While the launch of two new consoles is an exciting event, this one has been slightly marred by marketing departments using inane buzzwords to hype up frantic fans until there is nothing left but over-expectations and broken hearts. It has become a bombastic practice that often leaves companies in a bigger hole than where they started, as fans and critics peel away the poor PR paint job to uncover a myriad of lies and deceit. Here are a few words to cry BS at.
There is a common phrase in filmmaking when something goes wrong during production. “Don’t worry, we’ll fix it in post-production.” Say it enough times and suddenly you find yourself redoing the entire film in post, costing significant amounts of time and money. Yet, when I hear about “The Cloud,” I can’t help but interchange it into that sentence.
“This level isn’t working right.”
“Don’t worry, we’ll fix it in The Cloud.”
Is the Xbox One technically less powerful than the PlayStation 4? Don’t worry, “performance increases” will come via The Cloud. Microsoft’s Jeff Henshaw told OXM it will boost the “local performance threefold,” delivering the performance push of three Xbox One systems. They should have called it the Xbox Trio. The biggest issue here is that if this is accurate, and developers design games on this basis, what happens when an Internet signal is lost? My wi-fi drops several times a day, and I have a decent supplier in a big city.
Sony too has been playing up the monumental importance of the Almighty Cloud, but they have yet to detail any concrete plans beyond the ability to stream PS3 games through their Gaikai service. However, given that it has been announced that the average PS4 game weighs in at a whopping 40GB, it is likely any streaming would only work with a physical game or significant installation first.
The fact that “The Cloud” has now become a laughing stock in comment sections around the Internet should be an indicator to marketing companies that actions speak louder than vaporous words.
Let me just state: Nothing is future-proof.
This one came directly from Albert Penello, Director of Xbox Product Planning. Yet for all that this terrible PR clip tries to achieve, it certainly does nothing to prove the future-proof label Microsoft has slapped on the side of their bulky console. The over-arching consensus seems to be that out of the box, the PlayStation 4 is more powerful than the Xbox One. Cloud Smouhd.
Consoles have a half-life, and this generation will be no different. These companies can try and extend that for longer than the last, but then they open themselves up to competition. Given the pitiful sales of Nintendo’s Wii U, one would expect the longevity of that console to be significantly less than its later-arriving rivals. That could mean Nintendo may release a new home console in four or five years, while Sony and Microsoft continue to ride their new stallions for years until they are flogging a dead horse.
A note to PR people: just because something is “new” does not immediately make it “innovative.” I just poured myself an afternoon cup of tea (yes, I’m British)… it is not an innovative leap in tea-making from the one I made this morning.
So no, the next generation consoles are not innovative. They both look very new and shiny, and have lots of beautiful games, but there is nothing remarkably new regarding either the Xbox One or PlayStation 4 (save for “The Cloud”). Yes, the controllers have been tweaked, but by degrees, not an evolutionary leap. Their innards have been upgraded, but both have moved further in line with PC gaming. In fact, according to Sony’s lengthy PS4 FAQ, the company has confirmed that the PS4 cannot play MP3s, music CDs, or be used to stream movies or TV shows from your PC. This makes it look like a massive step backwards for the console, not an innovative leap forward.
If you want innovative, go buy a Wii U. Nintendo has at least sat down and thought about how we play games, and offered a second screen to compliment the gaming experience, a feature that, in my opinion, is great for things like maps, inventories, and gameplay in titles such as The Wonderful 101.
Again, another Microsoft one, courtesy of Something Awful. With the Xbox One, Microsoft is not only waging a war against Sony, but also Apple and Google, doing everything they can to make sure they are crowned King of the Connected Space. Sony, with its lack of streaming home media files from a computer, has already abdicated the throne, although the delightful little “Share” button may see it well in terms of social connectivity. If only they had put it somewhere on the DualShock 4 I might be able to reach it.
While I do appreciate being able to watch Netflix and other services via my consoles, many Smart TVs already come with this feature… for free. Microsoft is not adding anything that hasn’t existed for years already, save for forcing people to use Bing, and allowing the Xbox to be activated by voice or gesture commands via Kinect. The ability to turn the Xbox One off by voice should provide years of fun for everyone except the person playing.
Frenemy: “Xbox off.”
In fact, Kinect is the only true connected experience, because originally, unless it was plugged in, the console would not work. Given the post-Snowden state the modern world finds itself in, having a mandatory camera in my living room is not something that fills me with confidence. Indeed, the Xbox One may serve to connect you better with your government than your friends. Yes, Microsoft has reversed the “mandatory” part of the Xbox One + Kinect combo (along with countless other mandatory requirements). But how long will it be until Microsoft pulls a 360 and changes that back again?
Credit is due to Andrew House, who often manages to deliver a sense of genuine yet grounded passion when acting as the face of the PlayStation brand. However, during the PlayStation 4 “reveal” back in February, where the console was not actually shown, he managed to push the concept of the PlayStation “Ecosystem.” By this he meant that the Vita will work with the PlayStation 4 via the PS Link, and allow the Vita to stream certain PS4 games and act as a second screen.
So the Wii U GamePad then.
Just for clarity:
Ecosystem (noun): A biological community of interacting organisms and their physical environment.
The PS4/Vita combo is not an ecosystem. It’s using a handheld with an actual console. It’s symbiosis, maybe, but not synergy, which is a word that should die a thousand deaths.
Welcome to the Next Gen
There is no question that these brand spanking new consoles will sell bucket loads, but the problem is overselling them. The last generation saw many fans lashing back against poorly made, buggy games, daylight-robbing DLC and always-online gaming. If Microsoft or Sony’s stable of marketers promised gamers the moon only to flash their bare buttocks, they may find themselves trapped in a nightmare filled with vocal, vengeful fans.