It has long been the hope of gamers for the walls dividing consoles and PCs to be torn down. From exclusives to features to controls, there have always been factors keeping the two apart. But each generation, we get closer and closer. And the truth is… that hasn’t been a good thing.
I am a console gamer. 99% of games, I play on consoles (or handhelds). To me, this is a matter of convenience- the maintenance, upkeep, and cost of using a gaming PC is just more than I want to deal with. As much as people say it’s so easy these days, it really isn’t- driver issues, viruses, Compatibility Modes, and a bunch of other nonsense keep PC gaming a pretty involved hobby. The ability to just stick a disk in a drive and play makes the console experience so much more enjoyable.
So it’s pretty goddamn irritating that we can’t do that anymore.
Consoles are becoming more like PCs, and that’s to the detriment of us all. Pop in and play is gone. Now we have installs on consoles, we have online passes (which, even though I always buy new, are a pain in the ass), we have trophy data that needs to be added, we have day one patches, we have hardware updates, we have menus that nag us every single time to check out the latest bit of nickel and dime DLC that they pulled from the game during production because hey, why ship a complete product when you can ship a fraction of one, and charge players to fill in the blanks? The digital revolution has come, and it kinda sucks.
Now, there are of course pros. We’re always online these days, which is a wonderful feature once exclusive to PCs. We can download games instead of buying them in stores. If we like a game, there is often add-on DLC we can get to keep the experience going. Certainly, the new technology has brought some fantastic things with it, and I don’t want to seem ungrateful for that. But there is no need for these advancements to come at so high a cost. We will always have to take the good with the bad, but in this case, the bad is so completely unnecessary.
These problems are all responses to outdated issues. Mandatory installs came about because the PS3’s Blu-Ray drive didn’t read data fast enough to work purely off of disk. Online passes are a result of EA’s war on used games. Day one patches are purely a result of developer laziness- letting products ship that they know aren’t ready for prime time, because they also know they can just have a patch ready on the first day. The Blu-Ray issue has been solved by smart data streaming code, digital distribution will make the used game market entirely avoidable, and day one patches are only an issue as long as developers ship incomplete products. All of these problems have ready, immediate solutions, if developers will but use them.
It’s an exciting time in gaming, with Microsoft and Sony getting ready to announce their new consoles in a few months. It’s possible that these hassles are just the hassles of this generation- growing pains of better online implementation and hard drive use. I hope so. And I want to encourage the two behemoths to consider how things have gone- how we’ve come from being able to play a game as soon as you get home with it, to waiting up to half an hour for it to install game data. From enjoying the online as soon as your modem could fire it up, to having to punch in a twenty-five character code with a d-pad so that we can play our game. Consider those things before showing the world what you think the future should hold.
Nintendo, for better or for worse, has already shown us their picture of the future. The Wii U had a massive day one patch for the system that essentially made it a Wii U– because the system, fresh out of the box, literally did not have the features that were being promoted on the back of said box. As grim as that is, though, the Wii U doesn’t have mandatory installs for games. There are optional ones, but so far, you can just pop in the game, download patches, and play. There are also no online passes- if you want to play online, you can simply do so. The Wii U, of course, has other issues, but at least Nintendo seems somewhat interested in making the console experience better.
Game industry, it’s 2013. I can control the thermostat of my house with my iPhone. I can squirt a few drops of liquid into my water to turn it into pink lemonade. I can ask my phone, verbally, where I should go for dinner, and it will respond in kind. Modern innovations are about convenience, and if your systems get less and less convenient with every generation… well, you could afford it before, because you were the only show in town, but now that mobile gaming is big- and, might I add, super convenient- do you really think you’ll walk away winners?
Originally published for Press X or Die on January 6, 2013.