Video Games: The Ever-Changing Landscape

Colors fade, temples crumble, empires fall…

Even though it was almost 13 years ago, I recall the announcement vividly. Sega officially announced they were developing games for the upcoming Nintendo GameCube. I shook my head as I read it, feeling a sense of something between disbelief and disappointment. A Sega game on a Nintendo console? The pain was probably multiplied as the wounds were still healing from Sega’s other announcment that the Dreamcast was dead, and their future as a console developer was over.

Prior to 2001, this image would have caused wars!!!!

I tend to have a problem, I root for the underdog. I still do, I suppose. But that’s not always a bad thing. Anybody who knows their history is well aware that nothing lasts forever. Every dog — even the underdog — has its day. Sometimes you bite the underdog, and sometimes the underdog bites you.

I have a history of going with the wrong device, but sometimes it works out. I chose the Sega Genesis over the Super Nintendo, the Xbox 360 over the PlayStation 3. Both of which did extremely well (as did the competition).

Sometimes it doesn’t work out very well, like Microsoft’s Zune HD over the iPod Touch, or the BlackBerry Storm rather than an iPhone. I suppose I should also say, I chose Dreamcast over PlayStation 2. (Eventually I got a PlayStation 2, of which it’s still the oldest running piece of technology in the house.)

Zune HD: Definitely NOT an iPod Touch killer.

I’ve been playing video games for 3 decades, and I’ve seen a lot in my time. Some of it shocks me, some of it disappoints me, and some of it makes me excited for the future. Just like legendary empires, nobody is king forever in the video game industry. Companies rise and fall — some of them way before their time, and others finally collapse years after they should have.

Nobody can really say what the next trend is going to be, or what exactly will be the best system. In the past, video game consoles used to be judged on their graphical capabilities. But today, people’s expectations are much different. Remember how much flack Microsoft took from the press, gamers, and its biggest competitor Sony, during this year’s E3 conference? It wasn’t because of a lack of quality games, or the a lousy graphics engine. It was because people didn’t like Microsoft’s digital-only idea of the future when it came to owning and playing video games. Microsoft responded to the negative publicity, changed their policies, and people were, relatively, much happier. (The Internet is full of jaded gamers – we’re never truly happy about anything.)I watched Nintendo rise like a phoenix in 2006 then flounder and fall 6 years later. People mocked the Wii when it was first announced. I know this because I was one of them. We made the obvious and juvenile “wee-wee” jokes. And motion controls were a stupid idea — who wants to play a game by shaking a controller? Nintendo proved us wrong! The Wii was one of the greatest things to every happen to Nintendo. It outsold the much more expensive, powerful and better-looking Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, and did so for many years.

Then last year, Nintendo tried to be different again, and it has (so far) backfired. The Wii U seemed to be Nintendo’s response to consumer’s interest in touch-based mobile and tablet devices. The Wii U is more powerful than the previous Wii system, but not much different than the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. It certainly can’t compete hardware-wise with the forthcoming One and PlayStation 4. It’s also not much cheaper, either. Nintendo is having a hard time selling systems and getting major third-party developers excited about developing games for their system.

Hardcore gamers scoffed at the idea of a motion sensing camera, and claimed that the Kinect would be nothing more than a gimmick and would eventually fail. However, Microsoft has stood firmly in support of the next generation of the Kinect by including it with every Xbox One system.

Wii U: Not quite the success of its successor.

Who knows where gaming will be a year from now? Microsoft has had the top-selling console for a very long time, but perhaps Sony’s PlayStation 4 will move more systems and software than the Xbox One?

The reason I bring this up is that today, September 20, 2013, the iPhone 5S has been released. For some people this isn’t a big deal but for others it is. This little device is more than just a phone, and has processing power that is more powerful than even some computers today.

Years ago somebody suggested that the iPhone could eventually kill gaming devices like the Nintendo DS and the PlayStation Portable. I, of course, scoffed at this idea, as did others. But the truth is, the games in the Apple App Store are cheap (sometimes even free!), and the devices are plentiful. For the cost of one quality, $40 Pokemon, one could have up to 40 $1 enjoyable iPhone apps.

Tens of millions of iPhones, iPads, and iPod Touches are sold each quarter, far more than what Sony and Nintendo can sell in the same time frame. Apple (and Android) devices are capable of doing so much more than simply playing games – you can watch movies, listen to music, communicate with friends, and even do business! They’re designed for a multitude of other things, and gaming just a perk.

This is a screenshot from Infinity Blade III running on an iPhone 5S! Take that Vita and 3DS!

The Apple devices were also designed to be updated regularly, especially the apps and games. Operating systems can be refreshed significantly. Most devices also see a newer and better version released once a year — with the Android, there are multiple hardware refreshes each year from many different hardware manufacturers. Nintendo and Sony’s devices, get a hardware refresh every few years at the very most.

Apple just recently announced that their newest operating system, iOS 7, which all of their modern devices will be running, will include controller support. What that means exactly is yet to be determined, but this, in addition to the hundreds of millions of devices out there, shows Apple’s strong commitment to gaming on their devices.

The Nintendo 3DS seems to be doing relatively well now, but stumbled out of the gate. The PlayStation Vita, on the other hand, isn’t selling very well, and hasn’t done particularly well since its release. Sony recently announced the PlayStation Vita TV, which allows you to play Vita games on a TV — wait, isn’t that called a “PlayStation 3?”

It’ll be interesting to see what the next few years bring. If Nintendo can’t pull out of this Wii U downward spiral, perhaps we’ll see a repeat of the Sega Dreamcast debacle. The thought of a Mario or Zelda game on a PlayStation 4 or Xbox One probably enrages some people — much like how I felt seeing a Sonic game on the GameCube — but it could happen. Nothing lasts forever.

It’ll be an interesting new generation of gaming.

Colors fade, temples crumble, and empires fall…

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Troy is the Features Editor at Brutal Gamer. When he's not writing about or playing video games, he's enjoying life with his wife and children. He also loves coffee. And lots of it.
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  • Jay

    There’s a ridiculously huge amount of stuff in this article that I agree with or have said myself at one time or another lol

    BTW- I didn’t like the iPhone at all (I had a Zune too) and thought mobile in general could never take the place of a dedicated handheld. Now both my 3DS and my Vita are almost afterthoughts and my iPad is my primary ‘on the road’ gaming machine. Incredible how the landscape has changed.

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  • MrAwkwardOne

    I was one of the people that got the Dreamcast over the ps2. I even got the Gamecube before switching to the PS2, I still don’t regret any of those decisions though.

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