Buckling Under the Weight of Marketing

Ever since all this fuss about “next generation” started a couple of years ago, I’ve been pretty vocal about my ambivalence towards the whole ordeal. I don’t think that innovation in graphics is nearly as compelling as innovation in game design, and the games that are available for the next gen systems don’t seem like they are pushing the innovation envelope any more than the last generation (Wii excluded). In fact, the added pressure of making everything look all nice and next-genny seems like a very bad thing to me, as it increases the cost of game development and thereby decreases the chances that developers will attempt risky new designs. I also think that the price point for the Xbox360 and PS3 are pretty outrageous, especially since so many of the games seem like the same-old same-old with shininess and bloom effects applied.

So it’s hard not to sound a little hypocritical when I tell people that I bought an Xbox360 last weekend. I know what you are thinking, but the purchase had nothing to do with Halo 3. I’ve not played any of the Halo games yet, and when I start I’ll be playing them in order. No, I didn’t buy a 360 to play any particular game (though if I had to chose one, I’d label Stuntman 2 as the most likely candidate). I didn’t buy it for the updated graphics either, though wanting something to drive the HD TV I bought earlier this summer was probably a factor.

I still think that the 360 and PS3 are too expensive. And I still have yet to see a game that really takes advantage of that power to achieve something that would have been impossible in the previous generation (though Bioshock might be that game). I stand by my statement that rising costs in game development caused by the need to make better looking and more complex games will, at least in the short term, drive innovation down overall.

The part that I missed, the feature that ultimately sold me on the machine when I saw it in action at a friend’s house, is Xbox Live. I thought Live was simply a service for playing first person shooter games against prepubescent kids with anger management issues and a touch of Tourette syndrome, and while that assessment isn’t inaccurate, it doesn’t describe the breadth of features that the service provides. The ability to download game demos and get games off of Xbox Live Arcade in particular are killer features for me. I like to sample a wide range of games, and I’ve bought a lot of games that I’m not all that interested in just so that I can see how they work. Being able to download demos of commercial games before purchasing them is pretty great, and the Xbox Live Arcade seems to be full of cheap, innovative, fun games. Finally, being able to stream video from my Mac to the TV via the Xbox is all kinds of awesome.

And there are enough Xbox360 games out now that I should have plenty to throw at the console. The Darkness, Dead Rising, Stuntman 2, and Bioshock are all on my list of things to buy. Not to mention the few original Xbox games I missed out on last gen (basically Ninja Gaiden, Call of Cthulhu, and Halo).

So I’m pretty happy with the purchase, despite my rather anti-next gen stance. Next gen may represent a challenge for game developers, but the 360 itself seems pretty slick.

9 thoughts on “Buckling Under the Weight of Marketing

  1. community.livejournal.com/allthehorror
    You won’t regret your purchase (X360). With Resident Evil 5 on the way, as well as SH5 and Condemned 2, trust me, the X360 is the way to go.

    Did you ever get an email I sent you?

  2. > Jornel

    I’m not sure if I got your e-mail or not. I get a lot of mail, and sometimes I miss messages that come via this page. I’ll take a look, but you might want to send it again. Sorry about that!

  3. Amen!
    I couldn’t agree more. Myself, I think fondly of the C64 days; where a single model was programmed for over many years.

    With the current ways home consoles are being marketed, the generation to generation gaps are getting shorter. It just gets too costly for me to get involved in anymore. But, seeing the current generation of gaming, I don’t feel I’m missing out on anything that I haven’t played equivalently years before.

    Anyway, enuff of my speel. Keep up the good work on here Chris. You rock my world with your survival nastiness.

  4. Your point about graphics is so true. It is in many respects the same argument of “substance over style” in movies. I would always prefer a game with innovative features and challenging, engaging game play. But i doubt simply adding in new graphics can achieve that.

    But i wonder, does it not depend what you want from a game, games are a subjective medium and while graphics may not be important (or at least the most important factor) to some gamers, they could be the most important thing.

    I agree that the prices are too hogh for next gen consoles. it makes it very hard to pay (for us in europe) £400 for a PS3 plus £40 a pop per game. It just seems a bit OTT. Obviously there are all sorts of factors built into the cost, but given that I know ALOT of students who would have loved to buy consoles but cant justify spending the guts of £600 plus internet subscriptions etc to buy a nw console. Presumably microsoft have identified students as a real market area given that they release student editions of their windows / office programs. Im not sure how student loans etc work in the USA, but for me and alot of my friends, investing in a high end high price machine is something that we can easily miss, so long as the prices are so high.

    but keep up the good work, some very interesting articles and I really love the site!

  5. huh. I thought you could only stream video from a pc that ran windows media center and it wasnt compatible with macs, oh well brain fart i guess.

    Yeah the 360 rocks, i was pissed that the disc reader caused it to crash and meant a 100 dollar reapir bill, till i turned it on jsut yesterday to charge my controller to play halo 3 with my brother on his and saw it had progressed to the red ring of death, which means a free repair!

  6. Allow me to play devils advocate for one second, but we are paying about 300-400 quid for a new console these days that are little short of pulling the kind of power that a 2,000 quid PC can pull if its memory isn’t overloaded and if it is overclocking. Now whilst I payed 300 quid for my 360 and 200 for a stock PC that allows internet, word proccesing and Sim City 2000 and Eastside Hockey Manager I’m making at the very least a 1,000 quid net gain for both my PC and gaming needs. Whilst I agree they are overpriced they’re nothing compaired to a top or even mid range rig.
    That said your point about gaming innovation is very true, with the money now involved great concepts like the City Of Metronome (an audio based fantastical adventure/RPG) are all too easily canned for “Insert Franchise title” 5. Its a shame but if you look at all high profit media investments they all eventually conform to the easiest money maker and lets face it the graphics whores always win out because the vast majority of disposable income gamers are casual gamers who like to look at pretty graphics and its the most obvious improvement to make the investment seem worthwhile.

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