Topic of the Week: Are you happy with this generation of consoles?

In this weeks Topic of the Week, Are you happy with this generation of consoles (Seventh) or do you think something is missing that got misplaced with the transition?

Video Game consoles are categorized in generations, and so we are currently in the Seventh generation claimed by the masses and one step closer into the eight generation which began with the launch of Nintendo 3DS. We are of course only going to talk about the 7ยบ Gen, which is still ongoing but its end is at sight and there is nothing we can do to stop it, so did we got advantage of this generation and if we did what were the things you are happy/unhappy about? We divided into topics from the consoles themselves in how they started and evolved, the motion market to the games in general that we thought it was necessary to produce this article and for you the reader to create an opinion about it.

The Console Wars

The console wars have been a thing since the beginning of consoles themselves, companies struggle to be the best in the market and thus having the biggest slice of people using them. In the seventh generation it is still the same thing but more public. We see companies like Sony and Microsoft clashing each other while Nintendo, not making a effort to publicly tarnish other companies won the most significant share of the market with the Wii. But how did the consoles fare individually at the launch and evolved?

In the beginning of this generation, Xbox gained a staggering leverage by selling its successor, the 360, earlier than other consoles (1 year apart) and having an already established it's online features and services in Xbox Live, and even after the release of Wii and Playstation 3 (which we will talk later), the sales were still high in Europe and America. Like its predecessor on the meantime, it was badly received in Japan contributed by the lack of content aimed to Japanese gamers. Despite its success in the market and a small time as the best console around, the 360 had possibly one of the major problems that plagued this generation, the RROD. The Red Ring of Death still appears from time to time to many users but this is of course was dealt with Microsoft offered players a 3 year warrant and repair to deal with the situation, but as I recall correctly, most people weren't so happy to have to replace their consoles intermittently and with new models arrived with time and most of this problem subsided or at least, it diminished. A couple years passed and we are now in the beginning of 2007, the 360 sales plummeted as much as 60% in sales while the Wii started to climb vigorously and the PS3 with its new competitive price started to eat a bit out of the 360's market as well, but Microsoft wasn't going to let that happen as the company made a marketing strategy of releasing Halo 3 in September 2007 and successfully boosted the sales in that month outselling the Wii that month and showing for the first time in two years a quarterly profit. After sometime again, the 360 announced the Slim version which would correct most of the "Fat" version of the console and adding some much needed hardware such as integrated wireless feature and a 250GB Hard-Drive.

The Playstation 3 and Wii were released almost a week apart, but right at the beginning the paths each one would take were different. The Playstation 3, even before the released started showing problems with the manufacturing of the console itself, more concretely the Blu-Ray diode which lead to an embarrassing  launch with many shortages in the market, but in December of 2006, the company claimed all the problems had been fixed and production continued normally. That wasn't all the problems that plagued Playstation 3 unfortunately and one of the biggest problems was the release price, which was $499,99/€399.99/£299.99 for a 40GB version and $599,99/€599.99/£424.99 for the 60GB version, now this was almost double the price of the 360 and Wii, so you could buy the latter consoles with the money you had for the Playstation 3. Much like the 360, the PS3 also had a similar problem like the RROD, it was called the YLOD (Yellow Light of Death) but only affected few people and it was well under normal standards (unlike the 360). The console would take advantage over the years of its exclusivity in certain games and after some very needed price-cuts, the console started to gain some market-share. Only now we see the 360 and PS3 fighting with almost the same market-share.

The Wii was possibly the surprise element of the three biggest consoles around (not counting the portable ones of course), it was expected to be the underdog of them all but it outfoxed Sony and Microsoft and achieved the impossible, it was the best selling console of this generation whether you like it or not. The console launched at the same time as the Playstation 3 and was also plagued by the short supply until 2007 and the product was almost unavailable for the same time in a possible strategic maneuver from Nintendo. Wii is the smallest hardware made by its parent company compared to their earlier consoles and designs and to appeal to most of the market it was released in various colors (unlike the competition), but the best out of the Wii features was the first try (after many unsuccessful attempts in the past by various companies anyway) in the motion controller in the form of the Wii-Remote or Wiimote that made an impact between the competition and possibly made the Wii so famous that the rest of the competition soon followed in their footsteps (which will be highlighted in detail later on). The Wii also introduced games for the masses in a form that everyone could play no matter how experienced or what age they were, and with this we saw more games for the "casual" gamer than the "hardcore" gamer on the console. With all those games feeding the casual, the games that were dedicated to the hardcore were severely neglected by developers and the console was famously known for it's "shovelware" (term that refers to software noted more for the quantity of what is included than for the quality or usefulness) games, but Nintendo with the intention of bringing more people into buying and playing on the Wii brought the Wii Fit, a game which introduced us to a new type of hardware (the Wii Balance Board) and made people exercise while having fun. These new advances in technology that was forgotten sometime ago and its consumer friendly price made up for the disadvantages of the Wii (lack of HD, the upgrade much needed on the Wiimote that supposedly was to be right at the beginning).

The Motion Market

The motion sensor is now the "hot" thing in this generation in consoles. We saw it first with the already mentioned Wiimote that was released with the Wii and made a dramatic impact on the sales since it was the "new" thing that others didn't had at the time. But was the Wii good at launch?

No, and that was proven by the launch of Motion Sensor Plus, an accessory for the Wiimote that made it more accurate but was too late according to some news sites and professional bloggers and despite that you needed to buy it so that you could make use of it. The Wiimote was the only accessory to take full advantage of motion control and its competition (if you could call it that) was the sixaxis of the Dualshock 3 from Playstation 3 that did a extremely poor job at doing what it was suppose to do (point in question, Lair) so if this was the end of the competition, the Wiimote was clearly the winner, but its not.

While the Wiimote was basking in all its glory, both Microsoft and Sony were already in the midst of making their own motion sensor accessories, and a couple of years later they show up in the form of Playstation Move and Microsoft Kinect, both direct competitors and the latter extremely different from the Wiimote and Move.  Kinect was a different step from both of its competitors motion controls as it didn't need one and you would be it and the difference between them was a sensor that would recognize whatever you do in front of it (like an extremely improved Playstation Eye), but while it was being developed important things were left out and the public was only informed by the media instead of Microsoft press releases. Kinect, much like the Wii, struggled for dedicated games and we still need to see good applications for it (Promising Ghost Recon, but will it be useful in-game? no, sorry) and has problems of camera distance which for the people who have small living rooms such as myself, struggle to play some games. But with time we see 3rd party companies making add-ons that will enhance the experience of it, we already saw a fix on the distance problem, and for the games we see multiple hackers developing software and hardware and amaze us in youtube from time to time, but that's it for Kinect.

Your probably thinking something down the line like this:
He's a Move fanboy because he's bashing other controllers so bad its not even funny.
 If you are one of these people, please slap your face and keep reading. The Playstation Move which was launched in 2010 (March), is in fact better than Wii in many ways, but when looking for problems it's not that silly wand you should look mainly (but not all that) to, its the camera. With the release of Move and the adding of many dedicated mags to the mix (SOCOM, MAG, Heavy Rain, etc) we would expect them to get a better camera for it. Now the camera isn't bad, but it should be better, better definition or at least they should have given the option for the consumer to buy one. But this isn't the only problem with Move, as is with the idea of having to buy two move sets separately is by far the most absurd thing you'll have to do. Of course you will get more kicks out of shovelware like "The Fight" or the actually impressive but still in the same category "Sports Champions" if you have them both but besides that and if you aren't a person who really have people around  that want to play with a "dildo" like controller why would you want one? Think about that.

Now despite Sony trying to mimic Nintendo, but succeeding in getting the motion sensor trend into dedicated gaming, some questions remains, will we see more innovation on the upcoming generations of this new trend?

It's true that Nintendo already announced the next-gen console, the Wii U, and this new console will have an iPad like controller and no motion capability (as far as we know), so did Nintendo gave up or are we miss informed about the still foggy details of this new console?. Will we see a brave move by one of the console companies into putting Kinect, Move, Wii all melded into one platform that will take advantages of all the lessons learned with this generation?

That in my opinion would be amazing, if that was remotely possible mainly because of the games. We have seen what this new technology can do for games and it's amazing if it could just meld in for an ultimate accessory.

The Games 

Not this generation games
Speaking of games, this generation brought us amazing games, rich in detail and some rich in story-lines, but we also have seen sudden changes in game developing companies that need to be addressed.

As we learned from previous generations, most consoles had exclusivity rights that earned them legions of fans into buying that particular console because of that particular game. Now we see companies going cross-platforming in the most recent games they are unveiling, and if this is going to be one of those things to either be careful or scared about it we still don't know. One thing is sure though, we might get alienated on buying some games as they are badly shaped ports like we have seen before, and this isn't completely due to the companies development process, but because of the different SDK they have at the present moment. In this generation unfortunately, the PS3 is claimed by different companies to be hard to program for, and porting a 360 game to it would be harder than the other way around so if all companies would go cross-platform, PS3 and Nintendo's Wii would plummet and 360 would skyrocket as its easier to program to.But to soothe people around, the probability of that happening is slim as a console is represented by the exclusive games it has, Gears of War and Halo will automatic put your mind into an Xbox, Uncharted and LittleBigPlanet will make you think of a Playstation 3 and lastly Mario and the Nintendo Team will make you think about Nintendo products, so its safe to say that even though major companies might release to all platforms, the consoles companies will always have someone who can make them an exclusive, many companies started out like that and many will still do the same.

Now, I could spend a lot of time telling you about what game companies decided to renounce their dedication to which console but that's not the point I wanted to make here. The point was that games are harder to make with each passing generation because consoles get more complex and adding accessories like motion sensors that we describe previously to harden the things even more, this was just a little prelude to even more pressing matters in games such as the stem of making new IP's. This is a very dangerous topic and I will step in possibly a few toes, Intellectual Properties in games have reduced considerably in the last 2 generations (7th and 6th). While we see games that had always the same name like Square-Enixs Final Fantasy it had different stories and backgrounds which always varied; most highly praised companies started to diminish their creativity and selling more and more sequels (some of them good, some of them not going very well). This can be seen in a good note, as game developers like Naughty Dog who make some sequels better than the games they made previously like Uncharted series which add lots of dept in the story and makes it almost a Hollywood movie that you would see instead of playing or the end of that series if miss-used like Guitar Hero, who got so many bad sequels in a significantly short amount that almost destroyed the genre.

So is sequels a bad thing or a good thing?

Depends on what you want actually, see it like this: Activision Call of Duty 4 Modern Warfare 3 is going for like its third installment and the plot is weak at best but it's covered with so many rich details and graphics that you won't even notice, the action will take care of the small story-line behind it and you will just realize how small the plot was when you will finish the game past a couple of hours, or playing Battlefield 3 which is the competitor of CoD4:MW3 and you will fight through a campaign in the middle east and is set to be a more serious tone than bad company, but it will possibly be smaller. If i just said this, it wouldn't be good sequels, as they don't develop nothing new, but the thing is creativity is being replaced with multiplayer experience, you would lie to yourself if you bought the game for the single-player because it wouldn't be true, you would buy it for the multiplayer as it is where you put your money in and it extents the longevity and fun of the game for hours. Much of this sequel recipe is weirdly made by a console company, Nintendo, which doesn't seem to run from the same games with only few differences, and we see a lot of the titles from different consoles like Super Mario series which have more than 20 games trying to save a princess.

This is a serious thing that needed to be taken on a serious approach, creativity stopped flowing and the only people who know that are either independent game developers who try to create deep emotional game-play experiences like Braid, the soothing of Flower, or frenetic conspiracy in Uplink or game companies who are staunch supporters of a big story but are almost forcefully to add multiplayer in the game to increase sales as it wouldn't be on single-player alone that they would release a sequel or even a new IP but independent game developers risk that lately as they don't have much to lose. Independent games are like now what old games were when there was no internet, where some people find refuge to play a story, to escape from the real world and they actually accomplish that by introducing us in a very specific environment, not so graphically rich, but extremely fluid and with a possible amazing soundtrack and tells us a story much like reading a book, indie developers are growing fast and strong and lately I found more interesting into spending $10/£7/€10 into a game that will entertain me with a small or big story than a product that costs me over $50/£27/€70 or more just so I play a mediocre campaign can compete online. Of course, please keep in mind that these are some of the "highly praised" games we have around and not all games, L.A. Noire is one of the best games I've seen and it doesn't have multiplayer, or Alan Wake and Heavy Rain develop deep emotions on the player as he is going through the various steps of the game.

So we took a small overview on this generation consoles, new hardware, and games so that you could tell us, what do you feel about this generation and what have we learned about it? Please feel free to comment.


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