Okay, let’s start off with two things.
First – the XBox Show. It was alright – no better or worse than Sony’s showcase. It had the brands, the variety, and plenty of interesting and cool ideas and genres. I mean, yeah, we all got blueballed by that Fable teaser at the end but I suppose if we’re still letting Nintendo off the hook with that Metroid Prime 4 teaser, we’ve got to let Microsoft have this one. Particularly as the single joke it hinged on was a good one.
Secondly – I do realise that the Coronavirus has had a profound impact on the games industry; hell, a profound impact in general, remember I’ve been in hospital during this period and between chronic dehydration and some potent meds giving my brain a bit of a short-circuit, it’s at times felt like aliens have taken control of the world and I was being abducted (don’t ask, I blame the body armour and masks!). As such, I realise that a lot of video game projects are now months behind schedule, because it’s harder for some projects to take their work home with them.
(Also, because Crunch, I’d prefer some of these people DIDN’T take their work home with them. Just a thought.)
BUT – we’ve gotta talk.
Console Generation 9 is, if logic stands to reason and these new devices launch at the tail-end of November (like is traditional for them), twelve weeks away – four short months. And what do we know of this mythical next-gen experience? So far, surprisingly little. Oh we’ve seen the boxes, and got a small sneak peek at a little gameplay, but the important stuff such as price, regional availability and launch software? Well, Sony and Microsoft couldn’t be more vague if they tried.
And don’t look away from all those non-gameplay, CG-Driven trailers in these presentations that had absolutely no release date on them. As I said at the start, Nintendo did this not only with Metroid Prime 4 – which they took back to the drawing board for some reason – but also with a little thing we saw this past week with Shin Megami Tensei 5. The first we saw of that game was a small CG Teaser back in January of 2017 when Nintendo held their live reveal of the Nintendo Switch, meaning it’s been three and a half YEARS just to get… a fractional look at a bit of content and another vague release date of 2021.
Equally, there’s still a massive debate raging over retail costs for games. 2K and EA appear to be putting their prices up, UbiSoft appears to be saying no – but at the end of the day, even THIS debate shouldn’t be happening. The information and indeed, grounding for this is vague as all hell and once again, there’s surprisingly little clarity over something that could in theory be a huge bugbear for many consumers in the long term.
Right now, the marketing for Gen-9 is messy and confused and neither Sony nor Microsoft fanboys should be dismissing their chosen companies own muddled directions in this scenario.
That’s not to say that it will fail – I’ve repeatedly pointed out even the disaster that was the Wii U sold 3+ million in its opening gambit, so whatever the mixed messaging we get in the next few months – these potentially expensive boxes -will- fly off the shelves. If they do not, then there is going to be a massive panic in the industry and no-one will be able to escape the event horizon of that fiscal black hole, not even Nintendo.
However, this is a market that dismissed the Wii U as being “confusing” and Microsoft’s opening for the XBox One as “frustrating”. In comparison, I’d take both of those with a hearty ‘may I have some more?’ because whilst both being misguided, I at least understood their ideas even if I didn’t agree with them. How can we mock two of Gen-8’s failures and not sit here and realise that Gen-9’s opening makes all of that look like a five year old’s birthday party?
Sony and Microsoft have similar problems – what they’ve shown is nice enough, with brands that people will care about for different reasons. Sony is doubling down on its Japanese aesthetics and Microsoft is focusing on its Western roots for the most part, and that’s actually awesome. To paraphrase GameIndustry, how can this be a console “war” when both combatants are on different landmasses and on different planets in totally different solar systems?
And yet, that might be the most deflating part of all. They’re not trying to top each other, they’re just trying to carve out their own new niche in this market. In theory, that should be amazing and it should (in theory) drive more people to buy both consoles and enjoy the broadest amount of available content. Then the spectre of how much that will cost in the long run looms large overhead. All the ingredients for a massive console war showdown… and yet none of that drive from the industry itself.
Four months away and with questions arising over how much stock will be available and how you’ll even get these machines… Nintendo gave us five months, but we had known about the “Nintendo NX” for more than a year before we actually saw the thing. Even for the XBox One and PlayStation 4, we knew of them a good eight or so months in advance and no-one was shy on the details (even if Don Mattrick perhaps should have been).
I don’t want to hate on Gen-9; I’m a gamer, and a blogger, and of course these things tickle my fancy in different ways. I want Demon’s Souls AND I want Fable. That’s awesome! Both companies have something I want to play! I have the 4K television, after all!
… but if it’s going to cost me almost/over a thousand British pounds to buy two games consoles for two games with currently no gameplay or release date? I want to know what it is exactly I’m buying into on the ground level before getting to what I want to see.
Sony and Microsoft are fast running out of time to meet their 2020 release dates. And if they’re not careful, they’ll run out of everyone else’s patience.