The only people who ever lose a console war are people who make games. The people who actually play games usually win. We, the gamers, dictate who the victors are while enjoying the spoils.
The worst thing that'll happen to a gamer because of a console war is that he or she might miss out on a platform exclusive here or there. Yes, that's annoying. Xbox gamers miss The Last of Us. PlayStation gamers miss Zelda. Nintendo gamers miss Halo. The gamer will otherwise benefit from the competition between rival gaming platforms. Console wars cause price drops. They compel DRM changes. They convince companies to add new features to their consoles. They mandate the creation of lavish, new games. They inspire imitations of the good stuff and justify the risk of trying something new.
We the gamers, generally, win. We get the good games to play on systems that are always improving, lest they lose out.
If you take a company-centric view, you'll see Microsoft winning one battle, Sony another and Nintendo one of its own. They'll all lose, too. We tend to measure these wins and losses in sales... Who sold the most consoles last Christmas? Or maybe in buzz: who had the most thunderous showing at E3?
That's an old way of tracking the console war.
I propose a different way of looking at the console war, something literally closer to home.
There is, you see, a console war in my house, possibly in yours, too. The console war I experience is also waged in the bag I bring to work every day and in my pocket as well. This is true for any of us who have more than one device that can play games. We have multiple machines vying for our gaming time. At any given moment, we're choosing one over the other. Sometimes, choosing to do something else entirely, in which case all of our gaming devices temporarily lose. Which consoles and handhelds win those battles? Which one had a good June? Which will win July?
There is a console war in my house, possibly in yours, too...We have multiple machines vying for our gaming time. At any given moment, we're choosing one over the other.
Starting today and in a series of columns to come, I'm going to look at this more personal version of the fight for a gamer's attention. I'm calling it the One-Man Console War, and I'll be focusing my writing on my own experiences. I welcome you to do the same for yourself and share your thoughts, too.
For me, I'll be looking at what is admittedly a privileged situation. Since I cover games for a living, I have just about any kind of gaming machine that's relevant today: all the active consoles, all the active handhelds, a PC and a pair of iOS devices. I only lack an Android phone and a Linux set-up. Otherwise, in theory, I could be playing any game at any time. Money isn't much of a factor for me, either, which I know makes my situation very unusual. The games I play are either sent to me by publishers or I buy them without any hesitation because, again, this is what I do for a living.
So, what do I play? What causes one machine to succeed in my personal console war? And what causes another to lose? What causes one machine to start pulling me away from another? Is it always a game? Is it ever a change to a service? The time of year? The flapping of the wings of a butterfly somewhere in the Indian Ocean? Frankly, I'm not sure, but I thought some tracking of this could be interesting.
What causes one machine to start pulling me away from another? Is it always a game? A change to a service? The time of year? The flapping of the wings of a butterfly somewhere in the Indian Ocean?
For this debut column, I decided to survey my gaming situation and sketch out my current sense of which machines I play games on and why I currently do or don't. Again, I know my situation is unusual. But I hope that a look at my own personal console war can illuminate the hows and whys we choose to play what play on the devices we play those games on.
This is an odd one, though I suspect others also are seeing their 360 enter its twilight. The 360 used to be my most-played console and my go-to machine for any multiplatform games other than Batmans and Assassin's Creeds. That's not the case this year. I haven't played a game in earnest on the machine since Dead Space 3, which I lost interest in and didn't finish. I've been neglecting State of Decay, which I know I need to play, but my zeal for gaming on the 360 has nearly zeroed out.
I've had a 360 since launch day, and yet I see its end coming. Beyond Summer of Arcade and the coin-flip of whether I play GTA V on the 360 or the PS3, I see my Xbox 360 dwindling to zero use before 2014 begins. Even this year, I've probably spent more time doing non-gaming with it (Netflix, DVD-watching) than gaming. That's never happened before. I wonder how typical that's become and how it is conditioning people to look at the Xbox brand as an entertainment box instead of a game console.
I play this system in spurts. The last one was for The Last of Us, just last month. My need-to-play stack for PS3 includes the odd hand of Remember Me, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance and the re-do of Dragon's Dogma, in the unlikely event I have time for it. I don't use the system for non-gaming and expect to be back at the machine for Beyond, The Puppeteer and Rain.
I think Sony will keep us PS3 users playing our consoles longer than Microsoft will, but I also expect this console to dwindle to zero use by next year. I'm leaning toward playing GTA V on this machine, since Rockstar's already been demoing the game on PS3.
I'm not in a groove with this system yet. I doubt many Wii U owners are. Recent system updates haven't won my attention; I need games, not firmware to bring me back. Game & Wario got me to return for a fun couple of weekends. My interest in finding more unlockables in Lego City Undercover has faded. I downloaded New Super Luigi U but just didn't care to even start it. I'm Mario-sidescrollered out. While I like digital releases of new games, Virtual Console has almost no allure for me.
Pikmin 3 will bring me back next month as will, I suspect, the release of The Wonderful 101 and Super Mario 3D World in the fall. I very much want to play this system more, because I like the controller a lot. It's still year one, and I'm not quite as pessimistic as other Wii U owners are. Look, I lived through owning a Nintendo 64 from day one. I'm used to the droughts.
After an adventurous first week with the machine, I brought it to work so we could try new games. I haven't been compelled to jump back on it yet. It's too early to say how this device will nestle into my gaming rotation.
Undoubtedly, this is the best gaming device I own, in part thanks to the 32GB card that allows this system to contain an absurdly great array of games. The addition of one of those cards radically transformed how I thought of and used the 3DS. Frankly, without the card, the 3DS is just ok. With it? It's my go-to gaming machine. At any given moment, I have, on my device's memory card, the following: partially-played games of last year's Prof. Layton (the daily puzzles are great), this year's Fire Emblem and Luigi's Mansion; an unplayed copy of the new, controversial Paper Mario; copies of classics I never played like the Game Boy Zelda and Metroid sequels; copies of beloved games I haven't touched in about a decade, such as the Game Boy Color Zeldas; a deep roster of download-only games that I love, including Art Style Box Life and Pictobits; partially played curiosities I want to get back to such as Sakura Sword and Liberation Maiden; and so much more. All on one system. And I just got four new games to play with Streetpassed Miis, a copy of Animal Crossing that I just returned to after seeing how much fun my co-worker Tina is having with it. This is all on one card! Nuts, right? Plus, there's an older Layton in the DS cartridge slot, and I carry a box of other DS games I never got to in my work bag. There's even a new Mario & Luigi coming out in just a few weeks.
I possess no other gaming system that so strongly and so consistently calls for my attention. It's wild to think how little use I had for the machine just 18 months ago.
I am one purchase of a stupidly-expensive proprietary memory card away from turning my Vita into another 3DS. I'm already carrying a barely-started newish Assassin's Creed, a portable Tokyo Jungle, Thomas Was Alone, Jet Set Radio, Earth Defense Force, Sound Shapes, Gravity Rush and Patapon 2 all on the small card I have in there (confession: I've barely played any of those games). I want to carry more. I love the idea of getting a bigger memory stick and adding Persona 4 (also never played) onto the machine.
With all the interesting indies on the horizon, I expect to be rushing to play my Vita more—if only it can wrestle my attention away from the 3DS. This may sound like a trifle, but the Vita's bubble interface does it no favors in terms of exciting me about what content is on my machine. My 3DS and even my iPhone allows for quicker access to all my games. The Vita interface wastes too much space.
Aside from the 3DS, this is the machine most responsible for my decline in 360 gaming. I was on a hot streak with my PC in the first third of the year, playing a lot of new releases on it. In previous years, I'd have played through Tomb Raider, Dishonored and Far Cry 3 on a console, probably the Xbox. The horsepower of my computer and the convenience of Steam converted me, which is probably my 360's loss.
Since the spring, however, I've fallen behind, leaving BioShock Infinite unplayed, and now also neglecting a stack of interesting indies—Gunpoint, The Swapper and Rogue Legacy. Blame the 3DS for its constant distractions, even at home, but also blame my iPad for non-gaming distractions...
Still my least-favorite device to game on. If I'm going to play iOS games, I'd rather do it on the go, while listening to a podcast. That means I'd rather play on an iPhone. If I'm going to lie down on the couch with my iPad, I'd rather read comics on it or watch shows I've downloaded through iTunes. I have a weakness for online comics sales, and I've recently decided to catch up and read so many of the comics I've gluttonously bought. I lie on my couch with my iPad, reading comics on it. Next to me is my TV, turned off—as are the consoled plugged into it. I have Knights of the Old Republic on my iPad, for goodness' sake. I loved the idea that I could have the great, old Xbox role-playing game on a portable device. Yet I haven't found the urge to ever boot it up. Is it because I already played it on console? Because it's nothing if you know the plot twist? Or, really, because I've got better things to do on my iPad than play old games?
My game time on my iPhone fluctuates. For a while, it displaced my 3DS, back when I played my 3DS almost entirely on the go instead of, as I often now do, at home. My most recent iPhone obsession was Ridiculous Fishing, but it didn't let me listen to podcasts while I played. This is a big no-no for me. I am hooked on listening to podcasts of the PBS NewsHour. I like pro wrestling podcasts, too (I'm a complicated man!). Games on the iPhone therefore usually have to cooperate with the podcasts or lose out. If a game's soundtrack can't be faded in favor of a podcast, I'm quick to give up on it. Sorry. I know I'm disrespecting great gaming soundtracks, but I've got to keep up with important news.
Four or so months out from the release of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, that's the basic shape of things in my one-man console war. There can be changes any day, with new victors at any given time. Who's up and who's down? I'll report back in a couple of weeks.
- Currently winning: 3DS, reading comics on my iPad
- Turning it around: Vita
- Currently losing: Xbox 360