Editorial: Can Video Game Consoles Just Play Games?
Do you remember when video games just played video games? Oh, the nostalgia of putting in that bulky chunk of plastic in your Nintendo Entertainment System, and then blowing on the cartridge until it played.
So many spoons and old gamersâ€™ tales used to make that thing run.
But aside from playing video games, how much else should a video game player do? Is browsing the internet really something you need to do on a system designed to play video games?
Itâ€™s novel, indeed, to be able to see the five day weather forecast or search through Google on your Wii. But how useful is it when it comes down to actually using the feature? Let’s not mention the issue of router compatability, but say youâ€™re going out to a movie and want to look up showtimes. If youâ€™re playing your Wii it might make sense to switch over to the web browser and see if you can come up with some listings. But are you ever going to choose to flip on your Wii over your computer to hook up on a forum or catch up on the latest gamer news?
Itâ€™s awkward, bulky, and when it comes down to functionality, itâ€™s not all that functional. It seems to be a little more useful than, say, playing WoW on your iPhone, but less useful than trying to toast bread with a spatula over a burner. And this goes for all the next-gen consoles, not just the Wii.
People have gotten used to being able to play music and store data on their consoles like cute little mini-computers, and the way you were able to play your own tracks in Grand Theft Auto was priceless. Nothing said customizable like being able to bump Gin â€˜n Juice while running over pedestrians. But is there ever going to come a point to where weâ€™re going to plan not to buy a stereo separate from our video game consoles, or where we decide against getting a new computer because weâ€™ve got what we need on our PS3?
Rob Fahey gave a great bit of analysis in a recent article where he wrote, â€œSony’s strategy here, it seems, is to add functionality until a tipping point is reached where the device has enough desirable elements that consumers can use to justify the purchase to themselves.â€
But itâ€™s not just Sony, itâ€™s all the consoles, and itâ€™s annoying. With the Wii it seems a little bit more friendly, like thereâ€™s a cartoon-ish novelty and self-realization about the system that doesnâ€™t quite demand the â€œchoose me and only meâ€ attitude. It seems to me that it might be better to throw more money and marketing into the games rather than try to sway people by trying to see a video game system as more than it actually is.
Take for instance the GTAIV effect. An entire industry was affected by one game, and the effects were pretty far reaching. Stock values and the industry market were all changed, and all because the release date was moved up six months. This is because itâ€™s the actual medium of the industry, not browsing or chatting or burning DVDs.
Maybe one day weâ€™ll all gather around the newest Microsoft creation to watch the latest piece of Jerry Bruckheimer crap on the latest disc technology, and absent all this is a stand-alone system designed to watch movies. The integration will have come together with consumer satisfaction and we all will love our one-device-doing-it-all.
For now, let the consoles play games and focus on how to make that a richer experience. Xbox Live was a great step forward for Microsoft, and that’s a great reason to hook up to the internet. Nintendo is trying to reinvent gameplay, which of course has drawn many new people into the world of gaming. Sonyâ€¦ made a Blu-ray disc player. I guess itâ€™s not bad, but itâ€™s hardly revolutionary.