Updates & Console War Perspective

New opinions are always suspected, and usually opposed, without any other reason but because they are not already common.

-John Locke

Well its been a while since I’ve written anything here, mostly because school and work leaves me too tired to do much thinking after its all done. Fortunatley for me, this should be my last semester; I’ll be graduating a semester early, although the ceremony is held at the sime time a as those who are graduating next semester, oh well.

Since my last post all those weeks ago, I’ve taken on several new (to my collection) games as follows:

Current Games:

  • De Blob (Wii)
  • Tales of Vesperia Special Edition (360)
  • Rock Band 2 (360) – recently shipped from Amazon.com

Back Catalog:

  • Advent Rising (X-Box)
  • Battlestar Galactica (X-Box)
  • Crimson Skies (X-Box)
  • Curse: The Eye of Isis (X-Box)
  • Far Cry: Instincts – Predator (360)
  • Guitar Hero (PS2)
  • Myst IV (X-Box)
  • Star Trek: Encounters (PS2)
  • Star Wars: Bounty Hunter Limited Edition Cover Art (GCN)
  • Sudeki (X-Box)
  • Tales of Legendia (PS2)
  • Tales of the Abyss (PS2)
  • Wii Fit (Wii)

The LE Review for Vesperia will be coming up just as soon as Namco decides what the final bonus will be (a situation I’ve never seen before, meaning they have a unique opportunity to make it great or not, we’ll see). I blame the length of the list mostly on the length of time since my last post and wanting to find some escape from school. Currently I’m playing Battlestar Galactica, Rock Band, Tales of Vesperia, and some De Blob here and there. Also, I’ll very likely pick up Mega-Man 9 (WiiWare) and Castle Crashers (XBLA) in the near future.

Anyways, my posting here has also been hindered somewhat by a lack of topics to write on (which I partially blame on the above). I hope its been made clear that I try to use my blog space more for editorializing than just posting about what happened to me today. I mean no offense to those who do, this is just the way I prefer to use my blog space and I do realize that I do do some of that myself, just look at the previous paragraph. Anyways, spurred by a recent article/blog, seen here, by way of Kotaku of course, I’ve decided to write a little about my perspective on the current Console War. By that, I mean who I think SHOULD win, as opposed who I think WILL win. The decision was between this and Piracy/DRM and Console War lucked out. I’ll try not to wait too long for the next article.

So, where to begin. I guess the best place would be where I stand on each system, what I believe to be each one’s strengths and weaknesses followed by an analysis. So, I’ll begin with the PS3.

My opinion on Sony’s console should be somewhat known if you’ve read my previous blogs but things have happened since and I suppose I should update and include things I might not have covered. First off, I’ll say that my current PS3 game collection clocks in at a massive four games: Heavenly Sword, Lair, Metal Gear Solid 4, and Warhawk, and I will also mention that two of those games I only bought because I found them at a cheap enough price. My biggest complaint with the PS3 is that the games simply do not appeal to me. Pretty much every game on any top PS3 games list I either own or plan to get on the 360, didn’t like, or I am not interested in. Upcoming exclusive games like Gran Turismo, Killzone 2, and Little Big Planet, as hyped and as anticipated as they are, hold little interest for me. For multiplatform games, I go with the 360 version every time because I know I won’t have to worry about space-taking installs.

Nothing really about the PS3 really interests me at the moment. Most of the properties that attracted me to the PS2 like Final Fantasy, Resident Evil, GTA have since lost their luster or have jumped over to the 360. From what I’ve heard coming from Sony is that they’re really banking on their system being relevant in the future so while their competitors are busy launching their new systems, the PS3 will still have some life in it. It sounds like a great idea, but it also makes me wonder why I would bother getting a PS3 now if it won’t hit its stride for a few years, when it would most likely be cheaper and have better-quality titles for it? That then begs the question of why I would want a PS3 then if its competitors are coming out with even more advanced systems at the same time? Price would of course be a factor, but if the new systems provide similar or better specs while at the same time producing content on par or better than what the PS3 is getting at the time, I would just go ahead and skip it over.

At the same time, Sony can point to the PS2 and say that its still doing amazingly well despite the availability of newer consoles and while I cannot say that the PS2 isn’t doing well, but the thing is that the PS2 has an amazing back catalog to float on that I do not see the PS3 being able to achieve. Good PS3 development takes many years, we’re still waiting on games that were announced with the system, so by the time the system is relevant, future consoles will be just as relevant, if not more, and the PS3’s current competitors will still have a strong back catalog. Also, it should be noted that while it could be said that the PS2’s best games started coming out towards the end of the previous generation, since the launch of the current generation, the PS2 has been getting mostly downgraded ports of current games and not the amazing exclusive content it built its reputation on. So while you can certainly still buy a PS2 and still have games coming out for it, its hardly the center of many serious developers’ attention. Its unlikely that hte PS2 will get an exclusive of the quality of Shadow of the Colossus, Devil May Cry 3, Okami, or God of War in the near future.

Finally, there’s Blu-Ray. Sony’s trojan horse could possibly have helped it win the format war against HD-DVD, something I’ve never really agreed with. Blu-Ray movies are far too overpriced and often lacking in features, especially back when the format war was at full heat. As far as its effect on gaming well, there’s been several, isolated statements where developers have said that the X-Box’s dvd format has limited the amount of content they could put in a game, but this is hardly the norm. Could it be that the number of these complaints grow in the future? Of course, but I don’t think that alone is going to push developers to work on the system any more than they are now. Could better games be made with the more space provided on blu-ray? Of course they could, but I doubt most of them will be any better than those produced just on dvd. Nothing so far has lead me to believe so. Metal Gear Solid 4 might boast a disc image too large for a dvd, but at the same time, it wasn’t much larger than games on dvd and I don’t attribute the quality of the game itself to the use of blu-ray so much as it was smart game design and dedication to the project.

Now, moving on to the 360. Simply put, I think the 360 is in a much stronger position than the PS3 is right now as far as I’m concerned. The system has a strong back catalog, a good selection of upcoming exclusives, and a decent lead in installed units. I think Microsoft’s biggest boon right now is that it was either successful (with its solid year head start) or got lucky (with next-gen development growing more expensive), or both in being able to snag what were long considered Playstation properties away from Sony. Grand Theft Auto, Devil May Cry, Soul Calibur, Silent Hill, Resident Evil, and Final Fantasy; IPs that were either born or achieved massive success and thus most closely associated with the Playstation and Playstation 2, and for a long time were considered exclusive to the platform are now appearing and selling just as good or better on Microsoft’s platform.

As for as the core gamer side of my personality is concerned, the X-Box keeps me more than satisfied. It gets pretty much every major third party game that also appear on the PS3 along with a greater number of quality exclusives such as Gears of War, Halo, and Mass Effect(yes I know some of these also appear on the PC, but I’m concerning myself with consoles here). The X-Box has also landed a greater number of Japanese RPGs which were largely associated with the Playstation brand in past generations. Games like Tales of Vesperia, Blue Dragon, Lost Odyssey, Eternal Sonata, and now many games from Square, who’s been long closely associated with Sony, like Project Sylpheed, Infinite Undiscovery, Star Ocean, Last Remnant, and Final Fantasy XIII.

What raises my biggest question about Microsoft is its recent push to attract the casual gamer. The upcoming Dashboard Update and the addition of the Mii-knockoff Avatars seems to be pushing the system in a direction most of its current demographic would not appreciate. Granted, its upcoming lineup of games hasn’t changed all that much, but roughly half of its E3 presentation felt like it had been ripped out of Nintendo’s script. As bad as the Wii Music presentation was, Microsoft’s felt worse, simply because we haven’t grown accustomed to expect something of that sort from them as we’ve had from Nintendo. Don’t get me wrong, I understand why they would want to target the casual audience, given Nintendo’s enormous success, but the way in which they’re doing it seems likely to alienate the core gamer demographic that is its current strong suit. Or I could be wrong and everything they’re doing just hits like a wave to the shore leaving most gamers really unaware of any shift in Microsoft’s approach.

Finally, we have the Wii. I haven’t mentioned the Wii too much in my above comments because the system has, as Nintendo stated, not been competing with the other two systems, for the most part, at least. The system’s greatest strength is also its greatest weakness. Wii captured the casual gaming market and because of it has been able to shift an amazing number of units, nearly as many as Microsoft and Sony combined by some counts. Because of the Wii’s success with the casual market, the system has become the target of a large number of mini-game compilations, shovelware, and ports of questionable quality. The Wii just does not seem to be high on developers’ priorities and its somewhat understandable why.

With the specs of the other two consoles, developers have to put in a large amount of time and resources to create a game that measures up in terms of presentation. The Wii, on the other hand, is basically an overclocked system from the previous generation. Is it technically superior to previous gen systems? Yes, but it didn’t make anywhere near as great a leap as Sony and Microsoft had, and so its development costs are much smaller, so companies prioritize accordingly. Instead of putting the time and budget of a PS3/360 title into a single Wii game, developers seem to scale down their budgets and produce several Wii games at a fraction of the cost.

Still, the Wii seems to be getting better support and, like the PS3, could become something of a late bloomer. While many quality games in the Wii’s back catalog are good ports of last generation games (Resident Evil 4, Godfather, Scarface, Okami) a good portion of its upcoming titles are original titles that have the potential to be good or great like Fatal Frame 4, Disaster: Day of Crisis, Tales of Symphonia, Mad World, The Conduit, Tenchu, Rygar, Line Rider 2, Dokapon Kingdom, Guitar Hero, Rock Band 2, Call of Duty, Mushroom Men, Animal Crossing, Deadly Creatures, Little King’s Story, House of the Dead, Cursed Mountain, and Dead Rising (it looks like it could be good if you can distance yourself enough from the original and take it as a different game). Also note that the majority of these games are exclusive to the console, and thrid party to boot.

On top of that, Nintendo also has the Virtual Console and Wiiware to its credit. Why did I mention the Wii’s downloadable service here and not for the other systems? Well, on the Wii it is updated weekly, so there’s always something new. Granted a lot can be said about the quality (or lack of) of many WiiWare releases, but I find PSN and XBLA releases to be just as hit and miss and aren’t updated regularly, so the Wii wins out there. Also, the virtual console releases seem to be getting somewhat improved. Now, all this goodness brings up another big problem with the Wii, its lack of storage space. Granted, you can move games to an SD card and back or download, delete, repeat, but I guess I’m just not patient enough for all that. If the wii could get support for an external hard drive, or at least let the system play games directly from an SD card, we’d be in a much better position.

Nintendo has done an excellent job selling the product to non-gamers while still churning out the same games we’ve wanted in addition to the new casual-friendly games, but many core gamers don’t feel that Nintendo is doing enough to satisfy their end of the spectrum and they certainly have reason. Many features that are standard on other systems, like online play, friends lists, voice chat, are either luxuries or non-existent on the Wii. Although they do seem to be making some progress in areas, its clear that gamers for whom these features are a necessity are best off looking elsewhere.

Anyways, I think I’ve spoken enough at length on each individual console (probably not, but its like 2am so I’ll cut it a little short) so now I’ll stack them up and see what I think about this whole war as its called.

Despite so much of my Wii analysis being fairly negative, I still think its in a good position to come out on top of the three consoles from a purely numbers standpoint. The system has a solid back catalog (for those who are willing to look), and the future holds a lot of unique exclusive games. The system is cheap (yes you can get an X-box 360 Arcade for cheaper but at that price, the Wii has twice as much memory and not nearly enough to be thinking about at least half of what X-Box live offers: DLC, Video Downloads, Demos, etc) and has enormous mainstream appeal. I doubt you’ll find too many (reasonable) people who don’t think the Wii won’t come out on top, but just as important as the sales numbers could be re-establishing itself with the minds of the core gamers. If Nintendo could somehow manage to do that, then it is very possible that they can change their commanding lead into an untouchable lead.

After the Wii, the 360 would come in at a somewhat distant second, granted they don’t follow Nintendo too closely and begin to alienate their core gamer market. The system has seen several price drops that have spiked its sales figures and sure to make it more appealing to a starving college student or anyone just looking for the cheaper system. While the year head-start may not have given it a commanding lead in sales over the PS3, it was enough to help change developer’s minds away from console exclusivity, from which the 360 has benifited the most at the PS3’s expense.

Closely behind the 360 the PS3 will come in last. Sony is really pushing the its here for the long haul message but doesn’t seem to be providing all that much now. For all of those expecting the future fruit of the PS3, there’s little reason to purchase it now as it’ll only get cheaper as time goes on and as content quality is expected to improve. While it could be said that the best PS2 games started coming out during the end of its expected lifecycle, it did have a large quantity of titles and a good number of stand-out titles dripping steadily throughout its life. The PS3 seems to have most all of its coins banked on future relevancy, which would be fine if I didn’t plan to play a game in the next six years. No, the other consoles may not have too much of a life in ten years, but if you don’t want to wait that long to play a game then I don’t see why you should wait on the PS3.

Anyways, that’s about it for now. I’ll try to get my next article up next weekend, as its the last one I will have for a while. I’m still taking suggestions for LE Reviews, which I promise will be back soon. I also have a few ideas for some new columns that I might explore in the future, so look for those in the coming weeks…months…And I think its time I went to bed. Thanks for your time and for reading this (if you read it). Comments are always welcome, even if you disagree with what I think, just keep thinks civil and reasonable.

Thaks again,
-DL