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The Gaming Industry: Life After the Crash

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A lot of people “outgrow” videogames. I don’t necessarily believe that’s accurate, feeling rather that it’s more a shift in interests. Did I ever think it would happen to me? History would imply otherwise, but now I’m really starting to lose hope in the games industry. Maybe the only thing that can renew my faith is this fall’s glut of console releases (PS3 and Nintendo’s…thing), because I felt like things had really opened up in the shift from SNES/Genesis to Saturn/PS1/N64, but with every console since then (Dreamcast, PS2, Xbox, GameCube, Xbox 360), I feel like things have been regressing, sticking to the tried and true. Most of the best games of the last several years have been sequels or threequels to games that were great on the PS1 and are now just losing steam.

The industry crashed back in 1983 in Atari’s heydey, mostly due to no quality control, too many subpar titles, and too many me-too derivative games, sequels or one-offs like Ms. Pac-Man, Super Pac-Man, and so on. So what’s the state of the industry today? Very similar. QC is at an all-time low (mostly a money issue) where companies want to push something out to retail as fast as possible, then fix all the bugs and broken bits later on with subsequent patches. They’re releasing beta (unfinished) software, making the consumers the unpaid (or rather paying) beta testers.

This became the accepted norm for PC gamers, but now it’s moving to consoles since many come equipped for Internet connectivity and have hard drives pre-installed for saving downloadable content. What worries me is that since many console gamers have no idea what the PC gaming climate is like and have never experienced the horrors of buying a broken game KNOWING you’d have to wait for unfortunate patches, they may immediately grow accustomed to it, which just enables the game companies to get more and more lazy with testing their products to make sure they work before release. Is it any wonder that Microsoft was one of the first companies to start this trend on game consoles? They’ve been releasing unfinished products for the PC for years.

Lately, products have become largely derivative once again. Every year we see the same football game (Madden) with a new coat of paint and roster updates. Some series are up to a fifth or sixth entry when many players lost interest after the second. A few of these have been reprehensibly bad, like the PS2’s first iterations of the Syphon Filter and Driver series. They’re simply awful, by the developers’ own admissions! But these games have higher and higher budgets and go to retail simply in the hopes of recouping some of that expense on name recognition alone. “Hope the suckers snap it up before word of mouth gets around.” Kind of like when I went to see the sequel to The Crow in theaters. Holy god that movie sucked, but I saw it simply based on the pedigree of the original.

I realize that the Dynasty Warriors series is ridiculously popular, and is quickly taking the Madden route of crapping out a sequel or two every year with minor improvements and a few sacrifices made along the way. I used to like this series. The first (a sequel to a PS1 one-on-one fighting game) opened up battlefields to one-on-thirty melee combat, and it was a rush. The next game brought enough new elements to warrant a look, but every entry since then (there have been about six) does nothing but add alternate costumes and other frivolous elements. They don’t improve the gameplay or the combat system. They’re still telling the same story. They haven’t added online play, the ability to hot-swap playable characters mid-game, tolerable squad control, intelligent AI, or anything else. They realized they don’t have to because enough people just keep buying essentially the same game. If it ain’t broke, why fix it? The money’s still coming in.

So nothing’s getting any better, and in many ways has either stagnated altogether or taken steps back. I recently wrote a feature for SyncGaming.com about games that were ahead of their time. These were titles that added in a slew of great features and snuck out to retail below anyone’s radar. Some were noticed, some were not, but they advanced what we could expect from a given genre, and were then subsequently ignored. For example, Red Faction was a first-person shooter with deformable/breakable terrain, buildings, and other objects that could be reduced to rubble. That game came out five years ago. Only in the last few months has any other game even tried to incorporate the same type of realism, a flashy but ultimately shallow title called Black. Innovations are being made, but studios don’t want to spend the time or money to keep up with the trend, and wind up reversing the trend by the end of the day.

Stagnation isn’t just limited to software. Hardware is missing the boat in many cases as well. When the Sega Dreamcast came out, it was around the time DVD movies were starting to get popular. Did they include a DVD drive in the DC? Nope, largely because it was expensive tech at the time, and because Sega wanted to use proprietary discs to curb piracy (which didn’t slow down the software pirates one iota). They later released some attachments to amend for their possible oversight, but it was too late. Add-on technology for game consoles is notoriously under-supported by the consumer. The PS2 comes out next, offering DVD playback right out the box. This seemed like the new standard. Then Microsoft and Nintendo bring out the Xbox and GameCube, respectively. The Xbox only allows DVD playback if you buy an accessory attachment/remote, and the GameCube goes the Dreamcast route, shooting for proprietary disc technology. Neither one stood a chance against Sony. They’d sold so many units at that point, many of which went at a lower price than standalone DVD players. This was certainly a huge selling point for the system in Japan. Heck, I wouldn’t have bought one on release day if it didn’t have DVD playback. Yet another example of someone setting the bar and everyone else ignoring it.

Want further proof? The Dreamcast’s mistake of eschewing a popular emerging media was repeated with the release of the Xbox 360. Microsoft had the option of going with HD-DVD, giving that new medium a shot at success compared to Sony’s inclusion of massive Blu-ray disc technology in the PS3. How does Microsoft retort? By promising an HD-DVD add-on later, which won’t even play games, only movies. Just get them a cigarette and a blindfold right now.

Sometimes a company’s principles get in the way of doing something better or smarter as well. When the Xbox was in development, Microsoft made it clear that it would not just be a set-top PC, even though it was made entirely of off-the-rack PC components (Pentium CPU, Nvidia GPU, standard RAM, DVD-ROM, and hard drive). They didn’t want it to be a PC-port box (though it got more than its fair share of them), and for some reason wanted to “reassure” gamers that this console was all about console gaming, meaning it wouldn’t be “complicated,” as they apparently think we view PC gaming. In doing so, I think Microsoft missed a great opportunity do something that could have made their market share explode: Make a closed-box (no hardware upgrading/modding) console that can play PC games as well. Someone else, I forget who now, tried this idea of making a standardized PC architecture that would run a given list of games, and had a proprietary loading/installing routine where all you literally had to do was pop in the PC disc and play. As it is, PC gaming requires installation of the game, rebooting, tweaking, optimizing, and making sure it’s compatible with your unique hardware. And while this is a largely automated process now, it is time consuming. The Xbox had built-in Ethernet and hard drive components, meaning that adding support to run specific PC games (i.e., getting any necessary drivers installed) wouldn’t have been that taxing, but could have attracted a far greater number of people to the console, myself included. A $200 PC that hooked up to your TV? Bye bye WebTV. But they didn’t.

I can remember being excited to go to the game store just a few short years ago. I looked forward to it. The very thought of checking out new releases made me giddy. The quality of software has been so watered down lately and with the prices remaining unusually high, the thought of going to the same stores simply makes me tired and bored, disappointed and even annoyed. As it is, instead of games demanding more of the player, they’ve begun to demand far, far less. The lowest common denominator is now the target audience simply because there are so many people in that demographic with low expectations, willing to pay to play tripe. It’s about money. It’s a capitalist world out there, so on one hand, I don’t blame them for wanting to cover their bottom line. However, reading about the Gizmondo CEO buying million dollar cars (and then letting some mythical guy named Dietrich wreck them) while his company goes bankrupt gives the industry a black eye.

I feel like I’m on the precipice of leaving gaming behind altogether. I’ll still cling to the classics of yesteryear and check out anything from the independent scene or developed in someone’s garage, but that’s about all I feel optimistic about. It’s not that I’ve just grown up and think gaming is for kids. Far from it. I didn’t outgrow gaming. Gaming is just something else now, something that’s great for a bunch of people who don’t expect as much of their entertainment. I’m going to find something better, if it exists. While gaming seems to be heading for another crash for people like me, the recent absorption of hip hop and ghetto culture is attracting more people with money to burn and no demand for quality; this will probably keep the business alive. It’s just not a business that’s exciting for me any more.

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About Mark Buckingham

  • Dynamo of Eternia

    I agree with some of what you are saying. I’ve been a huge gamer for years (I currently have Atari 2600, NES, SNES, Genesis, Sega CD, 32X, Saturn, N64, PS1, Dreamcast, PS2, Xbox, Gamecube, Xbox 360, Gameboy, Gameboy Advance SP, and Nintendo DS), and in my eyes, in recent years, gaming in general has become rather repetative.

    In the past, from what game console generation to the next, not only did the graphics get better, but they generally offered new and exciting types of game play that were previously impossible.

    This time around, Xbox 360 and PS3 seem to be offering little more than advanced graphics. Metal Gear 4 for PS3 and Halo 3 for 360 will likely be more graphicly advanced than their counterparts from the previous consoles, but neither will really advance the gameplay on any kind of significant level that wasn’t already possible on PS2 and Xbox. They will be more of the same.

    I already have Xbox 360, and it is a decent system. The game selection is weak right now. But, the system I am most looking forward to at the moment is Nintendo Revolution. Mainly because it seems to be trying to offer new ways of playing the games. With its new controller, as odd as it looks, it will be breaking away from the standard type of control that has dominated the industry for years. I’m not saying that the standard control type is bad, but its time for something new. Apparently the control will be motion sensitive. I recently saw some information about a shooter game being developed for Revolution, and apparently if you twist the controller around in your hand, it will make your character on screen twist his gun. And I’m sure this is just one of many unique features that this will offer.

    I don’t necessarily think that Microsoft made a bad move in not making Xbox 360 HD-DVD based.

    When Sony first put DVD technology in PS2 (then followed by XBox doing the same), the technology had already been around for a few years and had become much more affordable. DVD first hit the market in early 1997. PS2 didn’t come out until late 2000. That’s over 3 1/2 years of time in between those two events.
    There was no other new competing format going up against DVD, and movie-wise the format already had a sizeable audience. The price had also come down on the technology to some degree compared to where it was at in 1997. PS2 (and eventually Xbox) certainly helped to make that audience grow, but they were adding to a momentum that was already getting stronger as it was.

    This time around, the inception of 2 formats, Blue Ray and HD-DVD are coming out, not just one. It’s hard to say for sure which will dominate more than the other. And either way, both forms of technology are expensive right now. From what I’ve been hearing, stand-alone movie players based on these technologies are going to run in the neighborhood of $1,000 and maybe more. And right now the price ranges that I’ve been hearing for PS3 is in the area of $600 to $700. It’s being marketed as “an expensive gaming system, but a cheap Blue Ray player.” Sony will actually be taking a loss on each system at that price.

    The thing is that if Microsoft had gone with one of these formats, then their system would cost somewhere around that same amount. And if that were to happen, then they would likely fall flat on their faces. PS3 can probably get away with it since Playstation is the more popular of the gaming systems. They may lose some of the more casual gaming audience, and they may even lose their spot as #1 in the industry (or possibly keep the #1 spot, but with a much smaller margin between the #1 and #2 systems), but they will likely do well enough to go on.

    But both Microsoft and Nintendo wouldn’t be able to compete with a $600 or higher price tag. They’re behind as it is.

    And right now, I think its almost better for them to take a watch and wait stance to see which format will win the battle… HD DVD or Blue Ray… and then incorporate the winning format into their next systems.

    It’s being predicted that Blue Ray will win because having it built into PS3 will instantly give it a huge audinece when the system launches. And this could be true.

    However, I also look at it from the flip side of the coin. If PS3 costs around $600 or $700 and can play Blue Ray movies, then what incentive would anyone (including someone who likes movies but does not play video games) have in buying a stand alone Blue Ray player for $300+ more? The answer is very little.

    And if there is little reason for people to pay for a more expensive machine, then what incentive do all of the other companies that make things like DVD players (i.e. Panasonic, Zenith, Sanyo, JVC, etc) have in supporting the Blue Ray format? Again, very little.

    And if these other major companies don’t jump onto the Blue Ray bandwagon, then they will likely go with HD DVD instead. And as popular as Playstation may be, I don’t think its support alone will be enough to make Blue Ray the dominant format. Blue Ray will then tend to be more of a Sony PS3 specific format, and not becoming the biggest, mainstream movie format. Thus, in the long run, there will be little reason for people to buy PS3 for movie purposes, and it will be the most expensive gaming machine. So, unless the games on it are really “WOW!”, I don’t know if it will necessarily stay on top.

    I think they would have been better off just waiting to see which new format dominates, letting it gain some of its own momentum, waiting for it to come down in price, and then put it into the PS4.

    I honestly don’t think that the general public at large is really ready for a whole new movie format shift at this point anyway. While video games tend to role over every 5 years or so, VHS was the dominant movie format for about 20 years. It’s only been about 9 years since DVD first came out, and the first couple of years of that it was barely known. So, I think most people will want to cling to that as long as possible.

    The only real advantage of these new formats gaming-wise is how much data that blue ray and HD-DVD can hold. And as nice as that is, it probably will only really come in handy for huge games like Final Fantasy and other RPGs. The ones that take tons and tons of time to play through. And if they were to stick with plain DVD, then worst case scenario, these games would have to go back to being multiple discs like things were during the PS1 days.
    That may not be optimal, but considering that this would only really effect a handful of games that you really can’t play through in one sitting anyway, having to change a disc here or there is a small inconvenience in exchange for having a system that is much more affordable.

    At any rate, right now I am most looking forward to Nintendo. They may be the underdog of the three companies right now, but they are the only ones that seem to be offering anything significantly new in the way that video games are played, which it what the industry needs right now. I do plan to get Revolution at launch. I already have Xbox 360. I may get a PS3 eventually, but the price is a huge detourant for me right now. Maybe when and if it ever had a price drop (and if I can afford it), I will get it. But its on the bottom of the todem pole in my eyes. Beyond nicer graphics, it has little to offer me. And as nice as graphics are, they are not the end all – be all of what makes a good video game. The industry as a whole needs a good shake-up.

  • Dynamo:

    The Xbox 360 might do fine as is with standard DVD, but there are several legitimate concerns.

    For one, people may look at Blu-Ray as “new” and see the 360 as using “old” tech by comparison, and thus eschew it for the newest thing.

    Two, developers are already looking at having to make games that fill up SEVERAL DVDs, which costs them more and may tempt them to opt out of realizing the full game world they’d envisioned. Shortcuts to save money are the corporate way.

    Three, console makers almost never make money on their hardware. In fact, they LOSE money on them, hoping only to recoup it in software sales. To that end, gambling with the emerging tech could cost them more up front, but if it frees up developers from cost and media size restraints, it can only help their chances of making up the lost greenbacks.

    Four, Sony is huge in the movie industry, and if HD-DVD is going to stand a chance in this upcoming format battle, they’re going to need a popular outlet. A gaming console could have been that outlet. Then, if HD-DVD took off, Microsoft would have a hand in it, and surely reap some great rewards.

    Now, in looking at the impact on DVD sales when the PS2 came out, they surged in the States, sure, but DVD was still sort of like laserdisc in Japan, in terms of popularity. The Japanese tend to live in small places already, and having that functionality built into something they could get other uses out of was huge. The PS2 practically forged the DVD market in Japan. The discs were there before, but few people were buying them. It wasn’t about competing media. It was about getting the market to accept a new format. Just look what the PSP did for UMD video. No one thought it was going to amount to more than a novelty, but sales have exploded, and those ONLY work on the PSP.

    True, Sony will take a loss on each PS3 sold. It makes up for that with accessories, licensing, and first-party titles. But if they seriously go with a price nearing $700, they’re going to lose a lot of sales. That’s what the 3DO debuted for, and that system tanked. I’d be really surprised if the PS3 comes out for more than $500. I think $499 is about the uppermost limit. It’s what the full (not core) 360 came out at, and it’s selling just fine. By the time the casual gamers get involved, it’ll be a year later and easily $100 cheaper. That’s just how it goes in the industry.

    Wait and see is a fair approach on some things, but not so much on others. Waiting five years till the next batch of consoles come out to adopt and emerging format can be fatal in the existing market. Add-ons do not sell well for systems and are not supported by the developers. Period. We’ve seen it time and time again. The Sega CD/32X, Turbo CD, some VR headsets and gizmos, PS2 HDD and Network adaptor. The latter gained some support from the consumer solely because there were so many people out there who owned a PS2. Still, the HDD was supported by Sony, Zipper Interactive, Square Enix (for FFXI, until they redesigned the PS2 with no HDD support), and that’s about it. Compare that to Xbox Live and the number of people who made use of the XB hard drive. The support was phenomenal by comparison, and the numbers speak for themselves. You can wait and see on how MUCH of something you offer, but not whether you offer it at all. Nintendo snuck by with the RAM expansion pak for the N64. Things like how big a hard drive or a memory card are can be changed later, but simply not including them is a bad idea. Sony was chastized for not putting four controller ports on the PS2, as was standard for the other consoles of the time, but they did offer the multitap, and in the end, it didn’t matter, because the requisite TWO ports were still there.

    Since Sony makes/owns the Blu-Ray technology, they could offer it at a lower price simply for competition’s sake. They have other areas where they can recoup the losses. The HD-DVD makers do not. Also, who says Sony won’t offer PS3 functionality to some of these other companies that can be shoe-horned into their hardware? Wireless controllers will come standard with the PS3, so adding that hardware into your favorite brand Blu-Ray player isn’t out of the question. Sony tried it with the PS2, and didn’t do much with it, but the potential was there. The price of DVD players plummetted after the PS2 came out though, and I can see similar things happening to Blu-Ray. Nothing that stays at $1000 for long will amount to anything. Sony is smarter than to overcharge.

    At the same time, MS and Sony are all about the tech and battle it out best with the newest and brightest gizmos. I agree that Nintendo holds the most promise for the coming generation. That remote thing has potential, and they’re building a standard controller shell to go around it to play more “standard” games with, which opens them up to new and old markets. They also don’t rely on the newest tech to sell their consoles, meaning they can sell hardware cheaper and let their games and memorable characters make their money for them. Nintendo doesn’t even compete in the same “war” as MS and Sony, but somehow continue to make a name for themselves. They’re all about just making games that are fun, not necessarily realistic or gritty. In this, they succeed, and innovation is their trademark. The DS touch screen success is proof of that. The Virtual Boy, not so much. 🙂

    I, too, am looking forward to the Revolution and its virtual console (downloading and playing lots of old Nintendo games from systems past), but I worry that they won’t get enough titles available to make that worth it. No one’s specified whether they’ll be only first-party (Nintendo only) titles, or third parties as well (Capcom, Squaresoft, EA, Jaleco, etc.). Oddly, though, Sega has confirmed that Sonic will be playable on there. Talk about hell freezing over.

    Anyway, thanks for the comments and the spirited debate. This is why I joined BlogCritics, so keep ’em coming!

  • Wow. Those are two novels for comments. I don’t want to ignore them, but I want to address the main article.

    What you’re describing is no different than how gaming has ALWAYS BEEN. You can complain about the huge glut of derivative FPS’s all you want. However, the “golden age” if you will have how many character platformers? Remember Ardy Lightfoot? Awesome Possum? Jim Power? Those are three of around 60 or so 16-bit platformers I can pull off the top of my head without looking through Google or Digital Press.

    Studios and game companies have always been about the same thing: money. That hasn’t changed. If anything, they’re trying harder and harder to spend MORE money, not less. The bigger and flashier titles is what people want. There’s a reason we see so many sequels: people buy them. The difference between then and now is that the market has shifted to the older demographic. That’s the only change. The older gamers want actors they can recognize and FPS’s, not cheesy character platformers.

    Actually, with a little research, I’d be willing to bet that there are more 16-bit platformers out there than FPS’s.

    You can still walk into a store like you could years ago and find just as much crap and just as much quality as you always have been able to. The ratio between crap/quality has always been about the same.

    There’s the other side too. The people who scream originality, yet drool over a new 2-D Mario title. It’s hypocritical, and I did an editorial on it a while back. Needless to say, the people who scream “crash, crash!” are not the majority of the game market. It’s almost like if we can;t have the same games we had as a kid, we reject it. We still have all the games we want. Hell, I can’t think of a time in my gaming life where I’ve had so many damn good games to play. I’m so far behind it’s lost all comedic value.

    If you’re losing interest in gaming as a hobby, it’s because you’re becoming cynical, not because it’s changed.

    This is the best time to be a gamer, and if you’re not seeing it, I pity you.

  • Gaming HAS changed. Look at G4 and the Spike TV Video Game Awards. Note the coverage of the industry in the NY Times, Time Magazine, and Newsweek. This stuff didn’t exist 10 years ago. Some call it “due respect.” I call it a watering down to the lowest common denominator of a once proud (if somewhat elitist) hobby.

    The reason we got so many platformers back then was because Shigeru Miyamoto and Yu Suzuki were able to crank out polished gems often enough to make it look like THE bankable genre. The same is true now of the FPS genre with id Software, Crytek, Red Storm/Ubisoft, and Epic Games. The difference is that making these games now costs a lot more and studios are under more pressure to put out something of the same quality in less time. The budgets go up, but the time to produce something goes down. Rarely does anything good come from that thinking.

    Now, the release calendars are dictated by major shopping times of year; more games come out in November and December than the whole rest of the year combined. That’s not competition. It’s insanity. No one is going to have the time or the money to give these titles a fair shake, and after a few years of losing that battle, some companies are starting to wise up. Resident Evil 4 debuted in January rather than in November because they knew it wouldn’t stand a chance to earn the following and acclaim that it has by releasing in that money-grubbing period. Street Fighter II was the hottest game of the early 90s and sold like mad. When did it release for the SNES and Genesis? In the SUMMER, when people had time off to play it and summer jobs to pay for it.

    Back in the 1990s, fighting games were all the rage, hot on the heels of the initial arcade success of SF II. Sure, it gave us Mortal Kombat, Killer Instinct, Fatal Fury, Virtua Fighter, Soul Calibur, and Tekken (among others). These and many other games were influenced and inspired by SF II’s design and success, but they had the wisdom to do something unique of their own. Let’s not forget crap like Time Killers and some of the lesser Neo Geo fighting games. What the smart ones did was add something worthwhile between entries in the series, and didn’t milk their franchises to death.

    One game at this upcoming E3 that people are pumped about is the sequel to Warhawk. Why? Because the last game in that series came out 10 YEARS AGO. It’s had time to become a nostalgic bauble. But you can be sure that it won’t succeed on nostalgia alone. If Incog and Sony don’t ante up and impress us all over again, that’ll likely be the end of that franchise’s respect. Driver 3, anyone?

    I’m not saying the market will crash like it did in 1983. It can’t. It’s got too many people willing to pay for the 143rd Pokemon title for that to happen. But that’s what also drives me nuts.

    Sure, there may be an equal ratio of good to crap as there was 15 years ago, but I have to give them credit back then for at least trying something new now and then. None of the games you mentioned had a number following the title. Seriously, does anyone CARE about the next (and what, EIGHTH?) Tomb Raider at this point? After several blah sequels and two cheesy movies, hasn’t Eidos squeezed all the money out of this that it possibly can? Evidently not.

    People expect more flash and shock factor and less substance now. There should be a more equal number of games with originality like Indigo Prophecy, Beyond Good and Evil, Ico, War of the Monsters, and God of War as there are retreads like Midnight Club 3, Unreal Tournament 2003/2004/2007, Monster Rancher 5, Halo 3, and Madden (insert year). You can’t tell me that adding a completely crap story, faulty and convoluted combat, and a Godsmack soundtrack to Prince of Persia was anything more than pandering to a market and demolishing a perfectly good series in the process. THESE are the kinds of decisions making me shake my head in disbelief.

    I don’t give a game high marks just for being 2D, either. Sure, I grew up with that style, but it doesn’t make something gold automatically. The new Mario (Super Princess Peach, I assume you mean) is scoring well. Why? Because it plays well and implements new ideas in a tired and stale genre. Why are Sonic CD and Super Mario World some of the most respected platformer/action games of all time? They multiplied the content of each portion significantly in relevant and imaginative ways, added a top notch soundtrack, and expanded the ideas of what was even possible in their genre.

    If demanding better from an industry (I tire of Hollywood’s frequent crapfests as well) is being a cynic, then I guess you’re right and I am. But if saying something about it can get someone to NOT release Shadow the Hedgehog 2 in favor of something new and fresh, then I’ll prattle till the cows come home.

  • Dynamo of Eternia


    You make a lot of great points and arguements.

    One correction though, You said that PS3 will probably be $499, and then said that’s the same as the premium 360 pack. The premium 360 is actually $399, and the core is $299. Not a big deal, but PS3 will still be a $100 more. Though, if it comes out at a price of around $499, then I think it will be able to remain much more comepetitive than it will at $700 (and I will be more likely to buy it sooner than I would at the higher price). So, I HOPE that you are right, but I’ve been hearing a lot that says otherwise. However, nothing completely official has been stated yet as to the exact price point, so until that happens, everything else is speculation.

    As far as Revolution goes, from what I’ve been hearing, it’s actually expected to have a lot more 3rd party support than the Gamecube did. Now, I don’t know if it will necessarily have it on the same level as the other two systems, but part of Nintendo’s goal this time around (which should have been there goal with N64 and Cube) is to make the system as easy as possible for 3rd party companies to program for. So, hopefully we will see some good stuff as a result. I’m sure some of these 3rd party companies will be excited to try and program new kinds of games to go with this new control style that Nintendo has developed.

    I also want to say that I’m pretty much right on board with everything you said in response to Matt Paprocki. I’d go into more detail, but it would just be rather redundant of everything that you had just said. And, by the way, Super Princess Peach is actually a good game 🙂

  • Dynamo…good catch, my mistake. Still, the thing was pricier than the PS2 or Xbox at launch, and after five years of inflation and technological advances, I think it’s acceptable to raise the bar. Heck, I paid $200 for a SNES and $250 for my Atari Jaguar back in the 90s. Ten years later, $399 or $499 for a game machine doesn’t surprise me or seem outlandish. Look at the price jump in things like action figures. Those prices have at least quadrupled since I was a wee one, and I don’t hear anyone griping about that.

    I also don’t get why so many people are whining about Xbox 360 games coming out at $60. I have receipts from ages ago to prove that games for every system have cost that much or more at some point, except maybe the exiting-gen consoles. They spoiled us by starting at $40-50 and dropping from there. Believe this (all actual from purchases/receipts):

    Earthworm Jim: SE (Sega CD) $59.99
    Samurai Shodown (Sega CD) $49.99

    Sega CD Backup RAM Cart $59.99
    Lords of Thunder (Sega CD) $49.99

    Battle Arena Toshinden 2 (PS1) $54.99

    I think around the time Final Fantasy 7 came out, I’d decided never to pay more than $20 for a game ever again. Ahh, the days of a summer job and no bills to worry about…

    When I said something about third-party support for the Revolution, I meant which old third-party games would be playable on the virtual console (the Rev can play NES, SNES, Game Boy, N64, and GC games, via download from Nintendo). The NES alone had around 800 games, so the possibilities are staggering. What Nintendo hasn’t specified is whether the non-Nintendo branded games like Mega Man, Castlevania, and Final Fantasy will be available for/playable on the console. I also heard there were problems getting any Rare games (Banjo Kazooie, Perfect Dark, Jet Force Gemini) for the emulator because Rare is part of Microsoft now. Here’s hoping they get a ton of games, because that not only gives them the best launch lineup EVER, but it will also attract a lot of people to the console. Nostalgia and quality combined with the Rev being the cheapest of the three emerging consoles could be a very positive thing.

    You’re right about them needing more third party support for modern games though. The hardware may be easy to code for, but if it’s difficult to PORT to (if lots of graphics, design, and quality need to be scaled back to suit the hardware limitations), that could deter some companies from releasing some of the bigger cross-platform titles on the Rev. On the other hand, they may look at its relative strengths and design unique games specifically to take advantage of those features. I wouldn’t be surprised if five years from now the big N has a sizable market share with the lowest system specs and leaves Sony and MS scratching their heads.

    It really is all about the software, not the hardware. Why do you think Zelda and Dragon Warrior fanboys line up around the block when those games come out? It’s not because of the hardware that plays it, that’s for damn sure.

  • Dynamo of Eternia

    Yeah, All things considered, a lot of the prices could be worse. There is inflation. And actually even PS1 was $300 when it first came out. And if I recall, I believe Sega Saturn was $400. So, $400 today for an Xbox 360 isn’t much of a stretch. And $500 for PS3 (assuming that ends up being the final price and it isn’t higher) won’t be a horrible mark up all-in-all. A little cheaper would be nicer, but that price is at least realistic. $700 or more… not as realistic.

    The $60 game price shouldn’t be that big of a deal. Games you to cost that much, if not more, back during the cartridge days.

    At least the prices on games are more regulated these days (meaning an Xbox 360 game that costs you $59.99 at Best Buy is going to cost you $59.99 at Gamestop, etc). That’s not to say that a store can’t have an occasional sale, but back during the SNES/Genesis days, the standard non-sale prices from one retailer to another weren’t always consistent.

    I remember when Mortal Kombat II came out for SNES, and it was all the rage. I had resevered it at Babbages (which has now become Gamestop), and if I recall correctly, it cost me somewhere in the neighborhood of $80. So, yeah, things could be much worse overall.

    And back then getting a brand new, non-used game (even an older one) for around $20 for a console system was practically unheard of. Esspecially not within a period of 6 months after the game came out.

    These days, with PS2, Xbox, Gamecube, if you just wait a little while, most of the game come down significantly in price within 6 months to a year, usually costing around $20 to $30 at that point. There may be a few exceptions with titles that are really popular to the point that they will continue to sell for the higher price point for a longer period of time. But those are few and far between.

    So, even as bad as $60 for a 360 game (and I would expect the PS3 games to run about the same), I’m sure that once these systems have been out for a decent period of time, we will start to see the same kind of price dropping pattern that we are seeing now. So, there will be little to complain about in the long-run in that respect.

    Going onto the topic of the Revolution, sorry that I missed your point earlier about the downloadable older games. Yeah, I hope that there’s some decent 3rd party support there as well. I don’t see why there wouldn’t be. I mean, these are games that already exist. They will require minimal programming to be used with this downloading feature.
    I heard that in addition to games from the older Nintendo systems and from Sega, Revolution is going to also be able to download some older games from Turbo Graphix 16, which will be cool. I’m not totally sure how true this is, but that’s what I have heard.

    And going on what you said before, yeah, who would have ever expected to see any Sega game, let alone Sonic, on a Nintendo system? If you had coem up to me 10 years ago and told me that someday that would happen someday, I would have called you crazy. But then a few years ago hell froze over, and Sonic not only game out for Gamecube, but he actually appeared on the cover of Nintendo Power!

    Getting back on track here, as far as 3rd party support for the newer Revoltion games, yeah, there could be an issue with trying to release games on it that are also coming out on 360 and PS3 which will have more capabilities graphics-wise. But, if nothing else, I’m sure that at least some 3rd party companies will be programming some stuff specifically for Revolution and its new unique controller. It will offer a different gaming experience.

    The nice thing about Revolution is that its expected to be around $200 (give or take $50). So, its not overly expensive. It may be different than the other systems, but that’s ok. I don’t think Nintendo is really trying to directly compete with them at this point, even if some level of competition still exists. They are just trying to do their own thing and make a profit while doing so. And I think as long as a reasonable profit keeps rolling in, they aren’t likely to change this pattern anytime soon.

    The way I see it, I think its becoming more and more common for people to own more than 1 of the current gaming systems. They may not always have all 3, but having at least two is probably happening more often than it used to. So, even if most people go for an Xbox 360 or a PS3 first, I think there’s a good chance that they would pick Revolution as their second system.
    Why? Well, because for one thing its a heck of a lot cheaper. And it will offer a considerably different gaming experience.

    I mean, odds are PS3 and Xbox 360 are going to be offering a lot of the same 3rd party games, and even with their exclusive titles, there’s usually at least something similar on the other system. So, if someone already has one of them, why would they want to spend another $400 to $500 to get another system that does almost the same thing when they could only spend around $250 or less and get something that offers a significantly different, interesting, and unique experience?

    Nintendo has their nitch and I don’t think they will be going anywhere anytime soon. It will be interesting to see where they fall in the mix of things this time around.

  • With the Rev Virtual Console, it’s not a matter of tech or programming keeping the games from being emulated. It’s the companies that own them. If they don’t want to “allow” Nintendo to license and make those games available, they have that right.

    However, if they don’t play ball (like Microsoft vetoing Rare sharing with a competitor, regardless of past history), it’s not like gamers are necessarily going to lose out. Heck, I’ve seen Earthbound, Secret of Mana, Mario Kart, and Chrono Trigger running on the PSP. I play them on my PC all the time (and before anyone tries to sue me, YES, I own the original titles). It’s possible, and it’s free to do right now, so to compete in the free (if legally ambiguous) emulation market, Nintendo would do well to get EVERY game out there, make them work flawlessly, and give them seamless online multiplayer capability.

    It’s not the cheap approach, but that’s the smart one.