Sunday, February 12, 2012

Fights you cannot win

I suppose I should offer up at least some bit of explanation regarding my abject dismissal of the 'Xbox Tablet' beyond Mr. Horse. To do so I am going to need to reference one of the greatest (fictional) scientists of our time: Dr. Ian Malcolm.

'Yeah, but your scientists were so preoccupied with whether they could that they didn't stop to think if they should.'

God help us, we are in the hands of engineers.
Video games have a long history of trotting out new ideas before anyone bothers to think about how much fun they will actually be to use and if they will add anything to the experience. Nintendo specifically is more willing to jump out on a financial limb with new, bizarre products. Sometimes it is an absolute flop.

Sometime they are more middle of the road, only finding a modicum of success after a hefty price correction that screws early adopters.

And sometimes, well, they hit the jackpot.

I will never fault Nintendo for trying new and crazy things, mostly because I am not their target audience and will not be subjected to their arrogant flights of fancy. Their success, however unpredictable and fleeting, draws imitators. Sony's Move was a laughable Wii ripoff. At least Kinect tried to be different, but I maintain that all of this technology is still not ready for the prime time. It adds nothing to a game beyond calisthenics and Facebook black mail ammunition. The lack of true, real time one to one movement recognition and any sort of physical feedback relegates all of it to gaming sideshows. 

Of course the second best selling game for the holiday season last year was Just Dance 3, which puts a great big money hat on my argument and sends it to the corner. Seriously, who plays this stuff?

The next generation of hardware is much closer than I want to admit and it remains to be seen if this is the generation that finally deserts the main stream. It should be noted that the numbers one and three games of the same time period were Call of Duty: Again and Elder Scroll: Skyrim. I am probably worrying over nothing.


Microsoft has already hinted that their new hardware is going to come packaged with an updated version of Kinect. The definitive version, actually. It will be what they wanted Kinect to be in the first place but no one would pay for. That's fine, I can just not use it. As motion centered as the new dashboard is the controller still works just as one would expect it to. It is the leak of the tablet controller that has me the most worried. First off because it appears to be once again chasing Nintendo, and secondly, because this has already been done, at least to a lesser extent. Remember these?

Used for about two or three games, most notably as the health meter in Resident Evil: Code Veronica. Sounds good at first, it saves screen real estate for other things. If you think about it just a little harder, and realize that seeing how much health you have requires you to look away from the screen where zombies are trying to kill you it suddenly is not that cool anymore. The Wii U controller and Microsoft's Xbox tablet are high resolution VMU's with touch screens, both chasing a market that they have no reason to chase and have no chance at putting a dent into, anyway. Yes, I am talking about Ipads.

Ipads a little more than toys right now, but they won't stay that way. They are already capable of putting out graphics on par with the current systems. Who knows what the next ones will do. Making the same thing just a bit better is Apple's game, they have made billions doing it, and now Microsoft and Nintendo are trying to get their piece. 

What the gaming companies should do is to continue to put out dedicated gaming devices capable of running games that look and play better than the games running on non-gaming devices. What they are actually doing is taking their dedicated gaming devices and making them look less like what they are, blending in with the smart phone and tablet competition instead of highlighting what makes them different and what they can do better. I don't want to play Angry Birds (or Just Dance, for that matter) on my dedicated gaming machine. I want to play things that won't work on a phone or tablet, things that benefit from big ass televisions and over priced sound systems. I want to play epic games that take hundreds of hours to complete, games that are so strange that I do not want to be seen playing them, games that just don't work when viewed from the palm of my hand.

I am not afraid of change, I am just not a fan of change for its own sake, especially when it doesn't improve on what I already have.

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