With Halo Infinite delayed, along with many other games, including much of the Ubisoft suite, there is a growing concern about the next generation of consoles.
When the Xbox 360 and the PS3 came out in 2005 (and the highest selling Nintendo Wii the following year), who could have predicted that we would be holding onto those consoles for almost a decade. Sure, some differing iterations of the consoles arose later with the Xbox 360, and even the previous generations of consoles before that received some updates (the fabulous PS2 slim comes to mind). But for a long time, console gamers were “stuck” with just one.
Of course, as a young game player, I never felt the concept of “stuck” at all, because the Xbox 360 was really a sort of apex of gaming for me. From the Halo series to the emerging Call of Duty games, to the exploratory stories of Grand Theft Auto IV, L.A. Noire, and Mass Effect, not to mention odd titles like Heavy Rain, and the introduction of indie titles thanks to the Xbox Live Arcade, it seemed as if there were more styles of games than ever before. Where many niche games had been restricted to PC, it now seemed as if consoles finally could jump into the action.
I remember watching my friends who had the console with envy as they played through Dead Rising, or had the chance to play Halo 2 without the awkward texture pop-in. It wasn’t until I got a refurbished Xbox 360 a year later, after saving up money at a hardware store working for $5.15 an hour that I was able to play Elder Scrolls: Oblivion to my heart’s content.
Half a year later I suffered the fated “red ring of death.”
But what I’m forgetting, in the midst of all that waiting, is that perhaps I was saved the headache of having a console with nothing to play (or a broken console in total).
Launch Title Dilemma
U.S. launch: November 22, 2005 (Xbox 360)
- Amped 3
- Call of Duty 2
- Condemned: Criminal Origins
- FIFA ’06: Road to FIFA World Cup
- Kameo: Elements of Power
- Madden NFL 06
- NBA 2K6
- NBA Live 06
- Need for Speed: Most Wanted
- NHL 2K6
- Perfect Dark Zero
- Peter Jackson’s King Kong
- Project Gotham Racing 3
- Quake 4
- Ridge Racer 6
- Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2006
- Tony Hawk’s American Wasteland
Above, here is a tentative list of the available launch titles for the Xbox 360. One of the most successful consoles had little to show in the form of prowess for games that hold up today.
Many of these games I did see…a little too much as a matter of fact.
People tried to talk up Kameo: Elements of Power as a great video game, when really it amounted to a very pretty technical showcase with some metroidvania style navigation.
Perfect Dark Zero was a great first game for single player shooting, as the bots and guns allowed for plenty of replayability (like its predecessor) but the sluggish movement, intense motion blur, and awkward adoption of things like the incremental zoom in with the trigger made the game almost impossible to compete with the Halo series, a much faster iteration on multiplayer arena shooting.
In fact, the only strong outing here seems to be sports and…extreme sports.
It is in this context that I would like to pose my thesis for this blog post.
The best console on the market right now is the console you already own.
Sometimes in the history of gaming, consoles get lucky. Whether it was the original Halo with the Xbox, Super Mario 64 with the Nintendo 64, or Super Mario World with the Super Nintendo, there are moments when a game earns the right to be played immediately.
And in my opinion, the best console launch ever might be the Atari 7800, with classics like Dig Dug, Galaga, Joust, Ms. Pacman, and Centipede. Many writers even discuss the now infamously difficult Robotron: 2084.
But looking at the list of launch titles throughout history, the reaction I had was sobering. Very few consoles managed to not only time the research and design, the prototype models for developers, the manufacturing logistics, and the marketing of new software, in order to adequately have all clocks strike the same second.
Here we are now in a very similar predicament. And these consoles could not have arrived at a worse time. With coronavirus, we are stuck craving more entertainment than ever before, yet the workflow for entertainment releases has been bifurcated. Gaming, which seems at first glance to be perfect for working at a distance, turns out to be totally imploding as developers both big and small admit in release logs, blog posts, and patch notes, that this virus infects not only our bodies, but our digital spaces as well.
So in a stunning display of madness, the Xbox Series X may be releasing with Gears Tactics. There is a game called The Medium, a cinematic horror experience, and is an attempt to snipe Silent Hill and Resident Evil fans away from Sony. but there is no guarantee that will come to pass.
And perhaps that is it?
Sony has a better set of launch titles, but it is anybody’s guess whether games like Godfall or Marvel’s Spiderman Miles Morales have the clout. Games like Call of the Sea and Jett: The Far Shore are indie niche titles, and will not have legs to carry the new hardware.
The rest of the games are updated versions of what people already play, which brings us to backwards compatibility. Xbox has the lead over PS5 for offering the widest assortment of games to play from the past. But as much as I like the nostalgia of backwards compatibility, video gaming is difficult to be nostalgic about for too long. Many people, myself included, put the disc in and play it to “get a feel” for the game. Unless there is some future proofing in the realm of framerate, loading times, or graphical output (similar to the Halo treatment of the Master Chief Collection on PC), nostalgia is very difficult to pull off except for the very distant gaming experience.
This is why the NES and SNES mini sold like hotcakes. Combined with artificial scarcity, nostalgia is about timing too…
So what do we have here? We have all the components of what looks to be another ten year run. The PS5 and Xbox series X has made a leap, especially in data storage, that makes it a good system to carry us a long way, similar to the Xbox 360, PS3 era. We also have economic instability as a strong likelihood, similar to the great recession of 2008.
And we have a pandemic for the foreseeable future.
Which means that there is a big chance that these consoles will be here to stay for a long time.
But, paradoxically, all these problems have made the consoles the least prepared to capitalize on it.
It may be tempting to be a day one purchaser of these new consoles. But if pricing is revealed to be $500 or more, is that the kind of spending you want to do?
Understandably, the Xbox 360 took some time to drop in price, though the many sales by businesses help spur that along. So what I have to say here could be taken with a grain of salt.
In my opinion, the best console is the one you have now, but there are plenty of scenarios where this turns out not to be true at all.
Are you a Game Pass playing Xbox user? You can’t go wrong with an update, especially if you own an Xbox One S.
Are you a Playstation 4 heartthrob with hundreds of hours in single player, story-based experiences? The Playstation 5 will be your next logical step.
Are you a dedicated Destiny 2 player? Is that your only game in 2020? An upgrade could do you a lot of good to cut down on the frequent load times.
Are you a parent with a child distant learning at home? And are all his/her friends getting the same console, leaving you with a feeling of F.O.M.O? Will you succumb to the consumerism at hand in a miserable time for the economy?
There are plenty of opportunities that fall through the cracks in my argument. But my overall assumption I’d like to point out is this: very few consoles hit the ground running, and it is no different with these consoles. Not only that, these consoles are fated to be anemic for a long time, until either the pandemic ends, or until companies can find better workflows under these conditions, or if a surprise indie title grabs our attention. These are unlikely to happen.
Take your own thoughts seriously, as well as your habits.