Buy Another Day

The new console generation is upon us! Let us rejoice in the hum of new machines, the shine of better graphics and the chatter of critics. Few things in gaming are more exciting than the release of new hardware. It gets people from all walks of life talking about what to buy, but, amid all of the excitement and hype, I urge you to take a step back and consider not buying any new console at all; at least, not yet.

Which to buy? Which to buy?

Let me take you back to the release of the Nintendo Wii. It was a simpler time where motion control was Nintendo’s new thing, and it had a lot of promise. In the UK the Wii was an elusive creature and I was desperate to have one. I had succumb to its charms, to the promise of a game being shipped with the console and having the new Zelda available at launch, to the unorthodox and intriguing controller and, to the seemingly more immersive gaming experience that the Wii could offer, not to mention the attractive price point. Finally, in early 2007, I got my hands on the box, and for a few months I had a glorious time with Link and my Mii. Alas, this time was not to last and after I had played through Zelda and had my fill of Mario (in a variety of guises), I found few titles that could keep me playing. I returned to my PS2 and my PC, a broken man. I’m not trying to bash the Wii with this story and I am certain that many will disagree with my assessment of the console; but, if I had waited, if I had let a year or two go by, I would have known that the Wii wasn’t for me, and I could have avoided the bad experience I had after the euphoria of new games and a new console. I had some good times with the Wii, but I now know that purchasing it as early as I did was a mistake.

So much promise.

For me, the launch of the PS3 was very different. I have been a Playstation user for most of my life but I had no real desire for the PS3 at launch. It was prohibitively expensive for a start and there had been numerous redesigns and changes made to aspects of the console since its initial reveal. The games were also underwhelming, the best of the launch titles being (most likely) Resistance: Fall of Man, a critically acclaimed first person shooter, but a first person shooter none the less, offering little in terms of novelty or ingenuity. When it was released, I saw the PS3 as little more than an upgrade of the PS2, with better graphics and not much else. The 2007 me looked at the PS3 and dismissively waved his Wiimote. The 2007 me was an idiot. Over a few years, the PS3 collected a library of excellent games, the Playstation Network improved (I urge you to try Playstation Plus if you haven’t already) and the price and reliability of the console got better too. In late 2009, I got a PS3 and I have never looked back.

Get it sorted!

Would I have been happy if I had bought the PS3 at launch? I suppose I would be content now, but I would have spent a large amount of money on something that would take years to reach its full potential. By waiting a few years I was able to get the console that I really wanted (even if I didn’t know it to begin with) for less money than it was originally sold for, with a bigger hard drive than was originally available and with an excellent back catalogue of games available second hand, or even new, for very reasonable prices. There are, undoubtedly, some very intelligent market analysts in the world who are able to make a well informed prediction about how games consoles will look in the next few years; but most of us will be buying a console based on what it offers us on the day we buy it. With that in mind, it makes sense to buy a console  later in its life cycle, when it has more to offer.

Much better.

We love shiny and new, we love being at the forefront of technology and being the envy of our peers, but really it’s our own personal enjoyment that matters when it comes to games consoles, and I truly believe that a console will never reach its potential in its first year of availability. That being said, if nobody buys a console at launch it will never reach its potential. Thankfully, millions of new generation consoles have already been purchased by brave gaming pioneers, and when I buy a new console, I’ll have them to thank for the improved experience I get. For now though, I will enjoy the twilight years of the PS3, Humble Bundles and Steam sales until the time is right for a new console. Maybe you should do the same.

The plumber must die!

Of late, Nintendo have become an entirely predictable and frankly lazy company. Like a home owner standing over their failed DIY as water spews mercilessly into the kitchen, I blame the plumber. It’s true that not all of it is Mario’s fault, Link and Pikachu, among others, could also be held accountable, but as Nintendo’s poster boy, Mario should really know better.

They’re all the same!

In the late ’90s I had a Playstation and after that a Playstation 2 so it was with wonder and excitement that I purchased a Wii having heard tales of the joys offered by the N64 and the Gamecube. But I was to be disappointed. While I enjoyed Twilight Princess and had fun with Mario Galaxy, the console never seemed to progress and in the end I gave up waiting for something special and went crawling back to Sony. I feel like I have missed out on Nintendo’s prime years but Nintendo seem to be doing little to change their current form. Go to the Nintendo category on any games website and I guarantee that the new instalment of an established franchise will be under discussion. People will be commenting on how exciting it is, how new innovations are being used and how the systems are being pushed to their limits, all the while ignoring (or perhaps embracing) the fact that nothing has really changed. So while Sony can discuss new exclusives and franchises, Nintendo relies on the old guard, a small group of franchises that it knows will make money. And we reward them for this behaviour. Every year we flock to the shops to see what the little Italian has been up to now, so every year Nintendo see no reason to branch out into something new; it’s a viscous cycle.

At this point I realise that perhaps I’m being a bit of a hypocrite. Sequels, prequels and remakes are a staple of gaming across all platforms and, unlike films, game sequels often improve on their predecessors. I buy, enjoy and get excited about such games, from Civilization to Hitman. So maybe I’m being harsh on Nintendo. The difference, however,  is that no other platforms rely entirely on such franchises for their success; Sony and Microsoft have franchises but they could survive without them and they continue to welcome new ones.

Getting rid of Mario and chums is probably not the answer; after all, they make money and we still love them. A focus shift is what needs to happen. Nintendo have decided to avoid competing with other platforms in terms of graphics and online content by offering what they see as fun and innovative gaming; that’s all well and good but these things have to be used to better effect. By making a bigger deal about new games and third party creations Nintendo will attract more current gamers to their platform and they can continue to sweeten the deal with old franchises. Adopt this strategy Nintendo and maybe, just maybe I’ll take Mario off the dart board and consider your next console (probably the one after the Wii U).