The release of the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Wii U have signaled the end of the seventh generation of consoles. With the excitement of new console launches now fading, I’d like to take a moment to look back at what the last generation brought gamers. Here are five of the biggest disappointment of the last generation.
Gaming Gets More Expensive
Ken Kutaragi famously stated that he thought gamers might take on a second job to afford a PlayStation 3. With a starting price of $500, the PS3 wasn’t the most expensive console ever released, but it did fall pretty far on the high end. Sony suffered for their hubris, with the PlayStation brand faltering for several years before multiple price drops finally made the console palatable. The Xbox 360 technically released at the more standard price of $300, but that version was a stripped-down device lacking core features of it’s $400 “real” version. Nearly every previous generation saw the most successful consoles releasing between $200 and $300, with the plunging price of technology staying in step with the rise in inflation.
It wasn’t just console hardware that saw prices increase, though. The standard price of a console game rose from $50 to $60, and the cost of controllers and other accessories also jumped up. Microsoft in particular took to gouging prices, forcing customers to buy proprietary hard drives and WiFi adapters that were often three times more expensive than similar devices for other hardware.
The market spoke: at $250, the Wii became an impulse buy for many families. While the balance of power shifted as time wore on, never forget that the Wii was once outselling the 360 and PS3, despite having a relatively lackluster library.
The Hype Machine Goes To 11
The beginning of the seventh generation was all about high definition. Microsoft made a big deal of the 360’s HD capabilities, Sony pushed Blu-Ray as the future of home video, and Nintendo insisted no one would care about sharper graphics. No one really won on these counts. Both the 360 and PS3 often rendered games at far less than even 720p, being HD only by the technicality that they were still more than 480p. Upscaling became a dirty word as games like Halo 3 were derided for not even displaying at the lowest of standard HD resolutions, instead rendering at an in-between resolution and upscaling to a higher one. Nintendo, meanwhile, expected people to believe that Skyward Sword looked every bit as good as a PS3/Xbox 360 game.
Though the argument of “What is HD?” is tied closely to expectations and semantics, the fact remains that style and design will trump technical excellence in the field of visuals. Reducing sharpness to improve other facets of presentation might be worth the trade-off, but developers and publishers should learn that doublespeak doesn’t fool an informed audience.
Portables Forget About Battery Life
There was a time when one could play their portable game console for the entirety of a road trip. The original Game Boy could last for a good fifteen hours on a set of four AA batteries. Its successor, the Game Boy Color, lasted nearly thirty with just two! At some point, between backlit screens and rechargeable batteries, that expectation has dropped to two-to-five hours. Portable consoles now have enough life to last two or three bus rides home. It’s technically enough for anything but an extended gaming session, but it is hard not to feel let down by the fact that you’ll have to tether yourself to the wall quite often while playing through The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds.
Nintendo Drops Every Ball Possible
Early in the seventh console generation, Nintendo had an unbelievable lead on their competition. They have always owned the portable space, but the Wii was their first home console since the Super Nintendo to hold the lead position in the numbers war. The Wii was immediately flooded with shovelware from third parties, and Nintendo even farmed some of their most cherished franchises to less-than-stellar developers(more on that later). Nintendo has always been a relatively conservative company, but their risk-averse nature worked against them, as hardcore gamers passed on the Wii in favor of the more mature and refined titles found on competitor’s platforms.
As soon as the Wii fad passed, owners were left with a dearth of titles, leaving even the Nintendo faithful a little perturbed. The 3DS, a follow-up to the successful Nintendo DS, stumbled out of the gate. The company attempted to make amends by dropping the price and sending early buyers a nice bundle of downloadable retro classics, but it took a while for the 3DS to hit is stride. Despite the drop in the Wii’s popularity and the stumbling of the 3DS, Nintendo again bungled the Wii U launch, from which it has yet to recover.
Metroid Goes to Shit
This may be a more personal complaint than my other points, but there is no getting around the fact that one of Nintendo’s most popular franchises has fallen by the wayside. It’s sitting in a pit next to Star Fox, and the main thing the two have in common is that they fell from grace when their development was farmed out to third parties. Metroid has always been one of my favorite series, and the festering sore that is Other M has yet to be bandaged. There hasn’t been a really good Metroid game since Zero Mission for the Game Boy Advance. Metroid Prime was at least an interesting reimagining of the series, but later games in that line failed to impress as much as the original. Fans have been begging for a return to classic form, and “Metroidvania” style games have become particularly popular on the indie gaming circuit, leading gamers everywhere to wonder just how much the people in charge of Nintendo hate Samus Aran.