A long time ago, in a galaxy far f- wait, no, in a little village wedged between Sunderland and Newcastle, I had to choose between the Sony Playstation and the Nintendo 64. It was an exciting time. The Sega Megadrive that had been with me since my first remnants of consciousness seemed antiquated by comparison; a child’s plaything to a mind yet unburdened by the concept of nostalgia.
But how to choose? Was 64 a significant number? Were CDs better than cartridges? I didn’t know. What I did know, even then, was that the decision would play a significant role in my entertainment consumption for several years. To a 10 year old, several years may as well have been a lifetime, and I was about to have my first long-term relationship.
What? Don’t give me that look.
The decision turned out to be a simple one. My favourite film at the time was The Lost World: Jurassic Park (seriously: stop looking at me like that). Obviously, after talking to my parents and hearing how clever and handsome I was, Sony had clearly made the film into a game specifically to win me over. And they succeeded. Sony, or rather Sony Computer Entertainment, ceased to be some faceless corporate entity and became a bona fide hero like Spiderman, Achilles or Captain Bucky O’Hare (mutants and lizards and Nintendo beware).
Sony has now been elevated to the pantheon of the Gods to sit with the likes of Apple, Samsung and Microsoft. And, much like any epic tale, sometimes these heroes of ours can betray us — Sony included, or at least some elements of their business. Now most of the devices that excite us are transient things that enter and leave our lives in much the same way that the folk you have a half glance and a suppressed smile with on a train do. “Built to last” is becoming increasingly less of a selling point, replaced with a model of more transactions in a shorter timeframe for very slight upgrades to our already wondrous gizmos.
When is the best time to upgrade a phone anymore? Six months from now there will be another iPhone announcement. Following that in a similar timeframe will be another, and then another and another. I’m finding it increasingly more difficult to get excited about these sorts of announcements or for trade shows like CES, because all the new features are leaked weeks in advance. Also, I didn’t even know that I wanted biometric locking or 326ppi displays on my phone instead of 264ppi, or that these things would excite me. Oh, hold on: I don’t and they didn’t. The smartphone was born out of a need for an all encompassing communication device; an answer to a question. Can the same be said about the Samsung Galaxy Gear smartwatch?
I’m not saying that there isn’t any innovation left to be had in technology outside of consoles; just look at the Oculus Rift VR headset or Google Glass. What concerns me is that I can already feel my cynicism senses tingling and can’t help but wonder how soon after either of their releases will we see versions 2.0 appear, with a better display or a slimmer chassis.
Perhaps I’m being too nostalgic, or that I grew up being part of the ‘core’ that games were targeted at, but I can’t shake the notion that consoles are the last bastion of excitement in technology. Where else can you find a device with a true 5-7 year life cycle? That is a genuine question and if you do have a suggested answer then please let me know in the comments because I honestly can’t think of anything.
Look at this reaction to Sony’s Playstation 4 policy announcements at E3 in April. Some of you may have already seen it, but I urge you to watch it again because it’s a beautiful moment. Who cares that they are essentially saying “don’t worry guys; we’re making sure everything is staying the same as it is now.” It doesn’t matter. Look at the palpable levels of excitement — there was a freaking “Sony!” chant! That’s Stone Cold Steve Austin levels of excitement right there. Our hero did exactly what a hero is supposed to do: champion the cause of the people. That’s the bottom line, etc.
A week after that announcement, Microsoft reversed its stance on some of the policies that Sony openly lambasted in that video and there was much rejoicing from the Xbox followers. Are you watching this Apple? How about you, Samsung? This is what happens when you embrace competition and don’t start petty patent wars over the curvature of your products. People will buy your brand because you’ve made a good product in response to someone else’s good product and not because you killed the competition.
It doesn’t matter who comes out on top between Sony and Microsoft, if anyone does at all, because we all win regardless. Even in four years’ time when the hardware may start to hinder graphical fidelity compared to PC games, you’ll still get developers who rise to the challenge and push the consoles to the absolute limit in much the same way The Last of Us, Halo 4 and Grand Theft Auto V have at the end of this generation. On top of this you have features like Kinect 2.0 and the Dualshock 4 touchpad, which offer tantalising glimpses at what could be used for future innovations in gaming that we can’t yet imagine. Both consoles will also be making it easier for the YouTube generation to stream content by incorporating internal recording functionality. All of these features have real world applications that the target audience will make good use of and are worth upgrading to.
My 10 year self and I approve, but we think The Lost World: Jurassic Park is underrated so what do we know? Perhaps it would be better if you let us know what you think. Is the concept of a video game console outdated and becoming increasingly irrelevant or is there still hope for the future of 10 year olds everywhere? Are there any technology innovations that you’re genuinely excited about?
After you finish watching The Lost World (you know you want to) come back and let us know.
Image Credit: Pop Chart Labs