Piss on ya PS3!
A slightly defocused rant about things console..
Here's a foreword, and a rambling apology, I'll come right out and say first
of all, that I never really 'got' consoles right from the 2600 days. To me,
the original home computer was god and that was all there was to say at the
time. Then consoles took a back seat around the crucial ST/Amiga ascendency
years, and they didn't recover until the 16-bit Sonic generation. Therefore
they didn't get my attention, whereas someone getting interested in gaming
slightly later, might have been more in favour.
So what has provoked this manufactured storm of outrage from the CiH-
meister? Well the decision by Sony to delay the PS3 for the European market
until March 2007 will do nicely for a quick reason for now.
But why do you care, it's not as if you're first in line for one? Well
we've been here before, far too many times already. I remember very well in
the Snes and Megadrive days, that I got to see some titles a YEAR before
their official Euro release, but only because I had access to people with a
Rom to floppy disk copying device, and some interesting contacts in the BBS
scene of whom ST Format would not have approved! Which seems to indicate
that in this limited case, piracy pays, and honest punters are the ones left
clutching empty air for up to a year later.
Applying this third class logic to hardware, you get the grey importers
moving in to fulfil a need denied by the console manufacturer's assymetric
release dates, only this time, Sony are going to crack down on anyone trying
to do that with the PS3, ho hum. Still, they might be doing the public a
favour by protecting them from stupid hype pricing. I get the feeling that
Sony does not give a stuff about us, and feel similarly demotivated to give
a stuff in return about them!
You might work out that I'm not a big fan of a regionalisation policy that
puts us in last place every bloody time!
Secondly, I've never got into the 'closed' and authoritarian development
model favoured by console companies. Right from Nintendo's initial jihads on
anyone attempting to do anything 'open source' with their kit, through to
the present. I've enjoyed the fruits of a free and open creative computing
culture. I accept that this is subject to the demands of the people
concerned making a living in real life, and this runs more slowly than I
would like, but I accept that. A quick browse through the Pouet archive
tends to show that none of the consoles have got a really big demoscene.
There are a few productions for most, and a couple of pages or so for the
better supported, but not so many considering how many millions of people
own these consoles. I guess that getting hold of (or making your own)
development tools is a hard slog, and beyond the level of all but the most
dedicated? Alright the exception proving this rule might be the Gameboy
The overbearing and overcontrolling approach is a symptom of the Japanese
console makers particularly, although Atari had their moments of corporate
megalomania back in the day. It's not as if Microsoft are a model of
openness either, but wait a minute, even they are reconsidering the subject
with their 'XNA Game Studio Express', which is trying to create a dynamic
homebrew game-making culture, sort of like the one which disappeared when
Windows became the Uber-O/S. Well we'll see if there is a hidden catch in
this promise, as I'm sure Microsoft have smuggled one in under their EULA
One half-remembered story has the Japanese entertainment software market
going for a closed development model when the success of the mid-eighties
MSX home computer platform led to a spike in piracy levels, and a muttered
determination by the Japanese corporations not to go down that particular
It tends to help when the consoles have been around for a bit and get an
emulator developed for them. At which point they do start to become more
interesting to the likes of me. But of course, things like emulators are
offensive in the eyes of the corporations who will do what they can to kill
And we're not letting off Nintendo, and their odd attempts at censorship of
game content, back in the Snes days, of which Castle Wolfenstein was only
the best known example. We're all familiar with the downside of Microsoft
running a de-facto monopoly, but the Console corps would be scarcely any
better if they manage to get it all their own way.
And here's another thing, it might also be a case that consoles, or the
people marketing the software at least, don't like me, and don't want to
encourage my business. In my opinion, current marketing and packaging of
many console games is forced into a strict age-ghetto. If you are the wrong
side of thirty, you don't half feel like a paedophile browsing the shelves,
whether it is looking at the almost pre-school Nintendo stuff, or even the
X-Box 360 and Sony wares designed with the yoof market in mind? I think this
is deliberate, to aim for a specific and narrow age-demographic, but once
you fall outside of that, then get lost daddio! Surely there must be a
market for a universal console to appeal to all? I don't think it was always
like this, the classic Gameboy could be picked up and played by anyone.
The moral of that last paragraph is, yes I know I'm an old fart, but I
resent having that fact shoved in my face! Anyway, most European countries
demographic profiles are getting more middle-aged, so the Console companies
are missing out on a potentially huge market here.
(Update - Feb '07)
And it's not just me who thinks that way either. Here's an extract from
www.pointlesswasteoftime.com about what they see as the coming crash in video
games. This is what they have to say about Nintendo.
"I know some of you Nintendo fans were screaming at your monitor in the last
section, saying the $199 (or $249) Nintendo Wii is the low-cost answer to the
affordability problem.The problem is Nintendo is still so neglectful of older
gamers that it borders on hostility. Everything they showed at E3 starred a
cartoon character, and the games that didn't (Madden and Red Steel) appear to
be very bad games. Plus, I say the older you are, the less inclined you'll be
to flail around the room with their new controller."
So is there anything you like about consoles?
Well yes there is. The more 'retro' a system becomes, the more charm it
acquires. A good example is the Sega Gamegear, which is now happily emulated
on Atari as well as other systems. You can admire the professional
workmanship that went into the best games on an emulated version of the
system, without paying the hype price for new releases.
So does this mean you're a cheapskate? Well yes of course! The problem with
new systems and new releases is, that you get issues of peer group
acceptance and appearing 'cool' mixed in too much, regardless of whether the
game is actually any good, or just a derivative of its 500 genre brothers
that came before it. Somehow, 'retro' seems purer and more about simple
enjoyment, and not being bound up in the identity pressures of a hyper-
consuming 'yoof' culture.
Also, I will say that in a uniform desert of Peecee dullness, at least the
console makers keep on doing new and fabulous things with extraordinary
combinations of hardware. The relatively long shelf-life of the successful
consoles means that the optimising skills of the demo coders are more
relevant to these machines, than the bloatware 'wait for the next upgrade'
approach of the Peecee market.
And of course, the good games made for these machines really do rock. This
is thanks to our tame coders who used to make amazing things on Atari, but
have been seduced by promises of riches, an exceedingly time-poor working
environment, and the chance to listen to lots of unfeasible USA-ian
management jargon in their daily briefings. A lot of inspiration for this
article also comes from me being an old fart and not being able to spot the
differences between games written after 1995, so there!
And I will say well done to Nintendo for at least getting their Wii out this
side of Xmas.
I might finally put a word in for a system which is totally atypical of all
that I have described before. The Gamepark, in its current GP2X version, has
opted for a 180 degree turnabout from the traditional console megacorp
restrictive development model. Gamepark opted to make their handheld as open
as possible, powering it via Linux, using open source devtools, and
encouraging homebrew work, demo's, emulators of classic systems and more.
Now if you could attach a keyboard to it, that would be just be the perfect