Game Changer #24 – Is it New Console Time Already?

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My name is Jared Whittaker, one of the hosts and Audio Chewbacca of the Super-Fly Podcast and PCW! Welcome to Game Changer, a weekly burning missive about all aspects of video gaming with a little bit of opinion thrown in for fun. Proceed with caution and tread lightly, gentle gamers. It’s going to be good time. Like the first time you saw Super Mario 3 good time.

In the last few weeks, rumors have been leaking out about both Microsoft and Sony having started researching tech for what will be the basis of the successors to the Xbox 360 and the PS3 respectively. While this news isn’t really new. Major console makers start on the next console almost as soon as the current console is hitting the stores. Technology is fast moving and you can’t just jump into the role of best gaming platform without planning and research. The interest in what Sony and Microsoft have next up their sleeve is in response to Nintendo’s new (and unfortunately named) home console, the Wii U coming next year. Nintendo’s new home gaming system will have more under the hood this time around and comes with a new gaming philosophy that is looking to include so called “hardcore” gamers again instead of focusing on moms and grandmas like they did with the Wii.

While the prospect of new games and new gaming experiences excite most people, looking for what the new big feature will be or the next big, groundbreaking game will bring, I figured that I would share a few reasons that I am NOT excited to usher in a new crop of consoles. I list them in no particular order for your reading pleasure:

1. What are games going to do that they already don’t?

Sure, this is probably what a lot of people said before the Wii completely destroyed the perception of gaming to a lot of people that not only never played games before, but never played games by moving their arms around and effecting what’s happening on the screen. That worked out fairly well for Nintendo as you most likely remember. But with the entry of Mircosoft’s huge focus on motion control with Kinect and Sony’s Playstation Move peripheral, motion control seems to be on lock for a basic feature on all the new upcoming consoles. That leads to the obvious question: What’s this console generation’s “motion control”? Nintendo seems to think that it’s using a tablet-like controller while still moving all around your living room. I have never really gotten on board with motion control gaming. As someone that always seems to have jobs that require some kind of movement or heavy lifting, I never relished the thought of coming home after working a long day and doing jumping jacks the relax after a hard day at the salt mines. I am, clearly in the minority since the masses ate up Muppet flailing their way through Super Smash Brother Brawl and other calorie burning games. So, it begs the question of what’s the next big thing? Between Wii U having as many extra add-on peripheral as the Wii and Kinect making life easier be making you talk to your 360, I really would be surprised to hear that Sony has some kind of Skynet-like service in the works, only for it to become self-aware while you’re playing Metal Gear Solid 5 and hacked T-1000s bust through walls all over the world, looking for gamertags that have the words “John Connor” in them.

2. We just hit our stride.

A new console release never goes as planned. Microsoft had the Red Ring of Death debacle. Nintendo got the “family” console tag tattooed on themselves only to have a large backlash to family based game and shovelware that hit to console and Sony……well….let’s just say that Sony took a LONG time to get to where it is now. No matter what console you call your own, there was a certain amount of “settling time” every console had before everyone jumped on board with it. Some more than others. But this generation, it seems like things just get to the point where every system was running on all cylinders and pumping out great content. Now it’s about to get turned upside down all over again. Look, I’ll be the first to admit that as a PS3 owner, I was just getting used to the idea that the games that I buy would be the same quality as the 360 counterpart without dropping frame rates, less features and subpar ports due to game developers being intimidated by the new and complicated design of the PS3. Now it could be on the verge of happening all over again.

3. How much are things going to be THIS time?

Game prices jumped $10 this generation because of the high price of developing games for the new crop of consoles. While only $10 more, $60 might as well have been $300 for me and other gamers out there. It became the default way to make the money back for the game’s development time and there’s been nothing we could do about it. Couple that with advent of downloadable content being even more money, gaming became a more expensive hobby than it already was. $15 for Limbo? $20 for Shadow Complex? Not that big a deal, right? But let’s take a full retail game like Grad Theft Auto 4. GTA4 retail was $60. Not a big deal, right? Consider GTA4’s DLC episodes The Lost and the Damned and The Ballad of Gay Tony both being $15 each. For the complete GTA4 experience, you end up paying $90 total. That’s a lot of money. And that’s one of the better deals you could make. Many game publishers find new ways to gain profit in the way of DLC. EA was one of the first publishers to monetize extra content that had in the past been free. EA offered DLC ranging from new cars and locations to unlock codes that had in the past been an unlocked by a code or by completing some in-game achievement. While some people would say “You don’t have to buy anything extra”, I feel like just offering new content to a game that you really like begs you, the player, to play it. My best example of this is Fallout 3. Fallout 3 was an amazing game in depth and scope and I jumped in head first and loved every minute of it. And when the DLC started getting announced, I really had to fight to find a way to NOT buy the new content. With promises of new locations, weapons and an increase of the level cap, I felt like if I didn’t buy the extra stuff, I was going to miss something really cool and miss a part of the overall gaming experience. It’s like drug dealers. The first taste is free, and then you have to pay.

I’d be a liar if I said that I wasn’t looking forward to what the new systems have to offer. We all remember how we felt when word of a new console was on the horizon, reading in your favorite gaming magazine about the new graphic tricks it would do and what the next version of the latest big game franchise would look like and how it would differ from the current line. But, in my opinion, there was a lot of trends that started this generation that is only going to continue and/or get much worse that it makes me really, really hope that we can wait a little bit longer before dropping big money on the new big thing.

Keep gaming….

Jared Whittaker plays a lot of games. Not as much as he’d like, but as much as time and money will allow. If you want to play some games with Jared, you can find him on Playstation 3; PSN tag: JFX. He is also on Steam and Battle.net as JFX316 and while he doesn’t have an Xbox 360, he has the coolest Gamertag in the world: Obiwan Jaborni. Feel free to add him as a friend or email him at JWhittaker@PanelsonPages.com.

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Who ARE these people!?

Jared Whittaker is a contributing writer/columnist for PanelsOnPages.com. He acts as co-host and producer for the Super-Fly Podcast and PCW. He lives in Yellow Springs, OH and is generally awesome at most things.

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