Re-inventing, re-defining, and revolutionizing
Transforming, capturing, and broadening
We have a couple of video clips to share with everyone. They're excerpts from this year's E3 press conferences, which all shared a couple of common themes this year.
We have some questions. Do any gamers out there feel that there is any need to re-invent gaming, re-define the way we play, or revolutionize the way we have fun?
And does anything revealed so far about the next-gen systems convince any of you that they would somehow be able to do this?
We here at gameswelike.com are enjoying the way we have fun now. All we ask of the next round of consoles are games that use the additional power of the new systems. Better graphics, better sound, better physics, better AI, larger and more interactive worlds--these are the logical advances, the next step in a process that's been going on for years, and they're not revolutionary. But they are good, and we're happy they're coming.
Why do these bureaucrats think they need to re-invent the way we play games, and what makes them think these new machines are capable of it?
The next question is, why are these companies so obsessed with "broadening the market"? And why focus so much on that goal--the goal of reaching "casual gamers" and "non-gamers" at an event dedicated to your core audience--an audience of gamers?!
We don't know about the rest of you, but we're actually offended by that.
So let's explore a little. At the moment, and for the past few decades, we've been playing games by using a controller, and the controller we use today is the same basic design it's always been--it just has more parts, more precise functions and more buttons. We say there's nothing wrong with that.
It's true that large advances in gameplay have come with increases in computing power, and the addition of the more advanced functions of the controller. Nothing wrong with that, either.
But past attempts at "re-inventing" gaming and broadening its appeal have mostly ended up nothing but embarrassing gimmicks. Get ready, we're about to use the word "suck" pretty liberally. For example, just from this generation:
Nintendo had us controlling some Gamecube games with GBA's as controllers, and it sucked.
Sony has the EyeToy camera peripheral that has you jumping around and waving your hands around like a monkey to control games. That sucks.
Capcom tried out a custom behemoth joystick setup with a ton of buttons for Steel Battalion on the Xbox, and though it may have worked in that game, it sucks that the setup cost over $200, and the gigantic controller is useless and unsupported for anything else.
Back to Nintendo again, Mario Party 6 is advertised as being so simple to play that even people who aren't comfortable with a controller can play it, because it uses a microphone as a controller. That sucks.
Sega Dreamcast VMUs (and Sony's PocketStation) never delivered on what they were supposed to do for games. There were some mini-games you could play on them, but not many. Most of the time they simply displayed the name of the game you were playing, and were a terrible idea, though they were engineered very poorly as well.
Sega also tried out something new with Seaman, a game where you used a microphone to talk to a rude fish dude. The whole concept was terrible.
And the e-Reader made itself a market as a peripheral that allows you to replace simple plug-and-play cartridges with an annoying process of swiping cards. It sucks.
That's just this generation. Let's not forget some other unique items from the past, such as the Power Glove, Game Boy Camera and Printer add-ons, VR Glasses, custom golf clubs and baseball bats, and the atrocious SEGA Activator, the worst game peripheral ever created.
So what great ideas do these companies have for re-inventing games, and broadening their appeal? We can only hope they're better ideas than any of these crappy peripherals. Let's see what they've come up with so far:
Nintendo intends to go online this time around, and do it wirelessly. That's fine, but hardly revolutionary. The only thing they seem to be doing different is that (apparently) all of their online games will automatically support local LAN play as well. That's cool, but it doesn't rank as a great innovation. And they'll have downloadable games from their past game library. Nice, but more of a sales hook than anything.
Nintendo's other great game-changing idea (they say) is their new controller. But they won't show it. Now, Nintendo is largely responsible for the design of the controllers we all use now, so it's not unimaginable that they could come up with another addition that would be so essential it becomes an industry standard. But they also have a long record of stupid gimmicks, so this one's up in the air.
They hint that the Nintendo DS is an example of what they've got up their sleeve. That's okay--the DS, with some of its stylus-controlled games, does offer a different and unique gameplay experience. But other games on the system try to be 'hybrid' games that use traditional controls AND the touch screen, and they end up as unwelcome gimmicks. So that doesn't help much.
Our verdict for Nintendo: Will the Revolution (or more importantly, its controller) live up to its name? It's possible, but a true long shot. We say prove it. Will Nintendo broaden gaming's appeal? No. Not unless the Revolution comes with a holodeck. In fact, we expect Nintendo's marketshare to shrink (again) no matter what they do.
Microsoft is betting on Xbox Live, and they intend to add everything they can think of to it. But not many of their additions have anything to do with gaming. For example, a Tivo function to record TV, downloadable music or video purchases, video chat, etc. aren't going to change gaming.
Other features include downloadable arcade games, extra levels, user-made content, etc, but these have all been done already as well. The ability for gamers to SELL things to each other is new (to consoles), but it's also a horrible idea. Extra content should be free, whether it's from "VelocityGirl" or from a game company, and especially when they are intending to raise the price of games to $60.
The Xbox 360 controller is exactly the same as current-gen controllers, as far as functionality. It is a nice ergonomic re-design, better than any of the current controllers as far as button and stick placement. But it's not going to be a catalyst for any benevolent change.
Our verdict for Microsoft: Will the Xbox 360 re-invent, re-define, or revolutionize gaming? No, not even online gaming. In fact, it has the potential to worsen the experience. Will Microsoft "reach a billion people" with the Xbox 360? Not in a billion years. The entire sales history of ALL consoles ever made is less than a billion. They couldn't give away that many.
Sony is also going to offer video chat, and the ability for the PS2 to output to 2 HDTV screens at once, for a 32:9 super-widescreen display. This one's so ridiculous, I've just got to post a picture:
As you can see, a 32:9 display means your view is cut in half exactly at the critical center area--in this case, it means your car is cut in half. That sucks. There are viable uses for two screens, but none of them are going to change much (the menu on example #2 could be on the main screen, and the game would still be fine, and having TV or a movie on while playing the game is just dumb). And the possibility of this function actually being supported (since dual HDTV households are pretty rare) is slim-to-none. We predict a good chance of it not even making it into the final hardware design.
Sony's also going to offer a higher-definition EyeToy (be still my heart), 1080p support (so they say), and a really ugly controller. The EyeToy, as we all know, sucks. 1080p support is like saying their console will project holograms--as long as your TV supports holograms. It's one-upsmanship, at best. And Sony's new controller STILL has the d-pad in the primary control position. Apparently they think it's more important, still, than the left analog stick.
Our verdict for Sony: Will the Playstation 3 revolutionize (or revorutionize) gaming or computer technology? Not a chance. Sony's plan is to simply fend off their competitors and remain the market leader. Everything else is just smoke and mirrors. Will the PS3 broaden the videogame market? No. They'll be lucky to "three-peat" their success with Microsoft launching first. Sony will do fine, but they have no chance of out-doing themselves.