago. This disparity can create a lot of dissent and hate. Think about it: the PS3 was a very different console compared to the PS1 or PS2, and it got a lot of flak. The Wii was a very differet console compared to its predecessors as well, and it also got a lot of hate. Microsoft played the safe road and made the 360 a bigger, better Xbox. There's nothing wrong with that. However, all indications point to the fact that the 720 is going to be a very different console with a very different focus compared to what the Xbox brand has traditionally been known for. We're already seeing that with Microsoft's change in focus over the last three years. This change in focus may ignite a lot of hate from gamers who are eager to see this gen's David-turned-Goliath take a massive spill.
As gamers, we have a natural inclination to be loyal to the companies that give us so much fun. Loyalty sometimes morphs into fanboyism, but whatever the case may be, that loyalty has a breaking point. For many Resident Evil fans, that breaking point occurred with RE5 or RE6. For many Final Fantasy fans, the breaking point was the release of all the post-FF10 games like the MMO, the MMO-lite, and the long, linear hallway game (and it's sequel). Sonic fans, Metroid fans, Guitar Hero fans, fans of any popular franchise eventually reach a breaking point once the developers start moving away from the things that made those games popular in the first place. The same is true for the Xbox brand. People are moving further and further away from Xbox loyalists and closer and closer to the desolate wastes of bitter, former fanboys. That "breaking point" may have already occured when Kinect was announced, or maybe it occured gradually as more and more "made for the hardcore" Kinect games ended up being completely terrible. Maybe the majority of the 360 fanbase hasn't reached that breaking point yet, but the gaming community is moving in that direction.
Now, I didn't write this blog as if to point the finger at Microsoft and laugh at their next-gen attempts. If they put out a good system, then I'll be happy. What I'm trying to say is that the gaming market might be undergoing a change of heart, where Microsoft isn't untouchable. All last generation, Microsoft had the most positive press and the least amount of hate (stupid fanboy wars notwithstanding). Despite issues of RRoD and Kinect, Microsoft hasn't really been chewed up in gaming media. But that might change when Microsoft's next console comes out. Already, we're seeing articles around the net doubting Microsoft's next-gen plans (which is partially due to Microsoft keeping quiet). Will these same journalists turn around and praise Microsoft once the 720 is unveiled, or will their curiosities turn into full-blown hatred? That remains to be seen.
Last but not least, I noticed a peculiar trend when it comes to console releases. It's probably a silly coincidence, but we gamers have a lot of silly coincidences that we believe in, like "the least powerful console is the one that wins". I've noticed that the gaming media turns on a company once they release their third console. It happened to Nintendo: the PS1 was highly favored while the N64 was loved for its first-party games but otherwise ignored. It happened to SEGA: the Saturn/Dreamcast (depending on which one you consider SEGA's third) were both shunned by the media in favor of their competitors. It happened to Sony: the PS3 had a lot of hate aimed against it, especially early on in the console's lifespan. Perhaps the 720 - Microsoft's third console - will follow the same pattern? Who knows?
All I know is that we do love to see the top dog fall. Nintendo and Sony endured their fair share of public-relational black eyes this past gen, but Microsoft has remained mostly untouched. Will that change with the 720? I guess we'll see...