Since E3 has wrapped up, we have received a much clearer picture on what vision Microsoft and Sony has for their next generation consoles. The two biggest stories to come from that have been the price point for each console and the baffling features that the XBox One will have compared to its predecessor. However, Sony should not get a free pass as they are just as guilty of ruining the future of gaming for everyone.
Both consoles will, without a doubt, be great in their own unique way. There are a few things that do take away from the gaming experience in the name of innovation. The two biggest complaints have already been addressed and Microsoft has relented on the Always On Connection and the restriction of playing used games. Games can now be resold or played on a friends console at your discretion and an Internet connection is only required when setting up the system or of course playing multiplayer online. Strike a victory for the fans on that one. Although it is beyond puzzling that they couldn’t see the backlash stemming from that. However, it does advance the theory that video game executives just see gamers as walking piggy banks for them to empty at their convenience.
The main selling point Microsoft is trying to get across is that the XBox One will be your all-in-one entertainment system. Video games, music, movies, Skype, invasive spying with the Kinect and cloud storage are just some of the features that will try and cement the image of not just a video game console but an entertainment machine enjoyed by the whole family. This has been reinforced by fans referring to the PS4 as a gamer console and the XBox One as ‘terrible.’ PS4 was named the clear victor by everyone. But remember this is Sony, and they will find a way to level the playing field again. This is the company, after all, that felt that security for the PlayStation network was optional.
Putting specs aside it’s important to look at these systems for what they will be and what their predecessors were. Microsoft and Sony have been locked in a stalemate fighting over a piece of pie that will not be getting all that much bigger. Credit does have to be given to Microsoft for understanding that but therein lies the gamble. They feel they can retain that share of pie with gamers without alienating them and expand into territory that will appeal to those that put gaming on a much lower priority. Naturally they have alienated both groups with this strategy, as gamers care about games and non-gamers care about the best bang for their buck in an entertainment system. If I’m a non-gamer spending more than $500 on something to watch movies on or Skype with that’s tantamount to me buying a stick of dynamite to get rid of my ant problem. It’s simply overkill.
There definitely will be a segment that has that kind of disposable income and will feel that will be their best option. However it really seems as if Microsoft is vastly overestimating how many of those people there are in this world. Most gamers it seems just want a machine that gives better hardware and can play movies and music. That’s it. The extra social aspect just seems like a way to make money off anything the company can by packaging it as a new feature. I have a computer in which to Skype with if I so desire and only two eyes, so SmartGlass is out. When I have to assemble a team of friends at my house to take advantage of your new features then there is something wrong with your product.
To be fair, Sony will be guilty of this as well with the second screen and ability to look in on your friends games and even help them out. When did playing a video game become such an intrusive process? Apparently I’m the only one anymore who plays video games to get away from people and the outside world. The last thing I want is my friend butting in, critiquing my gaming skills from his house without me having the luxury of shutting him up in a more satisfying way than ripping my internet connection out of the wall.
The easy solution, of course, is to not partake in any of these features and none of them on either console would really change the way I play games. That isn’t the point though. The point is that both Sony and Microsoft are shifting how games are played fundamentally in the direction of social interaction even if it’s forced on you. What’s to say the next generation consoles after the PS4 and XBox One require you to have a friend watch you play your game otherwise it won’t work. Maybe they will make you buy two copies of the game or you can’t play online. Won’t ever happen you may be thinking to yourself but remember these are the companies that won’t allow backwards compatibility for some reason and tried to force you to have an always on internet connection.
These trends in the future of gaming may be marking the end of an era. Gone are the days when it was just you on a couch with your controller and TV. Sony and Microsoft are ushering in the era when any idiot you happen to be friends with can also be there. In their universe, they must think my friends want to watch me play Madden at my house, from their house. In my universe, I want a console that doesn’t stop working because of an ‘unspecified hardware failure’ and one that has a cooling fan that doesn’t sound like a jet engine trying to take off at times. Maybe next time.