TotalBiscuit is one of the few YouTuber’s who is often able to change my opinion. He is a video game critic I have immense respect for, but this time I was not persuaded.
Before I truly begin my rebuttal, I’d like to point out that I am indeed biased towards Sony. I currently have a PS2 and a PS3 (even a PSP), I cried with happiness when I watched the PS4 E3 press conference, and when I got a tattoo to symbolise my love for gaming, I chose the Playstation symbols. This blogpost is not about which company ‘won’ E3, but about the nature of console players.
The main issue I find with TB’s commentary is that it is very much a PC gamer’s analysis of the world of consoles. There’s not necessarily anything wrong with PC gaming or the culture surrounding it, but there are fundamental differences between consoles and PCs. There are two primary points where I believe TB’s commentary misses the mark this time.
- The nature of console updates
One of the points of analysis found in TB’s commentary is the celebration of Microsoft’s aims to increase the compatibility and similarity between Xbox and PC’s.
For many of us, the beauty of consoles is that they are not PCs. While PCs do have their charm, they are inherently high maintenance when compared to consoles. The constant download of updates, fiddling with option menus, and connecting with others certainly do have their own appeal. However, a player who appreciates those options are more likely to turn to a PC than a console.
For console gamers, one of the main appeals of consoles is that they are a complete package. A core annoyance of the PS3 is the fact that it requires constant updates. Time spent updating the device and modifying the options is time stolen from gameplay. The more add-ons, apps, updates, and downloads I have to argue with when I switch on my console, the lower the chance that I’ll switch it on at all. The last thing I want to do when I’ve bought a new game is spend time on the options menu trying to find the right settings – I just want to dive into the game. I don’t want to spend time on finding groups, the optimal resolution, or modding.
I prefer consoles for the same reason I like going out for breakfast. Sometimes it’s nice to be handed the experience on a plate and pay for it as opposed to purchasing the ingredients individually and putting them all together. I appreciate the convenience.
TB summarised it by claiming the two conferences had these approaches:
Sony – play the game.
Microsoft – change the rules of the game.
Spot on with Sony. Microsoft however are not changing the rules of the game in the sense of being innovative, they’re merging consoles and PCs. While these updates certainly are appealing if you like PC gaming, it merely seems like more work and more fees from my perspective.
- Console investment
For many of us, consoles are an investment. We want a good console, but we care more about longevity than the ability to update it. Console gamers are prepared to wait to a different extent than PC gamers. Many of us wait a long time after the release of a console before we invest in it. The reason the Vita failed wasn’t that it failed to innovate, but that it had no longevity. The games weren’t there and thus people didn’t buy it. The price vs the amount of hours in game we could truly get from the Vita meant it was not worth the investment. Both PS4 and Xbox One are still needing to convince consumers to purchase the systems. Many of us wait for a price drop or a game we truly desire to be announced and released before we invest in a new console.
What Microsoft did when they announced the next 0.5 console was to tell us consumers that our investment in the Xbox One was a poor one. Consoles are meant to be solid platforms for years, the faster the new consoles arrive, the less value our investment has. We need to know that the games will keep coming for years. With the introduction of Project Scorpio, we have essentially been told that the longevity of the Xbox One is shorter than that of the PS4. For people who were on the fence about which console to get and decided to go with Xbox, this announcement must have left a bitter taste in their mouth.
We can’t really uninstall an update. We make the decision to purchase a console once. We want that decision to matter and for it to be the best long term decision. For many of us, the idea of having to invest hundreds of dollars into a console every few years means that we are more likely to skip a generation. Our decisions are made less meaningful and keeping up to date with new releases just became more expensive.
It is often said that people have either time or money. Well, some of us are short on both. I don’t buy a lot of games for my consoles, therefor it is important to me that the games and consoles will give me the maximum amount of enjoyment for the longest time possible. I’m a min-maxer. When I play games on PC, I tend to purchase smaller games that also cost less. Indie games for 5.99 on Steam. Items on sale where the amount of time I spend on the game feels less important. Console games are an investment, just like the console itself.
I don’t have the option to own both a PS4 and an Xbox One. One of the main arguments I’ve heard in the whole console wars discussion is “well, I’m just going to end up playing it on a PC anyway”. I can’t afford a good PC, not do I want a desk top (I rent a room, there’s not enough space to throw in a PC since my desk is used for other things). In terms of Money and Time. PCs are a lot of work. They’re also bloody expensive if you want a good one. Two things that require time and money.
It is not that I don’t appreciate complexity, I simply don’t have the time for it. Nor do I have the money to buy a new console every second year or so.
I want my investment to matter, have significant longevity, and save me time by being straightforward. Microsoft’s press conference did nothing to convince me that buying an Xbox One would fulfil those criteria. Their conference seemed to target PC gamers, or at least people who play both consoles and PCs. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s a difficult sell if your target group is console gamers.
What Sony’s conference did was to reaffirm the notion that the PS4 is a good long term investment with plenty of good games coming. For me as a console player, it is exactly what I need regardless of whether or not I’ve bought the console or am yet to purchase it.