A few hours after my last post, it hit me.
Actually, that was my cat Wesker. He’s funny like that. Jumps on my back in playful mood, itching for me to slay something in a video game so he can nudge me and try and put me off (his ping is so much lower than everyone else’s). But on this occasion, the jolt kind of hit me whilst I was trying to figure out what it was about this E3 in particular that just didn’t seem to hit things out of the park. Thanks to the evil furry one, and he will be rewarded with treats, I think I know why.
4K and VR just aren’t that interesting.
And I mean that not to dismiss the technology behind them. 4K will eventually be the natural evolution of HD, well, unless we skip over it for 8K. And VR is interesting enough I guess, and has applications – particularly in medicine, which ironically is where the Kinect sort of had more practical applications (go figure). These are very important pieces of technological advancement and we should applaud the effort it has taken to get us here. And the money. Let’s not forget the money, of course.
My point is this – did anyone genuinely, hand on heart, see a defining selling point for either technology at E3?
I say this having seen more on that Mario x Rabbids game. It doesn’t exactly do anything new. Hell, it rips of Tactics Ogre and XCOM. But it is gleeful, joyous, riotous fun. It’s silly and nonsensical and ludicrous and it shouldn’t freaking work. And then you see Rabbid Kong. And you just smile, laugh and realise that of any company right now, Nintendo gets it. They really do. And ironically, it turns out, so do UbiSoft. In the midst of a VR/4K flurry, this years most striking game is a bloody Mario and Rabbids crossover tactical RPG. On a hybrid console, at a 720p/1080p resolution. Full of silly, goofy humour. Drenched in colour. Steeped in sassy attitude. Dripping personality from every angle, every pore. This, this is what the Rabbids were always meant for. This is what they’re going to do from now on. They’re going to invade… every… game… you… can… think… of. (Halo x Rabbids is only a matter of time…)
Put against the po-faced 4K and VR reels, it looks better, has far more fun and inventiveness than it should legally be allowed to have at any given moment and just reminds us why we play video games in the first place. It looks like fun. It just looks fun. I want to play it. It’s been too long since the Rabbids had a vehicle worth playing.
In a sense, that’s been the strength of the Switch so far; sure, it may not rival the PS4 Pro or the XBOX (that pun is never not going to be cringe-inducing), but it doesn’t need to. Did Pokémon Sun and Moon need a huge screen to sell 15 million units by the end of January? Of course they didn’t. The Switch will do well with what it has because ultimately, the technology – whilst certainly damned impressive as a hybrid machine – isn’t the end of the discussion. It’s the beginning, and the games pick up the slack.
4K and VR are arriving and it seems they just expect us to fall down and worship them (Rabbid Kong is love, Rabbid Kong is life!), and that’s exactly the same shitshow that got the Wii U into trouble. And what ultimately killed off 3DTV. Great, the technology is there. What can it do for our video games? How does this technology make anything better – and if it doesn’t, why are you trying to push $500 pieces of silicon and plastic on us? What is the point? What are we getting out of this, except disappointment and a lighter bank balance? Nothing was said beyond “purdy graphics” – to which most of us shrugged. We can’t see a huge difference really. It’s that simple. The additional power required to push 4K means these consoles aren’t going to have anything much beyond what we play right now – indeed, the Pro and XBOX won’t have any exclusives, because all those games will be playable in 1080p, and 30 frames a second on your old consoles. Not 4K at 30 frames a second (and since I believe we should be pushing 60 frames a second, this will not do).
They’re new, but then, so is the Switch. It’s been out three months, already has one of the highest rated video games ever (Zelda: Breath of the Wild) and based on what we’ve heard, and seen, in the last few months – there’s plenty of good reasons to buy it. Xenoblade 2, Skyrim Switch with added Zelda content because of course Bethesda wanted some Zelda love in there, Mario Odyssey and a full-on Fire Emblem to boot. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe has been selling gangbusters, and heaven help us when they finally drop Smash Switch on us. Nintendo is selling the Switch on content. It’s working, alarmingly so in fact.
VR and 4K add superficial gloss to our games, but do they add anything more tangible? Or is it all an expensive excuse to gloss over actual design pillars that get us engaged and immersed in a world? This E3, I’m feeling that this isn’t the revolution that people have been praying for. That hardware is awesome, but it would be more awesome if you took the time to scale back down to 1080p, push sixty frames a second gameplay more often and use the additional power left to really make games shine. That every open world game we saw at E3 was already looking outdated thanks to Breath of the Wild only tells you how little graphics and resolution actually matter in the long run.
The future of video games right now is partly the hardware – but it’s 80% down to what developers actually do with that hardware. Assassin’s Creed: Origins looked like more of the same old Assassin’s Creed we’ve seen for the last ten years. Forza looked like more Forza. Nothing seemed different or better, it just seemed… the same. Perhaps the additional power allows for things like dynamic weather or lighting, but I struggle to see why that requires such huge investment on the consumers end (and turns out, all those weather things in Forza will be on your basic XBox One! Yay!).
Unless developers play more with the hardware and do something new and exciting with it, well, we’re in for a repeat of 3DTV. An idea is lovely, but sell it to us. Right now, the general feeling I got is that most people didn’t see anything in VR or 4K that couldn’t be done or be seen on a typical, regular, run of the mill games console. Not a damn thing. Immersion in a world is lovely, but gamers get lost in worlds all the time. We’ve never needed a big VR headset for that. Or a 4K television. We’re capable of getting lost in a virtual space without the extra (and very expensive) help.
But most of all, they miss the point – joy, fun, entertainment. That’s why people are still raving over the Rabbids crossover (pun intended). Will it sell the most? Probably not, though I’d hope it does. Does it push the Switch? Probably not. And yet it’s still dripping fun from every single pore, everything about it has people totally hyped for it. It’s so ridiculous and fun looking and silly that I heard TotalBiscuit, who isn’t a big Nintendo fan, buckle for the first time in ages. He couldn’t not have it. To hear someone who is fairly anti-Nintendo finally cave to a freakin’ Rabbids crossover… yeah, the world is ending.
VR and 4K look starchy, corporate and kind of lame. Nintendo’s little thing that could is already screaming its tits off, getting drunk at the bar and being the life and soul of the party. And it’s not even got on stage yet.
I mean sure, that means logically that it could also end up forgetting its lines and passing out on stage face down in a pool of its own vomit – but damn, what a show that’d be as well!
Mostly though, Rabbid Kong.
Bring forth the Princess and the Plumber! We must appease our new fuzzy overlord!