I remember when my Dad first brought home our Atari 2600. That system changed my life (although my family might argue it was not for the better). If my parents’ generation was raised by television, my generation was raised by video games, and I loved them. I played all kinds of games, and I remember playing on almost every system that came out in the 80s and 90s, even if I didn’t own them (and I owned quite a few). In addition to that 2600, I owned a Nintendo, a Super Nintendo, a PlayStation, a PlayStation 2, an Xbox, an Xbox 360, a Wii, and a PlayStation 3, not to mention all the iterations of computers I’ve had.
But lately I’ve been hearing announcements about the PlayStation 4, and I have to admit something I never thought I would say: I really don’t care. The truth is I couldn’t name five games that have been released for the PlayStation 3, let alone played them. I might, might have played three games on the PS3, although considering one of them was Tony Hawk HD I’m not even sure that counts. Another was Final Fantasy XIII, which I never got more than thirty minutes of actual game play out of, although I spent several hours watching cut scenes.
So what have I used it for? Collecting dust, mostly. Same with my Xbox 360. The problem is that the games cost too much and demand too much, and quite frankly the systems try to do too much. Once upon a time (and I realize I’m dating myself here, but bear with me) console systems were designed for one thing: playing games. Now they’re designed to be music players, Blu-Ray players, web browsers, connect to every possible internet service, and oh yeah, play games occasionally too. And all for the low, low price of a few hundred bucks straight out of the box, plus peripherals, plus the cost of games, which is going up every year, IF you don’t include DLC, which all of them do.
The problem I have with this is that I already have a Blu-Ray player that works a lot better and is easier to navigate, I have more ways to listen to music that are more portable and do a better job, if I want to surf the web I’ll use my computer or (heavens!) take it with me, and as for the internet services I want, I can get them anywhere a lot faster and easier. What I want form these consoles I can’t seem to get anymore: a unique and fun gaming experience that doesn’t take an IT genius to set up and doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. (I mention the IT genius because the only person I know that actually uses all these systems the way they’re designed to be used is, in fact, and IT genius.)
So here’s the crazy I want someone, anyone, to take and run with: make a stripped down, basic console. One that just plays games. And no motion sensitive, wild and crazy, “new experience” controllers, please. Just give me a quality gaming experience. Hey, Big Gaming Companies: if you really think people want something outlandish and expensive in their gaming, why are you losing market share to $0.99 games? Why did social games take off? Was it the “innovative” game play? Hardly. It was the basics. A good story, a fun time, something simple and basic, that people didn’t have to mortgage their house for.
I’m sure it can be done, and fairly easily. When I can cruise around and find a memory stick that can do the job in lots of 20 for less than $5 each, processors for $11.00 in ten seconds or less, and I can probably find the rest of the components with a little work, I seriously doubt it would be that hard for a major manufacturer to put together a workable console that could retail for under $100 (or even $50). Get some kids straight out of college to put together short games that would play in ten to twenty hours and retail them for $20. Even resale, they’d only drop to $10 at the lowest, and at that price you’ll sell enough to maintain a profit margin, plus get the goodwill of not looking like you care about the secondary market. If someone wants to write a longer story, just break it up into a series. Lord knows franchises are the Holy Grail of gaming anyway.
I can’t believe it would be that hard, and it’s a wholly unexploited market share today. There’s a lot of people who want to play games, but staring down the barrel of a $400 up-front cost is just too daunting, and upwards of $80 for a game I might play for a week just doesn’t cut it anymore, particularly in this economy. Bring it back down to earth, and watch them fly off the shelves.