Friday Night Rant: With PS4 On Top, All Will Be Right Again
The crazies that these rants tend to attract are probably confused right now. “Is this the same guy that criticized the PS4 launch lineup with that rant ‘Playstation 4 Launch Lineup: Awful, Or The Most Awful?‘”
Yes, believe it or not having a little fun with industry trends doesn’t make any one person or site a giant hater. I think I already mentioned I’m on board with the PS4 just as soon as it is available again. As the title suggests, this time I want to tell you why this generation is going to be great: because the PS4 is going to be the top console. You know what else? The reasons have nothing to do with my personal preferences.
First a recap. Wii U is pretty much a flip flap floppity flop. It didn’t manage to capture the magical gimmick quality that the Wii did and its attempts to bring core gamers back into the fold have been dubious at best. Worldwide sales are bad, helped recently by a very old game made new again: Wind Waker HD. Not much else is going on software wise.
You know what though? That’s fine, even though the company is hemorrhaging profits the success of the original Wii is enough to float this console for the next 5+ years handily. The true die hards will be happy to wait around for more Mario, Zelda, and Metroid too. Third place will be perfect for that.
Technically you could say the Wii won the last generation of console wars, but most agree the system was really not in direct competition with PS3 and 360. The two who were in direct competition had a knock down drag out fight from day one. The expensive cost and slim early software library of the PS3 made it totally cool to hate in the media and in forums. PS3 did end up selling more in the end, but nobody will remember that because the Xbox 360 was such a massive crowd success. The fact is it dictated nearly all gaming trends from its debut to this day.
And that was bad. I think things in the gaming industry are going to be smoother and more beneficial to all gamers when the PS4 takes the top position shortly after the holidays. While the crown for North America may still be up in the air the 360 already proved to the rest of the world that Microsoft is an emperor without clothes. Aside from the catastrophic hardware failure, antitrust business practices of its owner, and anti-consumer exclusivity quagmires, there were the unseen atrocities.
As an example there is the death of the JRPG on consoles this generation. Most who pretend to know everything about everything will tell you that what happened to that genre was purely to do with changing customer interests, I’ve never believed this. A genre doesn’t die that quickly on its own. We can’t lay all the blame at the feet of Microsoft but we can’t ignore facts either. The first Xbox had precisely 0 JRPGs on it. The PS2 had… a lot. In order to try to kill Sony, Microsoft went to Japan with high hopes of getting a grip on that market.
They failed to do so, but at what cost? They bought up all the JRPG properties that they could, doing their level best to either keep them off of the Playstation 3 or delay their debut by more than a year. Lost Odyssey, Star Ocean: The Last Hope, Eternal sonata, Tales of Vespasia, Blue Dragon, Infinite Undiscovery, maybe even that rushed version of The Last Remnant. They all fell flat because they were bought up by a company producing a console that no sensible JRPG lover ever planned to convert to. If they had debuted where the fans were, on PS3, maybe we wouldn’t be in the mess we are in now where people are starving for JRPGs that aren’t super niche. It didn’t matter that some titles arrived later, all the excitement was gone.
That’s just one example of how Microsoft managed to muck up the gaming landscape this generation. I could go on all day, but that’s not what this is about. What this is about is the fact that when Playstation is on top, the industry landscape is in its best possible state.
I was very skeptical about Sony when they came on the scene, having been a Nintendo and Sega devotee through my childhood. I even went with the Sega Saturn instead of the Playstation since my Nintendo 64 ran out of games after Mario 64 and Zelda Ocarina. Once Playstation was on top though, everything fell into place for gaming. There was an explosion of quality software across genres, demographics, PC and arcade ports, and in new IPs. More western entertainment companies got into the business, game stories got better, graphics embraced realism, and the other hardware developers had to step it up or change.
Sega couldn’t compete, it was mired in the past, so it became a software developer after Dreamcast proved to be too small of a step. Nintendo kept trying to go head to head via Gamecube but it never measured up to the PS2, which went on to become the best selling console of all time. Because Nintendo couldn’t compete with the core audience they carved out their own niche later on with the incredible success of the Wii (which wouldn’t have happened without PS2 supremacy). And when the original Xbox debuted it had a place, purpose, and personality that I really liked which was separate from Playstation. The original Xbox was mostly about a smoother graphical presentation, rapid fire action games, first person shooters, multiplayer, and plenty of not so innocent adolescent hijinks. Halo really did change the FPS landscape, and there was no way PS2 could have ever made Dead or Alive 3 so beautiful.
When the business plan behind the Xbox 360 sought to undercut, dethrone, and defeat Sony instead of satisfy gamers in general it created an unprecedented culture of division, hate, and quality degradation. Then it determined some very destructive trends. All that action focus seeped into every other genre and infected it. Everything that was once good and decent went downhill when it became multiplatform (ahem FFXIII), and everything from JRPG to Survival/Horror to Simulation games lost their way to worship at the altar of the action genre. And if your game wasn’t a shooter, it had damn well better become one to survive.
Action is great, I love my action games. Love my shooters too. But I’ll be relieved when the audience that is most often associated with Playstation, that varied group of folks with more than a one track mind, are the ones that industry professionals are trying to win over again. I think the divisive trends that Microsoft dominance ushered in are best left in the past.
With Playstation 4 on top Nintendo will have to either tap back into the audience they built with the Wii or go the way of Sega and become a software company. Frankly, I think they will be just fine as they are for awhile.
All indications among pre-orders and across the net’s “social” scenes (especially over technical ability) are that Xbox One will not be the dominant console. If true, things are set aright. Xbox One will have to find its success within the American market where it is most popular. Microsoft will once again have to provide something specific instead of hostility. Practices such as the purchase of third party exclusivity (timed or otherwise) will begin to appear less attractive to publishers when they realize that holding back release on Playstation 4 will cost them more than Microsoft will be willing to pay for a timed exclusivity deal. As games other than shooters gain more success we will see more variability in core gameplay elements. And with more people experiencing thought-provoking Sony exclusives there will be more pressure on developers to create better stories.
Yes I’ve got a good feeling about this generation. When everyone involved is in the place they belong things just flow so much better and every gamer benefits from the efforts put in by all companies to delight their fans instead of playing conqueror or catch up as the case may be.