Hey all, Travis here writing from hot, sunny LA. I’m currently quite busy with a temp gig at E3 (unrelated to work with Moar Powah, unfortunately), and have managed to pull myself away from my duties for a quick but fairly personal opinion piece on consoles. No I’m not going to go into a tremendously overdone examination of how the PS4 fell into the public’s praise and how the Xbox One was damned by public ire, but what I am going to look into is the issue of longevity, and how waiting for consoles to ripen may be the best way to enjoy them.
Of course, being a life-long game enthusiast, I often find myself lustful of the newest of the new. Both new consoles managed to hit my want button, even with with Xbone’s problems (a new game in the Panzer Dragoon series? Shit…), and the PS4 especially has me excited. But then I took a second to think about why exactly that may be. I suppose the PS4 excites me because I thoroughly enjoyed, and continue to enjoy, my time with its predecessor.
But then I remember that I never got into the PlayStation legacy of consoles until quite recently. I believe I got my hands on a PS3 in 2010, my first PlayStation console, a whole four years after its launch. Needless to say, an ocean of content was suddenly open to me, and I finally got to try out many titles that ended up becoming personal favorites of mine, from Valkyria Chronicles to Uncharted. There was no waiting, debating, or broken anticipation. I bought a console, and suddenly hundreds of fantastic and well-received games were available out of the blue.
That isn’t to say that the temptation is still very much alive. I purchased the last three console launches (3DS, PSVITA, and lastly Wii U) day one, and that has certainly affected my mindset about consoles. Good or bad, they’re at least fun to follow through their strong times and weak times. It made me realize that it must have been fascinating to follow the Dreamcast in person when it left the playing field.
And to be fair, there are certainly things I missed out on by waiting on the PS3. PS2 compatibility, Linux support, a greater list of media inputs. These were all serious strengths of the early console that my PS3 will never enjoy. There are certainly examples of how jumping to the boat all nice and fast can benefit the consumer.
But for every example that I can think of, I can remember even more problems. The Wii lacked SD card support for years, forcing Nintendo customers to “clean the fridge” if they wanted to have a sizable Virtual Console or Wiiware collection. The Xbox 360 had its infamous red ring of death on more than half of all units sold before the release of the far superior slim. Even with the things it lost, the PS3 gained so much more over time, getting a fairly competent online network, even with the shutdown, in addition to a growing emphasis on indie support.
I bring all of this up because for as excited as I am for a new generation, getting either console until a year after launch simply won’t be possible. I’ll be traveling in Japan for that time, and would rather not go through the hassle of importing one and a handful of games. Even if I could, I’m not that sure I want to, since I’d rather use my time seeing the country and not doing something I could do right here.
Would I go ahead and buy a next gen console were I staying behind? In all likelihood, yes. Yes I would. And it’s highly likely that I would sit with it for a while, putting up with decent games before titles I really want start getting announced. That tends to be how console launches go, after all. You have to sit through remakes and B titles before Halo 3 or Super Smash Bros Brawl. Naturally, this line of thinking comes from the fact that since I’m going to force myself to wait for a whole year, I might as well put a positive spin on the situation.
But in doing so, I realized that there are legitimate positive elements to waiting, beyond the potential for price drops or added functionality. It’s safer, for one. You know generally what to expect now that you’ve seen the console develop a following and a set series of celebrated titles. You’ll know what the consoles’ solid policies on used games and internet use are, a major point of interest this time around. And perhaps more importantly, you’ll have a sense of what console’s more popular and thus is getting more development attention from third parties. Nothing kills interest in a console like a lack of games, if the Wii U has served as any proof.
There’s just such a difference between living big release to big release, instead of buying into a system that already has a sizable pool of quality to choose from. There’s just so much that can go wrong with a new console release, and with a $400/$500 price tag, there’s a sizable amount of consumer money resting on that risk.
And again, I’m not trying to discourage any of you that already have your mind made up. I would be right with you, eager to christen a new generation from the get-go. But for those of you on the fence, yet to see a handful of titles that, to you, screams “must buy,” it may be in your best interest to just wait. At least until Star Wars: Battlefront. Then all bets are off.
Besides, who knows where we’ll be seven years from now. Last gen, the PS3 had an awful launch that barely competed with the powerhouse that Microsoft managed to build for itself. In time, though, the PS3 grew from its own ashes into something quite pretty, while the Xbox slowly lost its momentum and embraced casual motion control head-on… resulting in eventually losing its 2nd place in the sales running. Food for thought. What may seem like sure successes or failures now could pull themselves out of oblivion.