Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Me and the new boxes

Over the weekend I stopped by a GameStop on the off chance they would be willing to take my money in exchange for a guarantee of one of the new systems coming out later this year. They would not, but the manager recognized me immediately and struck up a conversation. It has been at least five years since I left that company and I still cannot walk into any of the stores in my area without someone knowing who I am. Hell, if the store happens to have a been an EB odds are I opened it and ran it for a time. I don't miss it, as I enjoy not working nights, weekends and holidays, but running a game store was something that I was good at. Had they compensated me fairly I might have never left.

This particular manager was sticking around until the next batch of consoles was done and then moving on. I can't blame him, though I almost told him the story of how I passed on my launch day Xbox 360 to cover shortages and didn't get it for a few weeks. It would have crushed him. He had the same excitement that I have, though, and we shared a brief giddy moment in which rumors were rebuffed, bank account shortages lamented, and not wanting to wait in line outside, overnight in November, assuming that is when they come out. GameStops are still good for something: if you catch the right one and the right people are working and the district manager isn't there you can have a good conversation about games.

Console releases have been hit or miss for me. I bought a PlayStation several months after release, and only then because I got a job at Blockbuster and could rent games for free. That job paid for an N64 at launch, but that was a pretty big bust: I bought the console with no games and it stayed that way until Doom 64 came out. By the time the PlayStation 2 came out I was working as an assistant manager for EB. My manager was a bit loose with the rules so I got to take mine home several days before the street date, but don't tell anyone.

Wait, I skipped one: Dreamcast. 9/9/99. My birthday. Was working at Blockbuster still, so I had a reserve at my local Babbage's. There was still a line, but it was a great line to be in. No stress, no worrying about getting a console. Just a bunch of nerds in a line, talking about what launch titles they were going to get. My people.

The Gamecube was the last Nintendo system that I took seriously. By then I was back at EB and had to deal with the near simultaneous launch of that and the Xbox. Being young and naive, I dismissed Microsoft's intrusion into Sony and Nintendo's world. Six months later, when the Dreamcast died, I traded in my re-cased, black DC and N64 to pay for one. It was a betrayal that it took quite a while to forgive myself for. But that is where the games were. It was change it how I treated the hobby that has followed me since. Go where the games I want to play are. Discard previous allegiances.

Moving from company loyalist to platform agnostic explains my falling out with Nintendo and embrace of Microsoft. My first 360 (there have been four) came home a few weeks after launch. The 60 gig launch PS3 that still graces my entertainment center made it home the same way. I have never owned a Wii, nor will I ever own a WiiU, though Monolift Soft's refusal to port their JRPG's to grown up systems is putting a strain on that decision. Having those two systems and a mediocre PC allows  me to play the vast majority of games that I want to play.

This year is a little different. While I am very much looking for to PlayStation 4 and neXtBox I am terrified by what they may represent. If this generation does kill the used and rental market they way I play games will once again be changed. There is no way I could afford to purchase all of the games that I want to play. GameFly is my only option. Should GameFly cease to function, what then? Before GameFly I purchased and traded back games at a frightening rate. This made me one of my own best customers but made zero fiscal sense. This, too, may no longer work. I don't trust either company to compensate for taking something as important as being able to resell a game with lowering prices. This means that a lot of good and most of the bad games will just not be played, and that breaks my heart.

But this won't happen, right? Sony will announce things tomorrow, the system will be a single sku release priced at $400, Microsoft will follow suit, and all will be right with the world.

Sure, and while I am wishing for things that won't happen, both systems will feature perfect backwards compatibility, my arcade still will still work, my Rock Band DLC will transfer over, and 4K televisions will drop in price fast enough for me to buy one. Hope springs eternal.

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