Games aren’t the easiest hobby out there. If you really want to get into it, everything is about certain kind of cold war. A certain company makes a game that succeeds, thus another company has to make similar game in order to gain the same audience and their money, while third and fourth companies are doing their own stuff with (partially) completely different audience. Choosing games what to play has become more and more about supporting certain companies rather than supporting certain kinds of games. Easiest example is the anti-EA crowd, which basically simply refuses to purchase any sort of EA product. EA tries do to whatever it can to gain this crowd to its side. Most of anti-EA people I know are strong supporters of pretty much anything that isn’t EA, and most likely use Steam a lot to support Valve. Personally, I don’t see any reason to hate either company, as both of them have (basically) the same program, especially now when EA has Origin (their version of Steam.) At its core EA still puts out decent games with good overall value, like Mirror’s Edge, Mass Effect and Burnout series. Valve has their Half-Life and Portal crowd packed with Team Fortress 2 players.
Cleaver reader instantly makes a note that one of the six mentioned series is not like the others.
So-called HD Console Wars isn’t a good thing. In last generation we had overall four consoles competing against each other; the Sega Dreamcast, the PlayStation 2, the Nintendo GameCube and the Microsoft Xbox. A generation before that we had the PlayStation, Nintendo 64, Sega Saturn, Atari Jaguar, Panasonic 3DO, FM Towns Marty, NEC PC-FX, Playdia and Amiga CD32. That’s nine consoles in that generation. How the hell we got only three in our current generation, and how long it will take just to have two? If you think that nine systems is crowding the market, imagine the Second generation when we had fourteen (Arcadia 2001, Atari 2600, Atari 5200, Bally Astrocade, ColecoVision, Fairchild Channel F, Interton VC 4000/1292, Intellivision, Odyssey², RCA Studio II, SG-1000, Vectrex, Super Vision 8000 and CreatiVision.) Granted, we have Zeebo in this current generation as well, but quite honestly, nobody is giving a rat’s ass about it, just like nobody gave a second sight at Playdia. However, both of them had completely different market targeted, so making a comparison isn’t fair between them.
Having multiple consoles on the market is good thing. It creates more competition between the markets. It all depends whether or not the competition is healthy. The second generation competition wasn’t healthy at least; the market was flooded with garbage games and systems were updated far too often. It lead to the Video Game Crash of the 1983, which then allowed Nintendo and Sega to enter the market. Since the second generation we, the customers, have been favouring one system over the other for many reasons. That time was the time when a home console game was strictly a home console game, arcades games arcade games and PC games were PC games. Those who wished to get “intellectual” entertainment such as Leisure Suit Larry and King’s Quest played PC games. People who wanted to play fast paced and reflexes challenging game went to the arcades to play Pac-Man and Donkey Kong. People who wanted to play Pong at home played Pong at home.
As time went by we got the NES and the Sega Master System. Things continued almost the same from Second Generation, until we hit the 16-bit era. To quote famous author, shit just got real. The main difference between the 8-bit and 16-bit eras is the fact that developers began growing an ego. Their last systems and games were a success and now they’re putting out something new. If we take a look at the Fourth Generation of video game consoles, we see that certain patterns emerge in all of the consoles. Those patterns are formed inside mascots, platformers, RPGs and adventure games. For every new game there was three copies of eg. Super Mario Bros. Creativity was taken back as developers were doing the same games over and over again. One example would be Ys IV and V that lost the simplistic arcade action of the first three games in favour over more “deeper” controls.
Above: Rather good review of Ys I&II Chronicles
Above: What 16-bit generation did to Ys
Ys is one of those game series that had two games that were pretty bad, and then suddenly got much better. Ys is, in all essence, a Legend of Zelda clone. However, unlike Zelda series, each “next-gen” Ys game has gone back to its roots since Ys VI on the PC, PS2 and PSP, and remake of Ys III took everything that was complex and simple about past games, ironed them out evenly and made a game that’s not just a joy to play, but a game that gets criminally little respect.
We can see that Sonic the Hedgehog series is still in deep trouble. Every game since Sonic R has been more or less a disaster. Just like Ys V, most (if not all) 3D Sonic games have been concentrating on the wrong things that made the original three so enjoyable. However, I’m arguing that Sonic the Hedgehog 3 was the first step to wrong direction in the series; each stage had become longer, stage design game even more room to artificial speed boosts while neglecting the platforming elements, and that the game was split. It’s not a good sign if the game doesn’t meet its deadlines and gets released in two sets. Similarly I’m arguing that it was wrong from Nintendo do give us ONE 2D Mario on the Super NES. We got three on the NES, four if we count Western Mario 2 and Lost Levels separately. Signs were there, and very few people saw what was going to happen. The competition was rather healthy in the Third Generation, but became ill in the beginning of the Fourth, and we’re still affected by this ill competition.
So, what has this competition lead to us? We have loyalist on four different camps; Nintendo, Microsoft, Sony and computers. I might as well say in two camps; console games and PC games. People who wanted to return to the Third Generation, when games were games and women were women, choose the Wii because what it represented. In all sense during its launch, the Wii was NES mk2. Both Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 are computers playing computer games while marketed as consoles. Computer games are suffering from this, as developers are meeting the demands of two dumbed down computers. One of the elements in computer games was that the owner of computer himself might have had to upgrade his computer before a new game was released. Ultima games back in the day demanded more powerful computer so they could be played. Computer games suffer from 360 and PS3 to the extent that this essential part of the hobby has literally been destroyed. Crysis was a “true” computer in this sense. Computer games are also made a control pad in mind, a thing that really irks me personally, even if I’m far more console person. I have never liked dual analogue controls, as they’re un-precise and demand shoulder buttons to become main buttons to the controller. Quite honestly, I’d rather play games like Vanquish on the PC with keyboard and mouse, not to mention first person shooters. I liked Ghost Busters better on PC than on 360 when I tried it.
When we start to think how much a single purchase might affect the industry, things get dark. Account that we’re buying more computer games for our “consoles” that for our computers, and that real console games are dying out with Wii U, it gets really, really hard to buy a single game. A common hobbyist will never know the difference he can make or is making. A small group of individuals can’t affect the whole market. Developers think they can, but it’s the customers that can affect the market; customers are the market.
Let’s take two examples of games that are ‘hardcore’ as they get and how the market and developers are trying their best to ignore. We all know that New Super Mario Bros. Wii, or Super Mario Bros. 5, sold insane amounts everywhere… and we’re not getting more because Miyamoto refuses to make 2D Mario. (Why he Nintendo keeps listening his advice is beyond me. Miyamoto’s best days are long gone, as much as I hate to admit.)
The second game is Mortal Kombat. You don’t really hear about this game anywhere, because it sells well and attracts a lot of customers. The common element between Mario and Mortal Kombat? The arcade-born gameplay. Remember that one strange series among the six mentioned between EA and Valve? That game series has such a deep arcade roots as possible, and still keeps them in its heart, and the games that embraced most of its arcady roots succeeded the most. I’m ashamed to admit that I own a single Burnout for the Xbox.
Here’s a question for you, dear reader; if you’d buy computer games for computers, and console games for consoles, what would happen? Perhaps it’s an unfair question. It would make one see deeper into the structure of game development and history.