My Ridiculous E3 2014 Wishlist

The Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) is next week, and we are all bracing for the dog and pony shows, the buzzword-laden marketing promises, and CGI glimpses of games that will be arriving two years from now.

For gamers, E3 is both exciting and frustrating at the same time, as there will inevitably be some pleasant surprises, but they’ll be wrapped in a whole lotta nonsense.

We all have our hopes and dreams though, and each of us has an E3 wish list for the big three (Nintendo, Microsoft and Sony) that we would love to see become a reality. I know that my E3 wishlist is pretty far-fetched, but it’s fun to think about anyway. So without further ado, here is something I would love to see from each of the big three at E3 this year.

Microsoft–Crackdown MMO
I’ll start with Microsoft, as my wish for them is the least far-fetched of the three. I want an new Crackdown. I love the Crackdown series. The original is still one of my top five Xbox 360 games, and I was one of the few that also loved the sequel. And we all saw the Crackdown orb symbol in a pic of the Xbox One dash during the new console’s reveal. So it’s safe to say there is a new Crackdown being worked on. and there are rumors of Crackdown 3 arriving in 2016.

Here’s where I get far-fetched, though–I want a Crackdown MMO. Drawing on Crackdown 1 and 2, there could be various factions battling over control of Pacific City (The Agency, Los Muertos, Volk, Shai Gen, Cell). You could also keep the Freaks as a grunt-level threat that all factions would have to deal with. In many ways, it could be similar to what Realtime Worlds tried to do with APB. But, it would be developed by Ruffian (Crackdown 2 devs who are still around, having worked with 343 on Halo: Spartan Assault and Rare on Kinect Sports Rivals as well as their own Game of Glens).

Since this is my wish list, I would also make the game a one-time purchase, then free to play MMO for Xbox Live Gold subscribers.

Nintendo–3DS as a WiiU GamePad Replacement
I’ve talked about this before, but I feel like Nintendo is missing a great opportunity by not having more interoperability between the 3DS and the WiiU. Sony is smartly trying to bolster Vta sales by giving PS3 and PS4 owners reasons to own one, but Nintendo has not leveraged the huge install base of the 3DS (43 million worldwide and approximately 12 million in the US alone) to bolster WiiU sales. Combine that with the fact that the GamePad is what keeps the price point of the WiiU where it is, and Nintendo has even more reasons to bring the 3DS into the WiiU ecosystem.

My proposal is this: Any 3DS (regular or XL) that has a Circle Pad Pro attachment should be able to function as a WiiU GamePad. With the Circle Pad Pro attached to the 3DS, you’ve got the touchscreen, the triggers and the shoulder buttons.

Not only would this open us cross-save, cross-buy, Virtual Console library sharing and more, but it would allow Nintendo to cut the price of the WiiU by putting out a version without a GamePad. And they wouldn’t have to screw developers by removing features or upset existing owners.

There could be a $199 WiiU SKU, with a Circle Pad Pro included, or a voucher that could be used to order a free Circle Pad Pro from Nintendo’s website. They could do a 3DS XL/WiiU bundle for $399, giving consumers a compelling reason to go with Nintendo over Microsoft and Sony this holiday season. Not to mention, there are a ton of great games for both consoles right now.

While this may be the most far-fetched thing on my wish list, it makes so much sense that it hurts my brain. Just do it, Nintendo.

Sony–Free PS Now Rentals for PS+ Subscribers
I’ll preface this by saying that of the three bigs, Sony is doing a lot of things right. PlayStation Plus is fantastic. The PS4 is offering experiences that the Xbox One and WiiU aren’t. I can play a pretty darn good free MMO (DC Universe Online) on PS3 and PS4 right now, Sony is doing everything they can to bolster the Vita and they have a next-gen only exclusive in Infamous: Second Son. Of the big three, they are the only one that could strategically stay the course and be okay. (And yes, I know about Sony’s financial troubles, but those losses aren’t coming from the PlayStation division, which posted a profit this year).

The game streaming service PlayStation Now is currently in beats on both the PS3 and the PS4. From what we’ve seen and heard so far, when the service fully launches, users will be able to rent PS1, PS2 and PS3 games for one, seven or thirty days. Whether or not there will be a subscription option to access the entire library isn’t clear yet, and it seems these options will not be part of the PlayStation Plus subscription service as it is right now.

What I would love to see is for PS Plus subscribers to essentially get rental vouchers for PS Now games every month. Similar to the lending library on the Amazon Kindle, I’d like to see PS Plus subscribers get at least one free rental credit a month. Each month brings a new voucher, and the old one expires. Sony could also offer a discount to PS Plus members for additional rentals, similar to the discounts that Plus subscribers enjoy on games purchase through the PlayStation Store.

I don’t see this happening, as PS Plus users already enjoy some pretty big discounts, as well as great games every month. Even if Sony never added value to the PS Plus subscription again, what I’m getting now is more than worth it. But, if I was getting a game or two to stream from PS Now every month, I’d be more like to try out others on the service.

So, those are my E3 wishes for the big three. Here’s hoping the game genie will come along and grant at least one of them.


There’s Fun to be Had in Amazing Spider-Man 2

Much like the the movie, the reviews of the Amazing Spider-Man 2 game have been fairly mediocre. But also like the movie, I have been pleasantly surprised at how much I’m enjoying the game.

ASM 2 was developed by Beenox, a studio who knows how to make a decent Spidey game. They had been porting Spider-Man games for years before taking over development of them with the well-received Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions in 2010. The followed that up with Spider-Man: Edge of Time in 2011 and the first ASM movie tie-in game in 2012.

The problem with having a veteran studio attached to a game like this is there is a certain expectation of quality. If Rocksteady puts out an Arkham game, you have a certain expectation. If High Moon puts out a Transformers game, you have a certain expectation. And if Beenox puts out a Spidey game, that expectation is there as well.

But a movie tie-in game is a development challenge in and of itself, and the constraints of such a project are evident in ASM 2. The game does not in any way leverage the power of the new consoles (I’m playing on Xbox One), and there is a general lack of depth that suggests a shortened development cycle.

All that said, ASM 2 is still fun to play. Beenox has refined some of their mechanics over the years, and they have crafted a web-slinging system that in my opinion feels better than any that’s come before it. When swinging through the city, your web shooters are mapped to each trigger, and the physics of web-slinging are great. If you invest a little time in it, you can really get into the rhythm of easily navigating the streets and rooftops. You can also look horrible swinging around, since you can’t just blindly fire webs when there’s no building to attach to, and the different heights of buildings have to be factored in when you’re swinging around.

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The combat is a shallower version of the Arkham series, although its premise makes more sense here. Your Spider Sense warns you of incoming attacks, and by dodging and countering, you can chain combos together and execute finishing moves, which earn you more XP. Your XP unlocks upgrades and new abilities. It’s simple and effective, just not as robust as what we’ve seen in other games.

The stealth system is okay, and involved you using your Spider-sense to identify enemy locations and then taking them out covertly. It works decently enough and is a nice palette cleanser, but I’d rather be using Spidey’s acrobatics to combat the bay guys instead of sneaking up on them.

Boss battles usually involve some sort of quicktime events, but they are only a piece of the overall battle, so I wasn’t bothered by them.

I’m about four or five hours into the game so far, and I’m really enjoying it. I’ve just started unlocking new suits, and I will definitely keep playing until I at least unlock the Spidey 2099 suit.


A Kinect-less Xbox One Is a Bad Move for Microsoft

Microsoft completed the circle of back-pedaling on their original Xbox One vision today, as they announced a Kinect-less version of the console would be arriving in June, at a PS4-matching price of $399. And while many will see this as a smart move, and one that has the potential to increase sales, I think it’s very short-sighted.

Let’s forget that you can get the Titanfall or Forza 5 bundles of the Xbox One for $499 right now, which effectively means that you’re paying $440 for the console with Kinect. Or the fact that many retail outlets recently dropped the price of the Titanfall bundle to $450, which made the price differential with PS4 essentially nothing.

Let’s focus instead on the notion that a great deal of the console’s functionality runs through the Kinect, and that the Xbox One was designed around it. From the very beginning, Microsoft emphasized the Kinect to both consumers and game developers. On the consumer side, you’ve got the voice commands, the video chat, the game streaming, the facial recognition, voice-chatting through Kinect, menu navigation, motion controls and more. On the developer side, you’ve got the fact that all developers can count on the Kinect being a part of every Xbox One, so they can include Kinect features in the design from the start.

Now, a mere six months into the life of the Xbox One, Microsoft is essentially abandoning the Kinect to try and close the sales gap with PS4. And if you think that’s an exaggeration, understand that the second the Kinect is not a part of every console, developers are basically going to walk away from it completely. Why would they fracture their audience?

This move affects exclusives more than third-party games of course, because third-party games are not putting a ton of effort into designing for features that don’t exist on all consoles (see the WiiU and its GamePad).

The sad thing is, there are surely plenty of games in development that are designed with Kinect functionality, and those games just got the legs cut out from under them. And now that future games will shy away from Kinect features, we’ll likely never see the potential of the Kinect fulfilled. I honestly don’t care about most of the Kinect functionality right now, but I was certainly hopeful about what it could be in the future.

Most concerning in all of this though, is how quick Microsoft is to change their strategy on a console that has been out for a little over six months. Having to give up their “always on” strategy nullified their plans for leveraging the cloud to improve performance, and now abandoning the Kinect will kill their other differentiating feature. Polygon actually has a great article detailing the changing message of Microsoft regarding Kinect over the past several months. It’s sad.

And what of the early adopters? Word on the street is they can expect no Nintendo-like reward program for their customer loyalty. I know I’m kind of wishing I’d held off and waited for a PS4 instead.

Dropping Kinect is a risky strategy, that’s for sure. If this doesn’t close the sales gap (and I don’t believe it will), then Microsoft will have completely compromised their original Xbox One design for nothing. And where does that leave them?

On a related note, say what you will about how badly the WiiU is failing, but I applaud Nintendo’s response around the GamePad. Rather than ditch it, they’ve re-committed to showing people why it’s an integral part of the WiiU.

At the first sign of trouble, Microsoft cut bait on the Kinect. But I think their missing the larger issue–that consumers are losing confidence in them due to fact that it seems they have no idea what they’re doing with this console.


Xbox One: My First Two Weeks

After spending a couple weeks with the Xbox One, I’m optimistic about its potential, even though I’ve yet to be blown away by anything it has to offer.

I picked up Battlefield 4 when I grabbed the Xbox One, and while the game looks great, it’s not a dramatic leap forward from the Xbox 360. The same goes for Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare, Killer Instinct and Call of Duty: Ghosts. Don’t get me wrong–all of these games look impressive. But visuals alone aren’t the main selling point of the Xbox One for me.

The worst part about the Xbox One for me is the interface. It’s really just awful to navigate. The only saving grace is that you can “pin” items to a home screen, so I’ve just basically put all the apps I use regularly in one place.

And speaking of apps, I have used both the Twitch app and the YouTube app quite a bit since I bought the console. Both are great. I’ve yet to really dive into the Skype app, but I will in the next few weeks.

One of the things I’ve been pleasantly surprised with so far is the ability to use regular headphones with the Xbox one and use the Kinect for your chat mic. The audio quality isn’t as good as a mic, but it’s a nice option and it allowed me to use a decent pair of headphones for game audio until I got my Xbox One headset. And speaking of that headset, it’s really nice. This is probably blasphemy, but I find it more comfortable than the Turtle Beach headset I had for my Xbox 360. What’s even better about the new headset is that you can unplug it and use pretty much any headphones with the adapter for game audio purposes. So when I’m playing by myself and the family is asleep, I can just pop in my phone earbuds and enjoy the audio without the bulky headset.

As far as chat goes overall, Microsoft just patched in cross-game chat, so I haven’t had the chance to try it yet. but I’ve had no complaints about the chat functionality so far. Time will tell.

Another pleasant surprise–the controller. I expected it to be just like the Xbox 360 controller, but I actually like it better. The shoulder buttons and triggers are wider, and I Iike the smaller and more concave versions of the sticks. The only thing that feels like a step back is the clicking of the sticks, but that might also be because the controller is new.

I have not used too much of the voice navigation on the Kinect yet, but there is one command that is pretty great–”Xbox, record that.” With that command, the Xbox automatically records the last 30 seconds of gameplay. So, you can capture a great moment right after it happens. You can also open the game dvr function and record up to five minutes of gameplay, but I found that a bit distracting, as i was trying to make something cool happen as opposed to just capturing something cool I did in the course of gameplay. No matter how you record, you then head over to the Upload Studio app to edit clips, add effects and then upload them to OneDrive (formerly SkyDrive), where you can share them. My one gripe with this (as you’ll see in the video below), is that when you embed a clip you saved to OneDrive, the video does not play in the blog page, but rather brings you to OneDrive to view the clip. I’m hoping that gets patched later on, as it really discourages the use of clips for blog posts.

Twitch broadcasting is supposed to arrive with Titanfall, and the most exciting thing about it is that you’ll be able to archive broadcasts, which is what really bummed me out about the PS4’s twitch integration. I will be doing a good amount of streaming and then posting the archived streams to the blog here.

So after two weeks, I’m definitely enjoying the Xbox One and I look forward to really getting into Titanfall with my gaming pals this week. Down the road a little, I am chomping at the bit for Elder Scrolls Online. That may actually become my most-played game on the Xbox One, if it’s as good as it’s shaping up to be.

I’ll be posting a lot more about my experiences with Xbox One, and if you have specific questions, feel free to pose them in the comments below.


So, I Bought an Xbox One

So, after all my blathering on about how the PlayStation 4 was going to be my console of choice this generation, I went out and purchased an Xbox One. Why? Two reasons, mainly. Availability and peer pressure.

I got paid for a writing gig two weeks ago and I suddenly had the money on hand to get a console. I knew if I didn’t get one then, the cash would end up going to something else. That’s just the way it works.

So, I ventured out on that Saturday morning two weeks ago in search of a PlayStation 4. Best Buy, Target, GameStop, Walmart and even my local mom and pop game shops were sold out of PS4s across the board, and I was hearing that April would be the next time they could safely say they’d have stock. Just to be sure, I checked online on the sites that track stock, and didn’t have any luck there either. I would have driven at least an hour out of my way to get a PS4, but there were none anywhere near me.

Meanwhile, every store I visited had Xbox Ones in stock. I had a handful of games that I planned on trading in, and after having no luck on the PS4 front, I went back to GameStop and picked up the Xbox One, a copy of Battlefield 4 and a 12-month Xbox Live Gold subscription. With my trades, I ended up paying roughly $500 for the whole package.

So to recap, Xbox One was immediately available when I had cash to buy a new console, and PS4 was not. It’s really that simple.

As far as the peer pressure piece, almost all of my gaming friends are Xbox users. The group we lovingly dubbed “Team Zombie” came together around the Left 4 Dead series on Xbox 360. Entire online friendships were built around the original Modern Warfare. And most of my friends were pushing me to get an Xbox One over the PS4. The main reason I wasn’t planning on it was that I am not able to get online with the gang as much as I was in the past, and I’ve become more of a solo gamer nowadays. But, since I have the Xbox One now, I’ll still be able to connect with that group whenever I can.

My purchase of an Xbox one doesn’t rule out getting a PS4 in the future, but now that I have a current gen console, that’s nowhere near a priority. In fact, the only drawback of the PS4 in my mind was the inability to archive streaming sessions on Twitch, which is something the Xbox One will now be able to do with the recent dashboard update. So my plan to do more streaming for this blog is firmly in place with the Xbox One, and with my PS3 via the Roxio GameCap HD Pro. Plan on seeing lots of Titanfall and Dark Souls II in the next few months.

I also plan on writing up my thoughts after the first two weeks with the Xbox One. Look for that in the next several days.


Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare is the Perfect Blend of Class-Based Shooters

Last generation, the game that evangelized more than any other was Dark Souls. It was a game I felt a lot of people overlooked and made a lot of assumptions about.

In this brand new console generation, I have found the first game I feel strongly enough about to evangelize. That game is Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare.

Forget what you think this game is. Forget that you’re mad PopCap decided to make a shooter out of Plants vs. Zombies. Forget that it looks like it’s aimed at younger audiences. Forget that you think it will just be laden with microtransactions. Forget all of that, and play this game.

Garden Warfare takes the best of Team Fortress 2, Battlefield and the versus mode in Left 4 Dead 2 and combines them. Each faction has classes that will be familiar to shooter fans–there are soldiers, healers, engineers and heavies. But the way those classes are implemented makes each type of character play very differently. The heavy on the zombie side is a lumbering hulk with a chain gun, while the heavy on the plant side basically Audrey II from Little Shop of Horrors. Each class has abilities that you unlock by completing challenges, and a fully unlocked character has a nice variety of options to head into battle with.

There is a card system in the game that allows players to purchase card packs with in-game currency. These packs contain customization items (like hats and outfits for your characters), weapon upgrades (including elemental damage), new characters to unlock and consumables that you can use, like deployable health stations, turrets, summonable characters, etc. The card packs range in price and so far I feel like the currency I’m earning is an appropriate ratio to the cost of the packs. There is also an element of randomization to the card packs that ensures there is a reason to keep earning currency to buy new ones. All of the currency is earned by playing the game and completing challenges.

While I think there are some balance issues to still be worked out, there is fun to be had in all of the game’s modes. Team Vanquish (Deathmatch) is a “first to 50 kills” type of game, and most of the matched I’ve been in have been decided by 5 kills or less. There’s also a rush-style mode called Gardens and Graveyards, where you are either defending or trying to take control points. This mode needs some balancing, but it’s still a blast to play.

There’s also a four-player co-op horde-style mode which I haven’t checked out yet, as I’m the only one of my friends who has the game so far.

And therein lies my biggest concern for Garden Warfare, and the reason I’m evangelizing it–it’s an online-only multiplayer game, and I’m afraid it may not have a big enough player base on XBox One to keep it going for the long haul. That would be a real shame, as this is a game, much like Team Fortress 2, that you can keep replaying and keep having fun with for a long time to come.

So please, if you have an XBox One (or an XBox 360), do not overlook this game if you’re a shooter fan. Garden Warfare looks great, plays great and is a ton of fun. It’s also one of the only shooters that’s accessible to kids without being inappropriate for them.


Xbox One Layaway Program Is a Big Deal

I don’t think it can be overstated how much the $100 price difference is contributing to The PlayStation 4’s dominance over the Xbox One in sales so far.

Keep in mind, most parents who are buying this console for their kids are not paying attention to the major game news sites. They could give a crap that Sony has done a better job of courting indie developers, or that Microsoft flip-flopped with their online strategy. That stuff we care about, but most consumers don’t even know about. In fact, you would be amazed at what most consumers don’t know.

One example: I was in a GameStop the other day, and a father and son were in line behind me. The father was asking his son what the difference was between the PlayStation 4 and the XBox One, and why the XBox One was more expensive. The kids reply: “The Xbox One does more. You can go online with it.” The implication was that the PS4 has less features and no online functionality.

Most consumers are walking into a retail store and comparing the two consoles. And when you see two boxes that basically do the same thing, have many of the same games, but have a $100 price difference, that’s the deciding factor.

So I find it very interesting that GameStop just started a layaway program for XBox One, that allows you to pay for the console over an indefinite period, with no additional fees. You can put $25 down, and then add to it whenever you can. You can also cancel at any time, which basically makes this a risk-free proposition for consumers.

I think this program is going to significantly increase the sales of XBox One consoles, as it essentially erases the $100 advantage PS4 has. That’s only a deciding factor when you are paying for the console in one lump sum. And by allowing people to put the console on layaway, you’re locking them in as XBox gamers before they can go somewhere else.

The reason this is so interesting to me is that I was planning on getting a PS4, not an XBox One. I don’t have the cash to just go out and grab one of these consoles, and I don’t have the ability to just sock money away until I do (between kids and bills and whatever, it just goes). But, when I have an extra $20 or $30, I can go throw it on my XBox One layaway until it’s paid off. And I won’t be charged interest or additional fees. That’s a pretty sweet deal.

Unfortunately, it’s a deal that’s only being offered for the XBox One. And that’s why I may end of up getting an XBox One instead of a PS4. So even for me, a lifelong gamer who stays up on all the news and follows all the consoles, the ultimate factor ends up being cost, and in this case, the ability to spread that cost out over a period of time.

I’ll be very interested to see how this progresses.


The Games Industry Really Has Become the WWE

Polygon’s Emily Gera wrote a brilliant post on her personal blog today about how the games industry has turned into a spectator sport akin to World Wrestling Entertainment. It’s a fantastic read, perhaps the most insightful post I’ve read about games this year. And it really hit home with how I’ve been feeling lately as a 39-year-old gamer who is just kind of sad about the state of the industry today.

First, go read the article on Emily’s blog.

I was actually having a conversation on Twitter with Co-Op contributor Dave Fetterman that directly relates to the sentiment expressed in Gera’s post. I was reflecting on the fact that as of late I find myself becoming part of the Nintendo Defense Force, feeling the need to reply to the constant negativity that seems to be aimed at the WiiU and Nintendo in general.

I’m a WiiU and 3DS owner and I have two kids, so for us Nintendo’s consoles are a constant source of fun and entertainment. I also have a Xbox 360, PS3 and a PC, so I play games wherever I can get them. In this last console generation, I’ve probably spent the most time on Xbox 360. Not that any of that matters, except to say that I don’t have a “console of choice” per se.

The thing that kills me is these narratives that are built up not just by the rabid fanbases of each console, but the games media as well. Over the past year, and into this holiday season, one of the biggest is that not only is the WiiU not a “next gen” console, but it’s already dead in the water. There is no reason to buy a WiiU, and there is no hope of it recovering from its slow start. Some are even calling for Nintendo to get out of consoles entirely, either moving exclusively to handhelds, or giving up hardware altogether and becoming the next SEGA.

Consider this: you can get a WiiU bundle for $299 right now that either comes with Wind Waker HD, Skylanders or two Super Mario games. Right now, the WiiU has a slew of great games to play: ZombiU, Pikmin 3, Nintendoland, Super Mario 3D World, Wonderful 101, Lego City Undercover and plenty more. And the console is backwards compatible, which means you have the entire Wii library as well. It’s a great value, especially as a family console. But that narrative is boring, right? Who wants to talk about what a fun experience the console can be when we can all hail its impending doom from the highest mountain, right?

When it comes to the PS4 and the XBox One, the ebb and flow of the narrative changes daily. The PS4 goes from being more powerful than the XBox One to having a worse launch lineup to being a better value to being inferior because it doesn’t let you control your living room in the same way XBox One does. On the flipside, XBox One had terrible party chat one day, a lack of free demos the next and then Kinect makes it better than the PS4 (despite the fact no one wanted it before launch and thought its addition was not worth the extra $100).

And this stuff isn’t just message board or comment section chatter. These are storylines that all of the major gaming news sites are feeding into daily. Much of the chatter from gamers is happening in response to these stories. The gaming news sites are just as much the creators of these narratives as the fans. The same goes for the publishers and hardware makers themselves, and you don’t have to look any further than this year’s E3, when the mudslinging between Microsoft and Sony was on stage for all the world to see. Microsoft ended up changing their whole strategy for the console based on the narrative that games journalists helped create when they took fan reactions and jabs from Sony and ran with them relentlessly. Microsoft was the bad guy–they didn’t get it. Sony came out of E3 as the “winner,” the company that really understood what gamers wanted from the next generation. Nintendo wasn’t even allowed to be part of the discussion, as the media took Nintendo’s lack of a spectacle presentation as a reason to marginalize them completely and just focus on the narrative that the upcoming generation was a two-horse race.

All of this is where the spectator sport of the games industry comes in, and where Emily Gera’s analogy is so brilliant. There has to be Good Guys (Babyfaces) and Bad Guys (Heels) in order for anyone to care. Those Good Guys and Bad Guys will switch places when it suits the overall narrative, but there will always be someone to root for and against, and those creating the narrative get to decide what roles the actors are assigned to.

This whole spectator sport aspect of the industry takes the focus off of the games, off of the fun, and off of the escape that games offer me. It also devalues the exact type of writing that Emily Gera displayed in her brilliant post. Because if gamers would rather read about how many PS4’s failed over launch weekend or how dismal WiiU’s sales were this week than a feature on the design of Resogun, that’s what Emily and those who work for other gaming sites will be writing about. And that just feeds into the spectacle our hobby has become.

The absolute saddest thing about the current state of the industry is that some of the best writers out there, people who earn a living writing about games, have to turn to their personal blogs in order to post ideas that are not part of the larger narratives, part of the spectacle. If you think I’m exaggerating, look at how many current and former games journos have their own side blogs and podcasts, and look at what they produce for content. For most of them, those side projects are where they get to actually celebrate games and talk about the things they love.

Now, the state of the industry isn’t going to change anytime soon, although I hope articles like Emily Gera’s will at least get people to do some self-reflection. I would love to see something like Upworthy come along for the games industry. Some sort of aggregator for games writing that celebrates the hobby, where features about people’s experiences with games and what they love about them are shared and promoted, as opposed to the gladiator arena that currently dominates games media.

I’m rambling now, so I’m going to wrap this post up. But you really need to go and check out Emily Gera’s post, because she is dead on.


It’s Not You, PS4 and Xbox One–It’s Me

So, Microsoft had their Xbox Reveal event today and announced the XBox One. Similar in specs to the PS4, XBox One seems to be differentiating itself in terms of it’s commitment to being your one media box, with a focus on TV, web and Skype integration. There are a million articles about the new box, and Game Informer has a nice hub of info here.

Right now, I own an XBox 360, PS3, WiiU and 3DS in terms of gaming-centric devices. I also own a smartphone, an iPad 2 and a Kindle Fire HD. Yes, I have a bit of a tech-buying problem. Here’s the crazy thing, though–with all those devices, I currently spend less than five total hours a week playing games.

And that is really the big difference between now and when the last console generation started. When I first picked up an XBox 360, I had one less child, and a lot more free time. I spent an average of 15-20 hours a week gaming, sometimes more. Every weekend I was up until the wee hours on XBox Live with friends. I put hundreds of hours into Modern Warfare and the Left 4 Dead series, among others. I also spent a hefty amount of time with the PS3, much of it on RPGs that I pumped countless hours into as well. I’ve spent over 300 hours on the Souls series alone.

Over the past two years though, my gaming has decreased dramatically. Picking up the WiiU was probably a mistake–not because there’s not enough games for it, but because I have little time to actually play it. Don’t get me wrong, ZombiU was amazing and I’ve had a blast playing Lego City with my son, but the lesson I’ve learned here is that I just don’t have the time to be the gamer I used to be anymore.

Not to mention, as the “Year of B-Games” has reminded me, there are a ton of XBox 360, PS3 and Wii games that I still want to play. At my current gaming rate, these could last me years–literally.

Which may ultimately mean that I don’t end up grabbing either the Xbox One or the PS4 come this fall. My compulsion to buy new tech will surely be eating away at me, and I’m sure I’ll cave at some point. But I think there’s a very good chance that for me, the next console generation will be a one console generation. I’m going to have to pick one and go all-in, as I simply don’t have the time (or money) to justify being a multiple console owner anymore.

I’m still looking forward to E3, and I’m still excited about the future when it comes to games. But much like the other hobbies that have been marginalized over the years, my days of 24/7 gaming are over. I may be spectating for much of the next generation, as I’ll still be playing catch up on the games I have yet to experience from current consoles.