This week, Zero Punctuation takes a look at the three next gen consoles.
Release Date Edit
This episode was released on 2013-06-05 and rereleased on 2013-12-25 to fill the Christmas gap.
The current situation is the sort of thing that a corporate press release would describe as "a challenging time for console manufacturers," in the same sense that a tube with barbed wire down it presents "a challenging time for a prison inmate's arsehole." Console gaming is going through a strange and slightly traumatic graduation, and no one seems to know what it's going to do with its life after this. Maybe it'll get a job and build a future, maybe it'll move back in with its parents, or maybe it'll just drink a load of mentholated spirits and have a little snooze on the floor of a subway car.
I figure it's time for a rundown of the candidates, now that all three have at the very least made some awkward stammering announcement of their consoles, and so far it's been like watching the most retarded game of Texas Hold 'Em ever played, where everyone just sat and eyeballed each other for six months before someone finally called in the most weaselly non-committed way possible, in the hopes that it would make someone else show their hand. Whereupon the flop cards were revealed to be a joker, a get-out-of-jail-free and a Magus of the Vineyard from Magic: The Gathering.
Of course, the odd man out is Nintendo, as ever, and in keeping with the poker metaphor, they were dealt a pair of twos right at the start and immediately went "All in, motherfuckers!" Only to realize later that one of the twos was actually a four that had been partially covered by a big fat touchscreen controller that someone had left on the table.
There's not much more that needs to be said about the Wii U. Suffice to say that everyone's trying to find some innovation to keep themselves alive, but Nintendo's innovative idea to have a console with no sodding games doesn't seem to have paid off as well as they hoped. Maybe you could still come back if you brought out the usual suspects, but even Mario has a shelf life.
And recently a critical blow was dealt when someone at EA unguardedly mentioned that they weren't making any games for it, because if they have to bring water to a dying man in a desert, then giving it to the man with no arms or legs who refuses to stop eating crisps might be a bit of a waste. EA did backtrack on that remark though, perhaps realizing that before you burn a bridge, it might be smarter to wait and make sure the other two bridges aren't going to spontaneously combust...
... which brings us to the first of the two enigmatic candidates, the PS4, announced earlier this year. Although "announced" might be too charitable a word, because they didn't reveal the console, or the price, or the release date, or much of anything really, besides the new controller which they were really excited about because they came up with a idea for a dedicated "annoy all your friends" button.
As I said, everyone's trying to find a way to innovate, because previously you'd sell a console by showing that it lets you play bigger and better games, and that's not going to work this time because the increasingly inefficient ways AAA games are made is only making them blander and blingier. Next gen can't even bring itself to pretend that if all you want to do is play the best games available then you should stick with current gen or buy a PC, especially since everyone's shunning backwards compatibility like it's a physically able person trying to enter the special Olympics.
So, instead, Sony is throwing all its eggs into the social media basket for the sake of a USP, with the ability to instantly show all your friends what you're doing and even let them take control. So the PS4 is for people not only unconcerned about having the best games, but also don't particularly want to play the fucking things. This is like a hairdresser buying up all the advertising space in a cancer ward. Surely if someone has sat down and turned on their PS4, it's because they want to play something, not watch someone else play something. If I was trying to enjoy a game and some prick kept pestering me to watch them play Twat Bandits 4, and maybe fight the final boss for them 'cos they can't be arsed, I'd tell them to fuck off! Any chance of getting a dedicated "Fuck Off" button on the controller, Sony?
You can also record video footage and upload it to YouTube, which, as a consumer of Let's Play videos, you might think I support. But the important question for me is to what degree one is permitted to edit the footage, because this would mean the difference between Sony enabling a culture of criticism and Sony just trying to get everyone to do their marketing for them. And I think we all know which one Sony would prefer, 'cos it is a console manufacturer, which in the current climate is the entity with the demeanor of a cornered wolf and the financial stability of a tin-mine in a supernova. If it came down to a snarling fight for pack dominance at this point, I'd probably bet on Microsoft, because it seems to be the slightly more desperate of the two.
The Xbox One then, which, gratifyingly, everyone was already calling the "Xbone" by the end of announcement day. An announcement day that seemed a trifle premature, 'cos nobody at Microsoft seemed to have a clue what this big black ring-binder of a console actually does.
First it was going to be always on, then it wasn't. Then it has to call home once a day or else Microsoft won't pay the ransom. First pre-owned games wouldn't work, then they would, but only if you pay the fee, then you can only install them if you pay the fee. Why is the seller of an alleged entertainment system being as evasive as James Murdoch at a select committee? What we do know is that you can't use it without Internet, you can't play 360 games, you can't use 360 controllers; you can't use SD TVs, you can't turn the fucking Kinect off, so it will permanently stare at you from the corner of your living room occasionally licking its pencil and taking notes on your prefered wank material - this is starting to sound more like a "can't-sole" than a "can-sole" and that's just one letter away from a "cunt-sole!"
Oh, but the Kinect needs to be on all the time so it knows when you're barking orders at it. But I want to feel comfortable talking about the Xbox in front of it. I might unguardedly say, "I hope Xbox doesn't NUKE THE CHINESE," and then who knows what might happen. And I continue to argue that all these motion controls and Star Trek "tea, earl gray, hot" mechanisms still require more effort and reliability than moving your fingertip half a centimeter to press a button.
You know, video game consoles didn't always need marketing events that resemble political rallies, because they basically sold themselves. "Here's a thing that lets you play fun games," they would say. "Which games?" we would ask. "These ones," they would reply. "Ooh, those do look fun," we'd conclude. Now the same statement has so many asterisks next to it, it looks like a fucking constellation map!
The only reason a console would need a fucking spin doctor would be if it benefited the corporation selling it a fuckload of a lot more than anyone buying the fucking thing, or anyone who'd just want to play fun games. At this point, I would only buy a next generation console if it had an exclusive game I really, really wanted to play, but it would not be a healthy consumer-product relationship. It would not be a console providing access to something I want, it would be a console holding something I want hostage until I gave it my Wi-Fi password and credit card details.
So to summarize this buyer's guide for next gen consoles: "DON'T!"
Not enough hugs as a child: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
Of course some things may have been clarified by the time this comes out so if that's the case just assume I'm still really annoyed and cynical about it all
Let's hope the E3 roundup brings a rictus grin to my face