By Jaye Sonia
Let’s face it – the hype around the upcoming fall release of the PS4 and Xbox One has been building for years. We gamers are no strangers to it, either. Most of us have been patiently speculating, hoping that tomorrow’s technology would sweep in, like some superhero, and launch us full on into the future with a whole host of awesome gaming options. We’ve been guessing at processing speeds, graphics packages, online play, and removable hard drives. To say some of our dreams (and hopes) have been lofty would be a bit of an understatement. And most of all, what would we get? Would the new Xbox be the beautiful machine we hoped for? Would the PS4 really look like an elegant piece of sculpture? (And would anyone even mention Nintendo)? Years of speculation have passed.
This past June, most (if not all) of that speculation came to a screeching halt.
And with it, a curious event occurred. Not only did we get tons of interesting news about the new gaming platforms, we also witnessed what can only be described as the opening volley to the Console Wars of 2013. While I’m tempted to suggest a there is a brutal case of market manipulation taking place in the electronic gaming scene (at least that’s what it looks like from my perspective), that’s a big assumption on my part. That said, I do think the big three competitors are testing the waters – looking to see what most consumers will tolerate. Anyone taking a dip in the social media pool has already seen it, too. G+ and Facebook are awash in exaggerated examples, via all of those lovable memes, reminding us of how draconian (there’s an adjective I don’t get to use too often) Xbox One’s Internet requirements are or how expensive the PS4 will be once you add up all the extras not bundled in the initial purchase.
I’d love to say I’ve been immune to all of this (market manipulation?), that I’ve magically been stoic in the face of the approaching storm. But it’s not true. Like many of you, I’ve been speculating, too. I’ve been looking at the potential issues that owning either console, here in Kuwait, might entail. I’ve been looking at regional locks, the stability of Internet connections (our networks are getting better, but they do drop offline on occasion, especially when those pesky divers decide to cut undersea lines), and what else might impact buying a new console might have on my game play. While money (thankfully) won’t be the biggest concern, playability is.
And you know what? I’m still not sure what I’m going to buy. My initial, knee-jerk reaction was to pre-order the PS4 (and remember, folks, I’m normally in the Xbox camp) and make the switch. I’d not be the only person doing this, either. Lots of people I know, some of them hardcore Xbox gamers, are making the switch. But not all of them are switching.
One of my friends from the U.S., with professional ties to Microsoft, has advised me to wait until September – suggesting we’re going to learn a lot more about Sony late this summer (specifically, about its use of DRM – digital rights media), how it will impact Sony (and the PS4), and how the Xbox One will remain competitive (which at this point, it’s going to need to be).
I think, of all the battles that will take place in this console war, the most ironic is that Nintendo is remaining relatively quiet. It really seems like the PS4 and Xbox One crowds are the ones in the trenches, either for or against a particular system, with little regard for what Nintendo is doing (and from what I’ve heard, for less money, too). I’m guessing this has a lot to do with how Nintendo markets itself, as well as which games it tends to host, ultimately guaranteeing that its audience will remain tried and trued.
I suppose the thing that bothers me the most about this whole battle – which will unfold the closer we get to Giftmas – is that the consumer is really the only person who will suffer. Prices and restrictions have increased, in one form or the other, for every console. Xbox One and the Nintendo Wii U will be region-locked (unless something changes), which will impact gamers here in Kuwait. The Xbox One will also be competing with Apple TV, as well as with other entertainment systems, because it’s moving more fully into the multimedia department (which is what some gamers are complaining about). Really, only the PS4 appears (at least right now) to be dedicated to offline and region-free play, which, at $100 cheaper, is going to make it an attractive option to a lot of us here in Kuwait.
But then again, there is still a lot more to learn. We’ve only seen the opening volley in this console war and we’ve months to go before we see the end. November is a long way away.