What an Age We Live In

So a birthday editorial is now officially a thing with me.  I did it last year to talk about the age thing.  It’s one of the things that tickles me pink about being Indie Gamer Chick: my average reader is over ten years older than me.  In terms of what that means from a generational perspective, it means someone who is, say, 34 would have grown up firmly in the era of Atari 2600, Colecovision, and NES just as it was launching.  Whereas I got my first console in 1996 at the age of seven.  And it was the original PlayStation.  That’s a pretty big gap.  I spent my teen years with PlayStation 2, Xbox, and GameCube.  You spent yours doing Sega Screams at each-other and talking about Super FX chips.

This gives me a different perspective.  It also leads people to write off my opinion on gaming history as irrelevant.  After all, how could I, a person who more or less grew up in the modern gaming era, understand what games meant to you.  Games were totally different back then.  The industry was too.  The culture.

Ha.

Remember how at E3 this year, everyone was hating on Microsoft and doing the dance of joy for Sony, who were coming off like the plucky underdogs?  Yea, that’s already happened.  Only it was Sony who were the assholes and Sega who were the guys everyone was cheering for.  Back in 1999, Sega announced the American release of Dreamcast, with a very modest $199 price point.  Just days later, Sony announced the specs for PlayStation 2, which rendered Dreamcast obsolete before it even released.  Sony also positioned PS2 as more than just a game machine, thanks to its DVD playback capabilities.  They touted their consoles as the future of entertainment, where being just a video game device was passé.  Sega’s American CEO Peter Moore responded by saying “(Sony) said they are not the future of video games.  They are the future of entertainment, and God bless them.  We’re the future of video games.”

Sound familiar?

Sony

Well, at least Peter didn’t tattoo that on his arm.

Sony had a ton of swagger for years at this point.  In 1996, Sony purposed a Gentleman’s Agreement that neither they, Nintendo, or Sega would make price change announcements at that year’s E3.  Sega and Nintendo accepted.  Sony then broke the agreement and said that they were dropping the price of PlayStation by $100.

It’s worth noting that Nintendo had to announce the price of Nintendo 64 at the show, and Sega had planned on reneging anyway by having signage touting Saturn’s $100 price drop printed up.  Still, Sony offered an olive branch and then immediately set fire to it once Sega had grabbed it.  It’s not that they broke the agreement though.  It’s that they were such dicks about it.  On the third day of the show, Sega’s spokeswoman Angela Edwards was carrying heavy signs that said “Saturn: Now only $199” (an extra $100 price drop that they were forced into despite corporate’s wishes) into the building, only to be harassed by Sony employees who mocked her and called her pathetic.  The jerks involved were never named but rumored to have been fired.

Let’s see: arrogant console manufacturer with antagonistic employees opening their big yap and getting fired for it.  Sound familiar?

Gaming is no different today than it was when you were young.  Technology is better.  Roles might be different.  But the overall picture is basically the same as it’s always been.  This generation, we have three main consoles and a couple of upstarts who would walk on rusty nails just to capture a 1% market share.  For the main consoles, one is more consumer friendly and has better licensing deals with third-party partners.  One is facing all kinds of criticism for draconian policies despite having major technical advantages on its platform.  And finally, one is struggling to keep its head above the water due to lack of third-party support, poor marketing, and inferior hardware.  In this context, I’m talking about PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Wii U in that order.

But if I replace “this generation” with “the 16-bit generation”, then I’m talking about, in order, Genesis, Super Nintendo, and TurboGrafx-16.  The parallels between that particular console war and the current one are striking.  But gaming history is full of that.  For that reason, the age thing really isn’t that big a deal.  Times change, but nothing really changes.  In the 80s and 90s, Nintendo fought tooth and nail against game rentals.  Right up until it became clear that the courts, not to mention the court of public opinion, would never side with them.  This year, Microsoft was absolutely crucified by the journalists and the game community for their DRM policies on Xbox One.  Make no mistake though.  If a console manufacturer can succeed in creating an environment where used games don’t exist, they would absolutely do it in a heartbeat.  We’re not quite there yet, but it’s coming.  It’s inevitable.  Not only that, but when the time comes, nobody will care.  It will be expected.  It will be the norm.

I tried my best to somehow compare 3DO to Ouya.  Gave up when I realized it wasn't possible.  The 3DO was $700, hard to develop for, and would have been lucky to capture 1% of the market.  Well, I guess Ouya has that.

I tried my best to somehow compare 3DO to Ouya. Gave up when I realized it wasn’t possible. The 3DO was $700, hard to develop for, and would have been lucky to capture 1% of the market. Well, I guess Ouya has that.

Sure, the game industry of today isn’t exactly the same as it was for you.  Indies for example.  They couldn’t exist back then without getting dragged to court, and even the act of selling third-party development kits would likely get you sued.  Being indie on consoles meant acquiring a development kit (typically through the black market), getting distribution, a publisher, or the capital to make a production run.  Today, thanks to digital distribution, pretty much anyone can make a game and see it published on a console.  Anyone can make a game for Xbox 360 and publish it to XBLIG.  For the next generation, there might be a few more barriers, but someone with the desire to create a game can see their title published to a console’s marketplace.

But otherwise, it’s still the same game industry.  Nintendo still relies on the same handful of IPs.  Sega still relies on Sonic.  Gamers complain that games are overpriced or that there’s not enough variety.  Fanboys pick sides and get in shouting matches over which console is superior, only it’s done on the internet during their lunch break instead of at the playground during recess.  One company is positioned to be the gaming press’ darling.  Lawsuits are flying left and right.  I live in the same environment you did.  I’m a gamer of the new school variety.  You might be a gamer of the old school variety.  It’s actually the same school.  I was born twenty-four years ago today.  On the day I was born, old school gamers were drooling over pending release of Duck Tales.  Today, those same gamers are all grown up.. and drooling over the pending release of Duck Tales.  How times have changed.

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