With Blu-Ray, waggle and avatars.
Xbox and Wii, DS and PS3
Following gaming's star
O games of wonder, games of might
Games with dazzling features bright
Wii is leading, PS3 needing
Is 360 finally getting it right?
Gamers almost never complain
Even playing the same games over again
Playing forever, ceasing never
At least until the credit drain
Let us recite a tale of the videogames industry. The three kings of the industry - the consumer, the media, and the creator - followed the star blazed by Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo, and brought with them three gifts for gaming. Three gifts that the industry desperately needed, exactly what they needed this holiday...
The First Gift: Peace on Earth, Goodwill Toward Men
With all three consoles of this generation finally in full flight this year, the always-stupid and never-ending console wars have kicked off for real, annoying innocent readers of any game-related website that allows comments. It's funny to see the same arguments that I once heard on the playground, concerning machines that have long since rusted, still be repeated on the internet about the latest hardware - but at least the machines that I argued about on the playground had games that were completely different from one another. In this day and age, when the platform exclusive is all but dead, arguing the merits of a PS3 against a 360 seems like an exercise in futility.
Of course, this is not something that is unique to gaming. You can see it in PC vs Mac arguments, Windows vs Linux, or the late HD-DVD vs Blu-Ray debate. It's an ugly gang mentality that is only exacerbated by the anonymity and ubiquity of the internet. But in gaming, in the absence of any higher-level discussion (The Escapist excepted, of course), these voices drown out every issue there is to be had.
This year we saw these tedious arguments spill over into Metacritic, where entries for Gears of War 2 and Little Big Planet were vandalized by fanboys. Amazon.com was spammed by internet campaigners up-in-arms about EA's DRM methods - a valid issue for discussion, but one that is only ever going to affect a handful of customers. From the retail near-monopoly that dominates the industry to the increasingly lax quality control for both hardware and software, there are far more important issues that directly affect the games all of us play, but which are all but ignored in the scramble to criticize one anonymous corporate entity and defend another.
Now, I know none of this is not going to happen but humor me - it's Christmas. The greatest gift that the customer could bring to the games industry is to put aside petty loyalty and to think. Don't choose hardware based on a misguided brand loyalty. Stop buying into ridiculous schemes like paid themes and DLC microtransactions. Support new IP, stop encouraging publishers to put out '09 updates of every flagship, and reward innovation. They say that the customer is king, and this is nowhere truer than gaming - and for better or worse, this king of the industry will always get what they deserve.
The Second Gift: Good Tidings
Despite the near-collapse of the print industry, the games media have never been afforded such a position of power - they are the opinion formers and kingmakers, decreeing which titles become successes and which are left by the wayside. With the rise of collators like Metacritic, the media have become more powerful than ever, and since the advent of the internet, nothing more than an internet connection is needed to slap a "Press" card in the brim of your hat and have your say.
So many words, so little actually said. While a number of positives have grown from the handover from print to electronic, the majority of games journalism is still based on spreading the same planted news and anonymous rumors as we used to see on fanzines and Geocities fansites. Worse still, the serious outfits remain little more than a mouthpiece for the industry, with few appearing to be willing to stand out from the crowd and defy the expectations and opinions of their peers, or their audience.