One or Four? Four or One? Xbox or Playstation? Sony or Microsoft? 1 or 4? The debate between which of those two numbers is better hasn’t been this heated since the Rocky series of movies was released, but in 2013 it’s more relevant than ever.
I spent the week at the world’s premier video game convention, E3 (an acronym that stands for: Electronic Entertainment Expo, which I had to google), trying to come up with an answer to that all-important question of the day, and I think I have.
But it wouldn’t be much of a post if I just told you which one I liked best right out of the gate (spoiler alert: PS4), so allow me to take you on a journey of extraneous detail and uneducated observations that I like to call:
MY WE3K AT E3: The Everyman’s Essential Exploration of the Electronic Entertainment Expo’s Earliest Entries into the Ether (or, The E3x3, for short).
Quick shout out, all my alliterative adventures wouldn’t have been possible without a hookup from my dude Michael Quiroz at Nyko Technologies, they make some killer, must-have accessories for all your favorite electronics, so be a chum and check them out so he has a reason to bring me back to E3 next year.
As a first year E3 explorer (I’d call myself an “E3 virgin” but I think that might be too all-encompassing of a term for the E3 crowd. (Sorry if that joke was too subtle, what I’m saying is that no attendee at E3 has ever had sex with a woman. Not that there’s anything wrong with that)), I was surprised immediately by the sheer scale of it all. You get the idea that this is like prom or a fairytale wedding for the gaming industry — everybody dressed to the nines, no expense spared, best foot forward, all stops pulled out. And it was awesome. My insider connections tell me that the tougher economy of the gaming industry has actually caused a lot of companies to dial back their E3 extravagances, but you wouldn’t know that looking at the not one, but TWO convention halls they occupied at the Los Angeles Convention Center (with one wing for hardware companies, and the other for software developers and their ilk). Lights, lasers, sound effects, fog machines, giant props, gorgeous scenery, pro DJs, scantily clad models (“She actually talked to me, man!”), mascots from all your favorite games…it was like being transported into a three-day Daft Punk music video, only with less visual restraint. It’s a lot like how I picture what Michael Bay’s house must be like.
The hardware side was clearly setup with the three console powerhouses: Playstation, Xbox, and Nintendo. Interesting side note: of the big three consoles, Nintendo is the only one that develops software in addition to hardware, which made it decidedly more interesting and engaging to be in their “world” than the other two hardware makers — none of Playstation’s or Xbox’s most known characters actually belong to Sony or Microsoft — so there was a little less completeness or depth in their zones compared to the Nintendo area. Sadly for Nintendo lovers, that was the last and only advantage the Wii and its subordinates had over its competitors. The Wii U is nice as a niche device, but the PS4 and the Xbox1 absolutely crush it in terms of what people look for in gaming consoles. The Wii U feels more like an incredibly ornate, high production value, and expensive version of an app you might have for your iPhone, but that’s it. The PS4 and XB1 feel like transformative and separate experiences that you wouldn’t be able to replicate on the iPhone 6 or the Samsung Whatever. And $400 is a lot to pay for the HD/big-screen version of an experience you get from the device you already have in your pocket. I picture myself wanting a friend who has a Wii U so I can come over and play MarioKart8 whenever I want, but not badly enough to actually be that friend who owns it. MarioKart8 is sweet though, for reals.
On day two I spent more time in the software wing, and was struck by how the sequelizing of our world is really starting to hurt innovation…some of the numbered games are really getting up there. Obviously I just mentioned MarioKart8, but there are a ton of offenders including everyone from Resident Evil 9, Castlevania whatever one they’re on (I just googled it, it’s number 26 in the series…TWENTY-SIX!), Assassin’s Creed 6, Call of Duty 10, Halo 5, Final Fantasy 15 (although that series gets a bit of a pass because those games are only sequels as a technicality, each one has a new story and new world, generally), Tomb Raider 10, along with Zelda, Mario, and Sonic standards…the list goes on and on. It’s the same problem facing the modern movie industry: original properties carry significantly more risk than established brands, and when hundreds of millions of dollars are at stake, companies want to hedge their bets any way possible. Don’t get me wrong, I love some of these characters and worlds, and I want to be Solid Snake as many times as they’ll let me, I just don’t like to see sequals cannibalize innovation/originality, and I worry we’re riding that precipice dangerously. Rant aside, I was intrigued by a handful of new titles including Destiny, Thief, Ryse, and Murdered: Soul Suspect — which all looked to have high production value and good quality, original-enough premises. Lastly, one thing I saw that I didn’t expect from the software developers were recreations: games that have been around for a while getting an upgrade up to high definition. Some prime examples of this were DuckTales: Remastered, Final Fantasy X HD, and Kingdom Hearts 1.5 Remix. I’ve been saying for years that better than a reboot or a sequel for tapping into the nostalgia factor would be to just straight up remake popular games that preceded the high definition era. I hope this catches on so that my years of mastering Super Mario 3 on the Nintendo don’t go to waste.
So what’s the verdict? Who wins this round of the console wars? Well for my money, it’s the Playstation4, without a doubt. If you want the specs on each console, there’s a pretty handy comparison chart that breaks them each down, but what I really walked away with after experiencing several games on each console is that the PS4 was designed with the user experience in mind and built outward around that, and the XB1 was designed with the console makers’ profit centers in mind and built outward around that. The Playstation 4 has better tech specs (although only barely), a cheaper pricetag (by a hundred dollars), and fewer restrictions for users. Throw in some great mainstream titles and cool exclusive games, and baby, you got a stew going. Obviously like all great debates, only time itself know who will emerge victorious, and I’m sure both consoles will have unforeseen strengths and weaknesses that will define them more clearly once they get out into the open market, but if I were a betting man, I’d bet the house on black, not green.
Oh and in case you were wondering, I prefer Rocky 4 over Rocky 1, too. What can I say? I’m a creature of habit.
Just to prove that I didn’t make all this up based on other people’s twitter feeds, I’ve included a gallery of some of the pictures I took while I was there. Feel free to compliment them if you’re easily impressed.
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