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Why is no one making video game consoles anymore?

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Retro consoles

No, this is not an exaggeration – like when overenthusiastic parents tell us to reach for the skies, knowing full well our inability to fly.

I mean that companies seem to have this new obsession for creating “multimedia centres” rather than video game consoles – and the two are “somewhat” mutually exclusive. They salivate rabidly as they unreel almost fanatical manifestos about “owning the living room”.

Companies no longer divert all (or at least the lion’s share) of their attention to the gaming aspect of consoles.

One is not naïve enough to think that if you utilise so-and-so hardware in developing the multimedia features of a console, then in an axially corresponding fashion, graphics become deprived.

Rather, one is referring to the more intangible resources poured into the creation of games and consoles – time, refinement, creativity and the like. Also, when I say “one”, I mean myself – just in case the queen is reading, I’d like to make her feel welcome.

I began gaming on the Commodore 64, before my limbs could rival its joystick for length. Not that this makes me a better person but testing is on-going as to the verification of that suspicion.

Maybe this is why I expect huge graphical and artistic leaps between generations of games. My journey went C64-SNES-PSone-PS2-Xbox360-PS3-Xbox360 (I fell on my head and made some funny decisions between my two Xbox stints). The improvements between those generations of consoles were, generally, exponential.

And I’m aware of the law of diminishing returns – the leaps in earlier stages of development will always be greater – however, I can’t help but feel disappointed in the latest generation of consoles. We we’re promised roided-up, vascular juggernauts but instead got vitamin-popping natural bodybuilders.

I thought I was the only one who felt this way until I heard a few people voicing the same opinion. I can’t help but wonder whether we’d have ended up with far more graphically and artistically titillating experiences on the Xbox One and PS4, had all of their creators’ time and concentration been diverted to just the development of gaming.

For the first time in my life, I didn’t upgrade to the new generation of consoles as soon as I possibly could. I have experienced both the PS4 and Xbox One and, in terms of the games, both have left me underwhelmed. Like returning to a normal pizza after trying one with a hotdog stuffed in its crust. ’Murica! Yeah! (Sorry, Americans).

Sure, I can command my Xbox to switch on, set myself on my sofa and feel like Thor commanding an army of Asgardians – but then what? My illusions of grandeur will come quickly crashing down when I realise I’m only playing a “slightly better Xbox360”.

I don’t see the use of cramming my console with the ability to become a mobile cinema/gig rig/guitar amplifier/Transformers film set. I watch Netflix on my laptop, listen to music through my sound system and avoid bad action films by the power of my good judgement.

I know this article will split opinions. Some will disagree with me strongly and, if I’m lucky, maybe I’ll get death threats. But I can’t be the only one who wants a games console that’s a master of its trade and a jack of none?

I might just go back to PC gaming. Bye, everyone. Bye, Queen.

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Timi has cultivated a healthy hatred for mankind from playing too many games, reading too much existential philosophy and listening to Radiohead for marathon stretches of time.

3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Daniel

    27th January 2014 at 4:15 pm

    I can honestly say that everything you’ve said I’ve been thinking. I’m sick of seeing adverts focus on the fact that you can play films on your console. If I wanted to watch Star Trek: Into Darkness, I’d bloody well put it in the disc tray of whatever I have that can read it and play it. It should be a feature not a damn selling point.

    Same with all the NFL crap that was coming to the light on the road to release, even Americans must be thinking sarcastically ‘Gee, how the heck did I experience film and television before the Xbox one, thank Christ for this revolutionary DVD player!’

    Its a damn games console, make games on it, and furthermore, where are the next gen games?

  2. Sarwech

    27th January 2014 at 11:15 pm

    I do appreciate where you’re coming from with this. It feels like gaming has gone on a downward slope at the bottom of which is probable death by over affiliation with “entertainment”.

    But, if anything, the last generation (PS3, Xbox 360 and to a lesser extent the Wii) has taught us how the onslaught of entertainment isn’t going to kill our love for gaming. It’s not hard to suggest that the rise of subscription entertainment services like Netflix and Lovefilm helped create what we now know and love as PS Plus (free games are great all round).

    Not that I’ll actually get the time to play all those games…

  3. Timi Olotu

    29th January 2014 at 11:49 am

    Thanks for the comments, guys.

    Sarwech, it’s not that I think gaming is going to die, it’s that I think it’s malnourished (to continue the metaphor). The more resources that are diverted into “multimedia”, the less attention there is given to gaming.

    In terms of pervasiveness though, gaming, as a form of entertainment, is more widespread than ever. With the popularity of mobile devices, everyone’s a gamer these days. It’s the outer limits of the quality of our gaming experience that I’m worried about.

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