writing about tech

Tag: nintendo

What “Console Wars” taught me about myself and being a fanboy

I pride myself on trying to be as unbiased as possible when it comes to technology.  While this is inherently impossible – bias will exist in any personal opinion – I at least acknowledge that there may be reasons to choose products or services that I would not use myself.  Of course, 10-year-old-me was not nearly as accepting.  In 1991, there was no doubt in my mind: Nintendo was right, and Sega was wrong.  Why?  Because Nintendo had Final Fantasy and Chrono Trigger and Zelda.  Duh.  I recently discovered, however, that far more of 10-year-old-me’s opinions remained than I ever would’ve expected.

This revelation came to me during my recent rediscovery of the joy of owning a Kindle, specifically about a third of the way into Console Wars by Blake J. Harris.  If you aren’t familiar with it, Console Wars uses narrative nonfiction to dramatize the “war” between Nintendo and Sega, starting shortly after the introduction of the Sega Genesis in North America.  As I read, I found myself more and more annoyed that so much of the novel took the perspective of Sega.  What about the other side of the conflict?  You know, the right side?  I want to read about how Nintendo crushed Sega because Sega was all style and no substance, and what do you mean Super Mario World wasn’t as good as Sonic, and holy shit I’m still a Nintendo fanboy in a console war that’s been over for over 20 years.

That particular thought hit me about halfway through a run on my treadmill, which I immediately halted so that I could make a note to myself to write about this at a future date.  After a brief conversation on Twitter with the the author, I was inspired to finally sit down and do so.  While I’ve always acknowledged that reading can be just as much a reflection on the reader as it is on the author, I’d never really been consciously aware of it happening to me until that moment.  I was upset at Harris for reasons that had absolutely nothing to do with his writing and everything to do with that Nintendo fanboy mentality that hasn’t existed for almost 20 years.  It’s fascinating – and disturbing – that these companies are so incredibly talented at dividing consumers into tribal factions that these thoughts are still somewhere in my head long after any conscious loyalty I had to any particular company was supposedly gone.

For as long as I can remember arguing on the internet, I’ve always looked down on fanboys.  I’ve never understood the idea of being fanatically loyal to a company.  To a particular product, sure, but I’ve never seen any value in defending a multi-national corporation that has no actual interest in my well-being.  While I still don’t see the value in that, I feel retroactively guilty for spitting on them from my high horse.  After all, I’m no better than they are; I’m a 32-year-old who got mad at someone “badmouthing” Nintendo’s products and behavior during a console war that happened before I reached puberty. I can’t even imagine the level of asshole I’d have been if I had access to the internet during the early 90’s.

Still, I’m glad I was knocked off of that high horse.  Even if it was initially painful to realize that I was a hypocrite, at least I had the self-awareness to realize how my own hypocrisy, which is something I think everyone needs from time to time.  More importantly, it makes me all the more aware that people – corporations, the media, politicians – will gladly exploit our natural tendency to divide up into “us vs. them” if it serves their own interests, and that it’s everyone’s duty as both a consumer and a citizen to educate themselves as much as possible through expanding our own personal experiences.

If you love the PS4, go over to a friend’s and try a Wii U or an Xbox One.  Adore your Android device?  Maybe use a friend’s iPhone for a few minutes.  Read a book or visit a website you disagree with.  Expand your horizons; worst-case scenario, you’re back where you started with a bit more experience than before.  And you knows?  You might even find something new to love.

Next-gen gaming is becoming a service-based industry

Today, Polygon announced:

Hotline Miami on PS4 is cross-buy compatible with is PS3 and PS Vita versions — if you own one of these versions already, then you can download Hotline Miami on PS4 at no extra charge.

This relatively small bit of news today served to highlight something that I think has become more and more obvious in the past few months:

Next gen gaming isn’t about hardware, it’s about software services.

“Software services” don’t sound terribly sexy on the surface, but let me explain.  A couple weeks ago, I went out of town, and that trip happened to line up perfectly with the release of Rogue Legacy on the VitaRogue Legacy (a fantastic game, by the way) supports both cross-buy and cross-save, meaning that when I bought the Vita version, I also got a copy for my PS4.  Not “for an additional fee” – the same game, available on all my Sony platforms, at one price.  While I’ve known of this feature for awhile, I’ve rarely had a chance to leverage it.

Gaming, at its core, is about delighting the user, and let me say – being able to seamlessly resume my game of Rogue Legacy on my PS4 when I got back from the trip was delightful. I’ve used the Kinect, I’ve used the Wii U gamepad, and I’ve used a 3DS, but none of those hardware gimmicks impressed me as much as that.  It feels “next-gen” in a way that those haven’t.

The beautiful thing is, games like Rogue Legacy are becoming more of the rule than the exception.  I purchased Hotline Miami on the Vita a couple years ago, and now I get it on PS4 for free.  Just like that.  When I bought my PS4, there was a copy of Flower waiting for me, because I’d bought it on PS3 five years ago.  Just.  Like.  That.  Every time I see another game announced as cross-buy, it makes me feel, every so briefly, like a company is treating me like a human being, and not just a potential dollar sign.  It’s a fleeting feeling, to be sure, and I know it’s just fiction – but it’s a nice one.

It stands out in stark contrast to Nintendo’s strategy; Shovel Knight, another great game, was released for both the 3DS and the Wii U…but you’ll pay full price if you want to play on both platforms, and there’s no benefit to owning both.  Currently, owning a 3DS gives me no real reason to own a Wii U – and that’s a damn shame, because a few tweaks behind the scenes and Nintendo could easily change that.

Also in stark contrast, unfortunately, are the way AAA games are handling cross-generation titles.  The Last of UsGrand Theft Auto 5, and Sleeping Dogs are all expecting you to double-dip for the privilege of playing them on a new system, leaving it up to retailers themselves to offer you some sort of “upgrade deal”.  Unfortunately, it’s hard to see this changing in the immediate future – but one can hope.

I think the industry has hardware figured out; we know the equation to make a great console, and the PS4, Xbox One, and Wii U are all the result of that equation – now it’s time for the battlefield to move to software and services.  Already we’re seeing that, with PlayStation Plus and Games with Gold both offering great games for free every month, and now EA Access joining the fray.  If Nintendo can work out a similar deal with their own back catalogue, well, then we’d have a real interesting fight on our hands, as I think it’s a largely untapped resource that no other gaming company can truly match.

While I am certainly excited for the potential hardware advances, especially in the world of VR, I am undoubtedly more excited by the potential of software services, at least with regard to its broad impact on the industry.  This generation has the potential to be the most interesting – and, perhaps most important, the most gamer-centric – one yet.

My 10 Second Review of The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds

Perhaps this is a statement somewhat colored by nostalgia, but regardless: The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds is about as close as you can get to a perfect game.  The music, art direction, and gameplay are all superb.

Wii Tennis: Like riding a bike

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get a little nostalgic when I fired up my Wii for some light exercise this morning – Gold’s Gym Cardio Workout and Wii Sports (well, mostly Tennis and Boxing) are still two of the best ways to have fun and get your heart rate up.  I’m a bit annoyed I didn’t get around to setting up my Wii sooner, since Wii Tennis is better than Kinect Sports Tennis by a pretty wide margin.

Most importantly, I’m still the undisputed Wii Tennis champion.

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