Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Console Wars: and the loser is…

A new console generation is more or less upon us. Ho hum.

Here’s a quick rundown of the state of play, which is mostly a list of console-makers getting things wrong:


The Wii-U has been out for a while, but has several issues. Firstly, the marketing was rubbish and almost nobody realises it’s actually a new console, not just a Wii with an extra letter at the end.

Perhaps because nobody noticed it (and it has correspondingly poor sales) fewer developers are making games for it, which has the obvious knock-on effect of making people less likely to buy it. EA did say, a year or two ago, that they would have an unprecedented approach to making games for the Wii-U, although at present ‘unprecedented’ appears to mean they’re not making any.


The PS4 is out later this year, probably, and Sony has probably cocked up the least of the consoles. Yes, there’s a stupid ‘share’ button because firms seem to think that everybody both has Facebook/Twitter and wants to share their experiences of gaming on such social media, but that’s mostly it.

There’s no backwards compatibility, which is rubbish, and also perplexing. If consoles were consistently backwards compatible it would really help Sony or Microsoft to keep people hooked into their systems, because you’d have a massive back catalogue of games and you’d be able to play them on a new console, preventing the ridiculous situation of either throwing out your old consoles/games or having an ever-increasing number of consoles.

This isn’t a Sony-only problem, but it is the biggest mistake they’ve made. (So far. They haven’t revealed the console itself, but it’d be surprising if it were wildly different in size than recent consoles).


They’ve made some very brave decisions. First off, no backwards compatibility. This is rubbish, but as the PS4 is the same that’s not going to shift or shed sales either way.

The name Xbox One is stupid. How do you go from Xbox to Xbox 360 to Xbox One? Not serious, just innumerate.

Then there’s the always-online rumour. That turned out to be false, but only just. Xbox One as a console won’t need to be constantly online to function, but games-makers can make their individual games work that way. Depressingly, Microsoft has stated it will ‘encourage’ them to do so. Apparently the firm thinks many users actually want this. It would be fascinating to know if this is plain old bullshit or whether the upper echelons of the organisation are so far removed from reality they actually think that’s the case.

So, some games will need a constant internet connection, and some won’t. It’s hard to see how the percentages will stack up either way, but it’s immensely stupid and counter-productive. If you live somewhere with an imperfect internet connection this can and will bugger up your games, if you’re a big Xbox fan. If you live somewhere with no internet connection (*gasp!*) you might as well not bother. You can either play on Xbox with a limited range of games, or play on the PS4.

Bad news, poor people. Lots of people, realising that certain games are destined for massive sales and a fairly rapid price drop, deliberately avoid buying them at release. They then wait a few months, maybe a year, and buy the same game for half the price. It’s a clever and simple strategy if you’re a gamer but not a very wealthy one. This hasn’t been completely confirmed, but the rumour mill is now suggesting that there could be a fee for pre-owned games.

The story is this: games can be run without a disc by installing the whole game to the hard drive. Except, this means individuals could band together, have one member buy a given game, and then share it around so everyone can install it. (Of course, you could stick to the old system whereby you need a disc to play the game… but never mind). So, they’ll tie each individual game to each individual console/hard drive.

If the disc is attempted to be used on a different account (NB in the same console as the first or a different one) then a fee may be charged. Obviously, clarity on this issue is needed, but the very fact fees for pre-owned games are being discussed is not good publicity for Microsoft. “Too poor to spend £40 at release? Then we’ll charge you a fee for buying a cheap pre-owned game! Mwahahaha!”

Oh, and apparently the Kinect camera will always be on.

Now, the Xbox One will apparently have some new options regarding TV-streaming or the like. But guess what? I don’t need that. I already have a television. The ability to watch TV on my TV is not something I need a console for.

Maybe that would appeal to people who are very casual gamers and like integrated systems, but given the intensely stupid game-related decisions I think the people happiest with this reveal will be Sony. By dint of only making one idiotic choice (no backwards compatibility) the PS4 is already well ahead of the Xbox One.

And here’s a telling piece of info. Since the Xbox reveal Microsoft’s share price was down half a percent. Sony’s was up 9%.


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