Esler’s take on The Great Console Debate, Part 1
It’s been a turbulent few years for this generation. Giants have risen while others have toppled. Online gaming has reared it’s ugly head and serenaded us with a beautiful voice. It’s been a tough one and I can’t quite help but feel that my generation is coming to a close.
I say my generation because it is the only generation I have been truly able to experience all the ups and downs of. I was there from inception and I’ll be there when we bury it. Much like the dearly loved family pet, I embraced it in my arms and told it I would never let it go. Like many family pets though in just a few short years we will experience a swan-song of sorts and bid our goodbyes before we bite the bullet, bury it in the garden and move on.
It was also the first generation to fully embrace high definition and settle the score for a new set of media. It was the rise of HD graphics and the fall of HD DVD. Blu-ray reigned triumphant and we bid farewell at Microsoft’s shot in the dark at taking over the world. Everything flew in and for what has to be one of the worst depressions in recent times the gaming market grew exponentially and broke records.
Families were now sitting down to play games together. Although it wasn’t as nearly as cool as we planned, we did ditch the controller, if not for a few seconds until we came to our senses. And digital distribution came on in leaps and bounds. But I’m getting way ahead of myself. Lets roll it back and take a look at how this generation’s consoles began.
Microsoft were the first out of the gate, surprisingly, with their Xbox360 in November 2005. A whole year ahead of its competitors the Xbox360 stormed the Christmas market with no competition whatsoever. Along with promises of a new gaming experience Microsoft had revolutionised the way we look at online. The previous console had touched upon online services but it was in a new set of hardware that Microsoft truly realised the potential of online gaming. Sure, it had been done online with PCs for years but this was a first, of sorts for console gaming. Profiles were more than a name and a list. You had your profile picture, a new found way of measuring your competency in games, and the beginnings of a marketplace. It was obvious then that Microsoft had constructed a work of genius with their achievements alone. Communities sprung up overnight and online was alight with those pursuing an endless number of points for an endless number of days. Needless to say Microsoft came out swinging.
Over the next year the Xbox360 was plagued with hardware failures and it seemed like the golden boy was maybe just a tatty coating on some less than reputable hardware. It was around this time that Sony saw fit to unleash the PS3 upon the world. Personally the look and style of a George Foreman Grill with Spiderman font was not the most visually appealing console in the world but their was no denying the capability of the console that was pushing what would be the next step in physical digital distribution. Blu-ray. The name itself lingers on your lips and tastes of the future. An expansive disc that could store 7x that of a basic Xbox360 disc. Sony was definitely ready to go toe to toe, but nobody could quite predict what was waiting in the wings for both sides.
Mere weeks before Christmas Nintendo’s devious plan was beginning to rear its ugly head. Hardcore gamers everywhere shuddered at the thought and the much debated casual gamer was about to receive the most popular instalment of the light footed and fancy-free approach to gaming yet. It didn’t even support HD. The horror. Very few expected what was to come. December saw the Wii hit every country in the world and left everyone’s head spinning.
It was the must have gift. Nobody could predict that what seemed to be Nintendo’s flirtatious voyage into console gaming since the drastic bombing of the Gamecube would be this successful. Every house had one and there seemed to be an ever-growing demand. Prices soared on eBay as parents wept at the thought of being unable to provide their greedy children with the golden egg. Overnight it seemed that we had all drunkenly sat down to play a few games of Mario Party or Wii Sports. We all had a great time… that is until we lost grip of our remotes. Much like our lack of grip on reality, the silver screen shattered and many grumpy gamers returned to the sofa and continued on as if the Wii never happened. The great divide had begun.