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Consoleation: A generation of disappointment

Peter Skerritt's picture

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 Screenshot

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us...

A Tale of Two Cities

The console video game industry, in my eyes,  has never before so accurately fit such a quote. There have been a lot of advancements and positives for console gaming over the course of this console generation. Many games sport high-definition graphics and top-notch sound. Online play gives players the option to be social with friends all over the globe, if they so choose. There have been incredible experiences like seeing Rapture for the first time in BioShock or scaling Gaia in God of War III. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare redefined first-person shooters for a generation. The rapid rise of social media has put the industry and its fans closer together than ever before.

Gradually, though, this generation's negatives and general anti-consumer trends have wiped out a lot of of those positives for me. After playing video games for so long and being such a dedicated player, fan, writer, and pundit… I'm reaching my breaking point as a consumer. Why is this the "Generation of Disappointment" for me? I present you with just a few of my reasons:

Pay more, get less

The era of downloadable content has led to a feeling of getting less content at the time of initial sale than ever. This is a change from publishers cramming as much content as possible onto discs in order to offer the fullest experience. Things like costumes and extra characters that used to be unlocked either during gameplay or by cheats have become pawns for extra money. Other extras are ransomed through various retailer-specific pre-order deals. It can be argued that these things aren't "necessary" for the full experience, but defenders are missing the point: These arguably would have been part of the experience a generation ago. Just look at Capcom's DLC strategy for its fighting games. Extra costumes and characters were able to be unlocked before this console generation… but now? We have to pay for them if we want them.

Devaluation of single-player

For me, video games have always been an escape of sorts. Working in customer service jobs for as long as I have, playing games was one way to keep the outside world at bay while enjoying myself. If I wanted to play with other people, I'd invite friends over or maybe go elsewhere. There was a better balance between single-player gaming and multiplayer gaming, but that's been turned upside down in this console generation. You can't get away from multiplayer gaming now. Co-op this and deathmatch that. Why? That's easy: Online multiplayer means more copies sold because you need your friends to buy copies in order to play with them. Single-player games don't have as much alternate revenue potential, either. It's far easier to throw together a map pack than it is to build extra levels for solo games or add on to what's already there. A few games have bucked this trend, like BioShock 2 (with its Minerva's Den DLC) and Grand Theft Auto IV (with two complete extra episodes that use the assets of Liberty City as a backdrop), but these are exceptions—not standards. It's almost frowned upon to play games by yourself these days, and I strongly dislike being indirectly told by the industry that I'm "doing it wrong". Heck, even those sequels had multiplayer added despite their single-player lineage.

Rage Screenshot

War on used games

For generations, consumers have had the chance to recoup some of the money spent on games by way of selling them or trading them in. Maybe the games were beaten and had little replay value. Maybe the players grew out of the gaming phase. Maybe consumers didn't have enough money to afford that new game or new console and wanted to curtail that cost a little bit. Before GameStop, people sold their games at tag sales, flea markets, pawn shops, independent game stores, and smaller chains like FuncoLand, Babbage's, and Electronics Boutique. Selling or trading in games was part of the console gaming economy. Now? It's tantamount to piracy if you ask certain people who work in the console gaming industry or any self-appointed member of the Industry Defense Force. The industry finally has the technology to go to war on used games, although the fact that no money goes back to the industry when used games are sold is nobody's fault but the industry's own. Now multiplayer gaming is behind pay walls for those who buy used and resale values are diminished. Some single-player content, like in Rage, will be locked unless you buy new. Instead of giving consumers reasons to buy new, it punishes those who look to save a bit of money and buy used. Online Passes also punish those who buy new, too. One-time use codes can mean no online if you bring the game to a buddy's house—or even use it in a second console in your own home. Perhaps the biggest blow is yet to come, as games transition from physical media to digital distribution. Soon, there won't be any resale value for games at all. You bought it, you beat it, you're stuck with it—erase it or keep it. All of this… because the industry was arguably short-sighted. All of this over the course of this console generation. That's a big disappointment right there.

Online or bust

While the last console generation introduced players to the advantages of online gaming, this generation has aggressively adopted online connectivity as a must-have. When it works, constant connectivity can be a service as patches can be distributed (although Day One patches make me scratch my head) and hardware updates can add (or subtract) features for a console. When it fails, though, the real problem with online gaming as Sony and Microsoft have dictated it to be shines through. When Xbox Live or the PlayStation Network goes down, so does the forced element of online multiplayer modes for so many games. With single-player modes in so many games over this console generation lasting around four hours, what happens when you beat that and the service isn't back yet… or if your internet service provider is having issues? You're out of luck, that's what happens. Some games even become worthless without online connectivity, like Final Fight: Double Impact for the PlayStation 3. These online services and internet service providers are not infallible, but there's not much recourse for players when they do break. You get a big, "Oh, well…" or "Stuff happens." That's comforting, isn't it? Not to me, it isn't. Instead, I go back to my PlayStation 2, which works even if my ISP doesn't. This is suddenly a strange concept.

Putting the cart before the horse

Trumpeting downloadable content before the release of the game that the content is for is a terrible trend. I still haven't heard a valid reason as to why this is an acceptable practice. Sure, DLC (in theory) can extend the replay value of a game and can be used as a tool to persuade consumers to keep a game instead of trading it in, but what's the point of telling everyone months before release what it is that they won't be getting for their fully-priced purchase? If these things didn't make  it into the development schedule, I guess that's one thing… but sit on an announcement until release day. And DLC on release day? Awful. As a consumer, there's no reason for me to believe that content shouldn't have been on the disc to begin with.

No more manuals

One of my favorite rituals when buying a game used to be checking out the instruction manual. I could read about the gameplay modes, the characters, the basic storyline, and sometimes even get a few hints to get me started. There were times that I'd keep the manual close by when playing certain games. Fighting games have move lists, and it was easy to gloss over my character's moves in-between matches. Some other games have actions mapped to certain buttons or move combinations and it was easy to pause the game and glance at the manual for how to execute those actions. This generation has begun the extinction process for instruction manuals. The industry cites this move as an Earth-friendly one, but admits that there's a certain cost-cutting benefit to it. Meanwhile, consumers like myself see none of those benefits and are forced to quit out of our games to access the manual on-disc, then navigate the on-screen menus to find something that we could have found much easier if we had the manual in our hands to begin with. Games are still $60, by the way, so that cost-cutting is all for corporate gain while consumers lose. Again.

It WILL break

Before this console generation, I've never really had much concern about my consoles breaking or malfunctioning. My original PlayStation had an overheating problem back in '96 where full-motion video would skip; I eventually replaced it. Aside from that, I've never had a problem. This console generation gave me a malfunctioning Wii in 2008 (faulty video card popped random pixels onto my screen) and I'm waiting for my Xbox 360 to stop working. It's a near-certainty. This is a new (and unpleasant) experience, waiting for the inevitable like this. When my unit takes 5 minutes to bring up my Game Library or only displays my Achievement List when it feels like it, I worry. When my disc drive sounds like a C-5A cargo plane, I worry. When this console goes—and it will—that will make two faulty units in the span of three years. That's after only one failure in 18 years and over 10 different platforms. This is the console generation where we just expect to replace our hardware instead of being surprised when it happens.

Fruit Ninja Kinect Screenshot

Motion controls and 3D

I understand that motion controls allow for a new kind of interactivity when playing games. Heck, I like bowling when playing Wii Sports; it's as close to doing the real thing as I've experienced without a ball, shoes, and a trip to the local lanes. I also enjoy playing games while relaxing on my couch after a long day, but the industry apparently thinks that this isn't as cool anymore. I'm expected to now stand up and waggle away to burn calories and accomplish an on-screen action that used to be as easy as pressing a button. Who plays games that way anymore? Apparently, lots of people do, because the motion control kick that Microsoft and Sony are attempting to shove down our throats isn't quite the runaway success that they were hoping for. Of course, the lack of acceptance isn't stopping them for sticking with it and continuing to bombard us with dancing games, exercise simulations, and games with motion controls that don't need them in the first place. Motion controls are popular, basically, because the industry tells us that motion controls are popular… and not because it's reality. The same thing can be said for this ridiculous emphasis on 3D. Despite the fact that only a handful of consumers have (or can afford) 3D displays and despite the fact that 3D on the 3DS has been so coolly received, we're still getting bombarded with it. It's the future, apparently, whether we like it or not.

I understand that the industry is going to change and "evolve" whether I like it or not. I've been playing video games for well over three decades, and I've seen changes that I've liked and disliked. I adapted when arcade games jumped from one token to two or more tokens per play. I adapted as controllers became more complicated and button-heavy, from one joystick and one button to two sticks and ten buttons. I adapted to loading time when games went from cartridge media to discs. I've made peace with getting burned by purchases like the 3DO, 32X, and Dreamcast, and look back on them fondly rather than with anger or resentment.

Sadly, the confidence, trust, and faith that I used to have in the console gaming industry have all but vanished, and it's at least partially related to anti-consumer trend that's clearly been in effect for much of the last few years. The things that I've documented in this piece are just a few examples of what's bothered me, but I'm overreacting.

I complain too much.

I apparently don't understand how business works.

I have to adapt or get passed by.

I'm a pirate, or, at least, an accessory to legal piracy.

All I can hope for is that, with the dawn of a new console generation, more positive and fewer punitive changes will be in the offing. Perhaps we can resume a period of expansion and inclusion, like we saw when console gaming was at its peak and more people were swayed to it because it was affordable and offered unique and fun experiences. Perhaps we'll emerge from the "Generation of Disappointment" with lessons learned and a new vision.

I guess time will tell.

Category Tags
Platform(s): Xbox 360   Wii   PS3   3DS   Nintendo DS   PSP   PC  
Articles: Editorials   Columns  
Topic(s): Business   Game Design & Dev  

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Great article. I largely

Great article. I largely agree with everything you say here. The only thing I'd add is the ghettoization of Japanese games over the past couple of years. While some of that can be attributed to Japanese developers failing to keep up with the times, I also think Japanese games have been largely devalued/ignored by publishers in favor of Western games that are easier to explain to the masses. Simplicity sells, unfortunately.

A well thought-out and

A well thought-out and deeply (delightfully) cynical look at the industry (if not always the products) I grow increasingly jaded towards. The problem we're facing right now is that video games have grown up (in terms of media muscle and cultural presence) and the industry seems hellbent on barreling progress towards a business model to appease shareholders rather than a legitimate creative medium.

I have no sympathy for publishers that try to justify the retail price of a game's development as anywhere near reasonable—films have budgets that can balloon well beyond the most expensive games to create (and, more importantly, can also have shoestring budgets at the cost of what's sure to be the well-known fact of lesser ticket sales); the industry does just fine. I'll be a much happier camper when and if the game industry as a whole realizes that its economic structure doesn't need to be so ironclad, because like it or not, games and film run on fairly similar parallel tracks. Commercialism could easily make or break what happens to games in the future, but I for one am tired of the bombastic garbage that nearly every game company does for their products. There's room for blockbuster shooting galleries as well as the quiet games that make you think; not everything needs to be determined solely by profit margin.

Needless to say, this article kind of made my blood boil a bit, so Peter, you've done your job. Perhaps if more people become less willing to accept whatever the industry oligarchy insist that we so desperately need, maybe some real change can be affected.

More positives

I certainly agree with you about all your gripes, though the sources are debatable. Also, I think there have been some other positives that you left out. Two, in particular, are the rise of indie development, and, tied to that, the incredible diversity and ingenuity of gaming experiences.

I can't think of any console from any previous generation that offered official independent titles. Undoubtedly, this was a long time coming and probably would've happened (and was happening) anyway on computers, but not on consoles. Luckily, the big three recognized the potential of these developers and gave them a place to share their craft. Of course, the industry never would have if they hadn't seen dollar signs on it, but the idea that an individual can create and share something beautiful and creative with millions is a great thing, and we have our corporate overlords to tentatively thank for that.

The ability for developers to create and distribute games without worrying about whether it will justify the sixty dollar price tag has given rise to an incredible diversity of games. Certainly, there have always been risk-taking studios willing to put out a really oddball game. However, I don't think we'd see our Portals, Limbos, and Braids were there not an effective distribution system for them.

It's still disappointing, but slightly less so.

In terms of devaluing the single player experience, I think there is plenty of blame to go around for that one. While it's true that "Online multiplayer means more copies sold because you need your friends to buy copies in order to play with them", it ignores the decade long push of consumers demanding more multi-player content. To me, Halo has done more damage to single-player gaming than almost anything else, all because it's multi-player mode was so good. First it was the shooters. Then it was strategy. Now, it's adventure, rpgs, platformers, and just about anything else you can think of. Why? Because the gaming community demanded it. They begged for it. And now you and I have to pay for it.

Good god, I'm depressed now.

I agree with much of what

I agree with much of what you've said here, but there are two points I have to argue.

"With single-player modes in so many games over this console generation lasting around four hours, what happens when you beat that and the service isn't back yet…"

This really only a problem with primarily multiplayer online shooters and short disposable singleplayer modes has always been a bit of a problem with them (See Quake and UT). The biggest recent change in this generation is the deprecation of single player bot modes (i.e. There is no longer any way to play multiplayer modes offline in most shooters). The only other major length shift in games this generation has been more of a genre shift from action-adventure games (which tended to last 15-25 hours) to cinematic action games (which usually last less than 10 hours)than anything else. If we define the genres correctly, game length has stayed largely the same.

"Before this console generation, I've never really had much concern about my consoles breaking or malfunctioning."

The only console this generation that had more than a normal malfunction rate that we've seen in past generations is the 360 (and the newer models have brought that down to levels that are acceptable). Despite your anecdote, this gen hasn't had worse hardware than usual (for example, I had my original NES fail, my PS2 fail, and my PSP fail, but nothing I own this generation has failed).

"One of my favorite rituals when buying a game used to be checking out the instruction manual. I could read about the gameplay modes, the characters, the basic storyline, and sometimes even get a few hints to get me started."

This is information that should be provided clearly in the game, the end of manuals has been a general positive for game design (forcing developers to teach gamers and make reference material easily accessible in-game rather than assuming we know these things by heart). This point seems to be mainly one of nostalgia.

Apart from that, these are great points. It's always hard for me to reconcile the number of amazing games that have come out this generation with how much I seem to be growing disenchanted with the industry. This posts puts a lot of those feelings into words.

Damn, I forgot to put my

Damn, I forgot to put my name for my last comment. >_

Then pay less god damn it!

"Pay more, get less"
I can't agree on the latter part, i think i'm getting a ton more quality than 20 years ago, but that is an opinion everybody can of course have on its own. But when i believe i get less why the hell would i or you pay more?
You paid 60$ for a SNES game and pay now 60$ for a 360 game you think is shittier? The error is then clearly on your side.
I payed sometimes up to 1300Schillings (about 100€) for a SNES game. Even older games got hardly cheaper and there was no onlineshopping. So either accept the price or leave it. Today i usually pay not more than 20€, occasionally 30€ for new console games sometimes already within 6 months after release, usually less than 10€ for PC games. No need for a used game market with those low prices. I pay a lot less and i strongly believe i get a ton more fun, since replaying most of the good old games let me realize that they suck today.

Pay less if you think you get less!

I think consoles are

I think consoles are breaking more as they are no longer made in Japan.

The consoles that are still kicking around have a big MADE IN JAPAN on them, while every new console and handheld I have says "Made In China" mind you they are still charging top dollar for these things while getting each console and handheld for pennies on the dollar.

It's never been any different

As always Mr Skerrit, a well written, well considered and thought provoking post.

However, the very fact that studios/publishers keep on churning out the derivative £40 multiplayer FPS with half it's content cut out on release, means there is very significant demand for it, which I think you underestimate.

Besides which, one pays for what one gets and no-one is forcing you to pay. Notwithstanding the fact that Amazon almost never offers new releases at full RRP and the fact that online prices tend to drop within weeks of release, with XBLA/PSN/Wiiware and the indie scene, product is available at every price point between £5 and £45. There IS choice and it is not as if the said derivative £40 FPS is stifling the industry.

A look at titles like Flower, Braid, World Of Goo, Limbo, From Dust, Portal, CastleCrashers etc etc (the list is large) tells you the creative side of the industry has indeed never been healthier, thriving in the ready made user-base subsidy that the blockbusters effectively provide.

Indeed, the blockbuster multiplayer titles aim to capture an entirely new market audience - those that actually specifically play games for the multiplayer - but that is not to say the old audience has been neglected. A quick analysis shows that this may not be so. The offering of XBLA and its Sony/Nintendo/indie stablemates simply reflects the market in years gone by, so it is indeed arguable whether or not yester-years market approach has indeed been somehow lost:

>>If you want to spend £5-15 on the product of 3 bedroom developers, with little to no multiplayer/after sales support/additional content, then go to the indie scene, or get a time machine back to the early-mid 1980s.

>>If you want to spend £15-25 on the product of a small team of experienced developers, with limited multiplayer and after sales support, then go to XBLA/PSN, or get a time machine back to the early-mid 1990s.

>>If you want to spend £25-35 on the product of a large multi-skilled development team, with good multiplayer and after sales support and some decent additional (in the truest sense of the word) content then get a time machine back to the early-mid 2000s, although XBLA is starting to enter into this space. I am sure that as XBLA matures, we will start to see more and more titles being offered in the £25-35 range to fill this gap in the market.

>>If you want to spend £35-45 on the product of a large professional development studio, sometimes quite derivative, with excellent after sales support, rich multiplayer and plenty of 'additional' content then you're at the here and now - avoid XBLA and take yourself down to Gamestop.

I largely disagree with your

I largely disagree with your article

Pay more get less : this generation, I've bought a lot of my games in the UK (I live in France), and the prices have never been so low. I can pick up games that are 6 month old for 20£. And that's not counting indies games, or PSN/XBLA/Steam games, which are cheap. And I'm not getting comparably less. Look at Prince of Persia SoT, Jak and Daxter, God of War or Ico. These weren't terribly long games. More like 10-12 hours (maybe 20 for Jak and Daxter). Thy're not longer than what we're getting. I very much doubt your affirmation that most solo campaigns last 4 hours.
Concerning Capcom and Street Fighter IV, I think that SFII only offered costumes of different colors (and there are different colors in SFIV, like 8 different for each). And there's titles, and icons, and lots of stuff to unlock. I'm not feeling cheated.

Devaluation of single player
Maybe. There's still games like Uncharted, Enslaved, BioShock, Red Dead Redemption, Mass Effect, LA Noire with honorable solo campaign. The offer is more comprehensive, that's all.

War on used games
It's still possible to buy used copies, and trade in prices are unaffected, as far as I can tell. Anyway new games are cheaper than ever, so...

The fact that you can't play online when your ISP is down... That's nobody's fault. Final Fight is a rarity on consoles in not allowing you to play if you're offline.

So yeah, you're disappointed, I can get it. But a good chunk of your points aren't that true or damaging in my opinion (manuals, seriously, with tutorials everywhere ?)

It's been a generation of fun for me

I've been a gamer for 25 years at this point (Good lord, I'm getting old...), and I’d like to counter Game Critic’s own Scrooge McSkerritt with my outlook that gaming has never been better.

Pay More, Get Less: As is usually pointed out, us old-timers used to pay 50 bucks for the latest, say, Mario game (hell, I remember paying 75 bucks for FF3 when it came out—but at least it was lengthy), which included all of 3 – 4 hours of gameplay, and that was the generally accepted norm. That “feeling” that you’re getting less content is probably just that; a feeling. I think if you put aside the cynicism for a second and compared the games of yesterday to the games of today, at the very least you’d admit that we get just as much, if not more, content than we ever have before, and with increasing quality (that’s subjective, but I believe so). Not to mention the exploding indie scene on PSN, Steam and XBLA, which is providing awesome experiences for a fraction of the cost of their AAA cousins.

Devaluation of Single Player: Gaming is a personal, solitary escape for me, too, and my game library is chock full of games with incredibly rich single-player experiences from this generation. The latest blockbuster release, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, has zero multiplayer. The biggest names of the season coming up focus (some exclusively) on their single player experience—Rage, Dark Souls, Batman, Skyrim, Silent Hill, Uncharted, Saints Row, Assassin’s Creed, etc. Again, I think this is just another one of your “feelings”.

War on Used Games: The problem here is the entitlement attitude that completely overtakes gamers when it comes to used games. We expect a diminished product when we hear the word “used” in every other aspect of our lives, yet games don’t get lumped into this for some reason. Used gamers expect that product to behave exactly how it did when it was brand new, and they expect to pay less for it. Wha? Further, these measures *are* being put into place as an incentive to buy new (just like how Gamestop offers exclusive maps/characters/items to people who buy new from them). It’s an incentive to buy direct and get the money in the hands of the people who, you know, actually created it in the first place. And, yes, this is a wasted debate—we will be buying all of our console games on a Steam-inspired system soon enough. We already do it for our PC, phone and even some console exclusive games. It’s only a matter of time.

And cut out the martyr complex: Publishers aren’t trying to outlaw used game sales and throw people who buy used games in jail. You’re not a pirate/engaging in piracy and no one is saying that. It’s all about providing incentives to buy new, which is a standard business practice (buy this new car and get free oil changes for life! Buy used…sucks to be you).

Online or Bust: Companies do need to find better solutions here. This is extremely rare, though—not something I have actually encountered with any game I have owned or played besides an MMO.

Putting the Cart Before the Horse: You had the right idea here--They do this to assure early adopters that they’re still going to support it after launch and to hold onto it. It does nothing for me personally (I rarely buy DLC), but there you have it. It’s all optional, though, and I have yet to experience a game where I felt short-changed by its latest DLC.

No More Manuals: I actually like that the manuals are embedded in the game now. I can pop up the pause screen, look at the control scheme, and bam, right back in the game. Manuals built into the game FTW, as far as I’m concerned.

It WILL Break: All electronic equipment WILL fail. Game consoles are not exempt from this universal truth. Besides the 360’s much publicized and completely unacceptable fail rate, there’s nothing about this generation’s other machines that are exceptionally error-prone, statistically speaking. In my personal experience, I’ve had failures with my NES, SNES, PS2 (went through three of them), and 360 (two of them). And don’t get me started on how many times I’ve cursed at my PC in the past!

Motion Controls and 3D: Motion controls don’t appeal to me (some light Wii stuff isn’t too bad, though), so I stay away from them. But there’s no harm in opening up gaming to a larger audience, and motion controls are getting Grandmas in front of the TV. It’s increasing the public’s awareness of the medium and I think that’s awesome. I also think experimenting with different ways of interacting with video games is a good thing. Our Minority Report-style computers aren’t going to happen unless we take some chances, after all. I’m one of the few morons who actually owns a 3D TV and it’s a pretty cool effect, but I’m not totally sold on it yet (Black Ops was still boring, even with 3D ;) ). Looking forward to seeing how ICO/Shadow of the Colossus and Uncharted 3 work with it, though. Regardless, core games are still being released left and right in spite of the industry catering to casuals through motion controls, and we have yet to see a game require 3D, so I don’t get what the hubbub is about. The medium is expanding and trying new things. Don’t see how that’s a bad thing.

Your last paragraph mentions going back to a time when console gaming was “at its peak”. That peak is now! More people own gaming consoles and play games in general than ever before, and that is only going to rise. There’s also never been a time in gaming history where we’ve had so many choices (AAA, casual, indie, 3D, motion, handheld, phone, internet, blah blah blah). It’s actually a great time to be a gamer, on whatever platform you choose and however you choose to play.

Always in Motion is the Future...

Wonderful article. To add my opinion to what you've stated:
Pay More, Get Less - Understood. However, since I'm primarily an Action/Adventure type, the only way I might get torqued is if something like an alternate ending, or an additional chapter that was released as DLC within 6 weeks of game release. Alternate characters or costumes do not impact an action/adventure (for myself at least).
Devaluation of Single Player - Agree. Now I rely more on reviews than I have in the past. If the review(s) indicate a more multi- than single-player experience, I now wait until the game is $25 or less new to purchase.
War on Used Games - By my reckoning, the gaming industry is no longer experiencing "unprecedented" growth, but is now relatively stable. When that happens, "the honeymoon is over...now let's nickle and dime you to death on things you used to get for free". If the NFL can throw a monkey wrench into Fantasy Football, why can't game publishers take away what we took for granted? (This also applies to the "Pay More, Get Less" area.
No More Manuals - I appreciate the games that have either training levels, or have an in-game tutorial during the 1st couple of levels. I primarily use the manuals when the in-game guidance falls short (which, to be honest, does still happen).
It Will Break - Agree. When I used to collect comics, I took great pains to keep those things in nice shape. I also do that level of care with game consoles. So yes, I was extremely torqued when the Xbox crashed through no defineable fault of my own. Notwithstanding such colorful terms as "infant mortality rates" and "acceptable quality level", that old cliche of "they don't make them like they use to" keeps coming back.
Motion Control - Not Sure. Like manuals, the hand-held controller will become a thing of the past once motion controls are more successfully implemented (assuming motion control is not a fad).

Thank you for the article

You said it!

Damn you said what I was thinking and more!

Tho I could argue that there is more value to be found in today's games simply by not buying from the main game retailers, between GOG.com,Steam and Ebay I no longer pay 60$ for anything anymore(of course I stopped that in 03 or so).

I agree with your comments,

I agree with your comments, some things need to change.

Thankfully the experiences of fine single-player BioWare titles Mass Effect and Dragon Age were not too marred by both the annoying DLC strategy and the console controls to hamper the experience of the game.

Deus Ex was absolutely incredible, and I won't go on to list every great single player title but it goes on. As a player exclusively of single-player games, exclusively on console, I am pretty well satisfied.

The only things that really bug me are certain aspects of DLC.

I have to disagree with some

I have to disagree with some points here.

Firs of all: pay more, get less - this is just not true. When I look at how much I paid for my old NES games (between 50 and up to 70 euros without taking inflation into account!) and how much I pay now (brand new games right from amazon for 40€, after some weeks prices go down to 30 or even 20 and I just got Assassins Creed 2 for 7€) I don't think new games are overpriced. The old one's were. I also don't get why people complain they "have to" pay 60$/€ for a new game. Wait 2 weeks and the price goes down 30% in most cases! You don't HAVE TO have the newest gizmo as soon as it is out! And let's not forget things like gog.com or steam sales, where you get great old games for cheap. And don't get me started on the indie scene! There are a lot of great games for less than a ham sandwich! "Back then" in the "good old days" I didn't have all these options.

Used games die out with digital distribution: just look at the pc market for a second. There are websites like greenmangaming.com that allow to trade in your old downloaded games that don't come with activation codes of some kind. Valve is now starting to experiment with trade-in mechanisms in steam. Valve wouldn't try that if they wouldn't be sure it makes sense for them and their customers. We as customers just have to make clear to the publishers that we like the idea of trading in old stuff, regardless if we have a boxed copy or not. When we "vote with the wallet" AND make our intentions known in (not necessarily strongly worded) emails or open letters they will listen. Any business not listening to their customers will die.

Devaluation of single player: I can't help it but I just played Deus Ex Human Revolution and play Witcher 2. Two big budget games without any multiplayer add-on. What about all the Mass Effects, Dragon Age, Shadows of the damned, Assassins Creed (which has a multiplayer element but focus is still the singleplayer) and upcoming games like Skyrim, Dishonored, Bioshock Infinite and so on. I doubt Bioshock Infinite will be a "lesser game" even if there is some form of multiplayer added. I also doubt that it will suddenly become a multiplayer shooter. Aside from the fact that the addition of multiplayer is in a lot of cases the direct result of you wanting to trade in used games ;-)

It WILL brake: well, that's what you get when everyone wants everything as cheap as possible. I'm sure Microsoft could have put in better components. But better components cost more and then your average xbox would cost as much as a playstation. I'm sure their market research studies showed that a lot of people rather buy a cheap console than an expensive one which is well crafted. You can blame us customers for that :)

Peter, I totally totally


I totally totally totally agree 100% with you. The problem is, I am 35 years old. Most gamers (people) are younger I think, and most are mindless idiots who don't think in life. Not much about politics, not much about anything. This is why gamespot.com and IGN.com are superbig sites, and gamecritics.com is smaller. This is also why cars are still eco-unfriendly and why Bush was president for 8 years. Why? Because people can't or won't think.

Corporations know this. This is why instead of releasing a new game, they release Black Ops, or Assassins Creed part 24. Don't get me wrong, if a game is great, I also want more. But it's like with movies, I do not want to see Pirates of the Carribean 5, rather a new "No Country for Old Men". I rather see a new Ico kinda game, than GTA5. Corporations know that critical consumers, or intelligent thinkers, like you, like me, are a small minority. The big bunch are sheep, who do what you make them think they wanna do. People will also rather defend current situations, than think about changes in directions. They will rather explain why an Online Pass (EA) is pretty logical, or reasonable, instead of suggestion what is really is (corporate asshole behaviour) and thinking about what should be done about it. For this you need a critical mindset.

I am from the Netherlands, and it's the same everywhere in the world. Therefore "we" will lose out. Quantity comes before quality. Money comes before good taste/art. I guess what I am saying is that I share you're concerns, but I am afraid it is a lost battle. Human evolution goes very very slow. It's annoying for smart and critical people like us, but that's just the way it is I'm afraid. I do however feel better because of pieces of critical journalistic writing like this. My compliments!!! At least when people are looking for a different point of view, you help them out and in this way you are contributing to a better wold. Which is GOOD!!!!!!!!!!

Friendly greets,
Utrecht, Netherland


You've already got so many comments I don't want to repeat too much already said. I largely agree with you, but not on everything, of course.

However, I did want to simply mention that the rise of Mega-MoneyGrubbing-AAA-Online-Day1DLC-Games is hand in hand with the rise of the indie gem (Minecraft, Limbo, take your pick). And I think that the further the industry goes towards AAA gaming (shorthand for needing millions and millions of dollars to make a game like Mass Effect 2, CoD, etc) the more space there will be for games which cost less to make, are viral, care deeply about craft and identity, etc. And indies are so good I almost think it's all justified. Of course I still love my Elder Scrolls. So maybe it's not ALL bad.

Anyway, great article.

A few quibbles

I posted this on G+, but I'll put it here as well just to get it out there:

I agree with a lot of this, but a few quibbles:

1) Manuals are obsolete. All relevant information should be contained in either in-game guides or an available menu section in the pause screen, a la the new Mortal Kombat. I get that there's a tactile satisfaction associated with them (I love the way they smell too) but physical manuals are just one more thing that I can lose. I won't miss them.

2) The expansion of online multiplayer is not a bad thing. I hate the idea of single-player games being tied to an internet connection too (which is why I'm passing on Diablo 3), but games that use the internet to do otherwise impossible things (World of Warcraft, Team Fortress 2, the online component of Demon's Souls, etc.) is perfectly fine.

Yes, if my connection goes out I can't play Team Fortress. However, I'm OK with that, since that game does not exist without online connectivity. I accept the limitations of technology in order to utilize it. I don't really care for the way centralized services like XBL operate, nor do I like always-on DRM/online pass schemes. But online capability itself is something that should be welcomed, not shunned.

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