Going Gold

Going Gold: Console War, What is It Good For?

Christian Ward | 17 Sep 2008 21:00
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But this should not surprise us at all - if the history of these console wars show us anything, it's that the most powerful machine very rarely "wins." The PS1, PS2, and DS have all had more powerful competitors on the market, yet rose to the top. And while we're on the subject, how many more Saturn and Dreamcast experiences do we have to go through before we learn that just because a machine makes it to market first, that does nothing whatsoever to guarantee it first place? In fact, if anything, it seems more likely to lead to a botched product, be it the Saturn's shoehorned-in innards or the 360's RRoD.

This is to say nothing of the fact that in the three-horse race that is the current console war, only one competitor has any hope of coming out having made any money. The Xbox division's financial losses were the stuff of legend even before the $1 billion spent on the RRoD fiasco, and at the present rate, Sony has little hope of ever seeing much change from the billions ploughed into the development of the PS3.

So what exactly is the rush to reduce the user base to zero and start from scratch all over again? There is little to gain for any party by launching into another round of console wars, and the idea that any party will ever score enough of a crushing blow over its rival to be the "king of the living room" is a fantasy that this industry should now be mature enough to have outgrown.

Of course, I am not arguing against technological progress in the games industry. What I am asking is for our industry to judge when the time is right both for us, and for the public, to move on - and to cease trying to use generational leaps forward to get the jump on competitors - which, in any case, rarely seems to lead to success.

Where a new generation should begin is very difficult to decide. New technologies are always available, graphical power ever increasing. But just as with Microsoft's other worry, Windows Vista, sometimes the mass public just is not ready to move on. By demanding HDTVs and broadband connections to get the most out of new generations, we are all but ensuring that the market is only going to get smaller and smaller. Those of us who have spent small fortunes creating the perfect environment to play games in forget that one of our primary audiences has always been kids and college students - precisely the type of user most likely not to have a HDTV or lightning fast broadband connection at their disposal.

In other industries, technological standards and rollout periods are decided so that the public won't have to throw away another $400 on an obsolete technology two years after a purchase. But in gaming, it seems, the winner takes, or loses, all, and oblivious of its worth to gaming as a medium or the purchasing public on general, the technology train, the answer to everything, keeps rolling on.

Christian Ward works for a major games publisher, but has had most fun this year playing PS2 titles.

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