Next Gen Gaming

This month sees the release of two of the major next generation consoles, so I threw #YEG Extra Life Co-Organizer and Edmonton Sun’s Matt Dykstra an email with a bunch of questions.

Matt is a passionate Edmonton gamer and (in my humble opinion) a super smart guy when it comes to the video game genre. Here is his opinion on some of the exciting things coming our way this month.

What’s your favourite thing about the new console releases?
Matt Dykstra: Really it’s seeing how the industry has evolved, both in terms of its products and services. The PC has been outpacing consoles in terms of technology for the past four years (at least) and that tends to hold back the entire industry as developers pursue cross-platform projects to maximize profit, ie, games that could be built on better technology aren’t, simply because it needs to release on PS3, Xbox 360 and PC. Usually, the PC version is the better performing game but with new consoles, the industry can play a bit of “catch-up” and we’ll see amazing-looking games across the board. The second thing is services. Did anyone even think about cloud technology or social media when 360/PS3 launched in 2005-06? No! With this generation, we can see console manufacturers like Microsoft and Sony doing the utmost to future proof these boxes. Microsoft says the magic of the cloud will allow Xbox One games to continually look impressive as animations and effects can be offloaded for processing to another server and then streamed back. Similarly, Sony’s purchase of Gaikai is paving the way for a Netflix-esque back catalogue of PlayStation titles and even allows you to stream PS4 games to a PS Vita for high-quality gaming anywhere in your home. Both consoles are touting integrated Facebook/Twitter share support. That’s pretty cool. 

Who do you think has done a better job selling/marketing their console pre-release?
Matt Dykstra: Sony, hands down. That isn’t to say they have a better box than Microsoft (only time will tell) but they’ve had more consistently clear messaging about what the PS4 can do and who their customer is: the gamer. Microsoft on the other hand announced the Xbox One to a plethora of confusion and anti-consumer messaging. Granted, some of this was blown WAY out of proportion (Kinect as a spy device? Ugh, please) but there’s no doubt the used-games/always-on controversy rubbed gamers the wrong way, causing a massive policy backpedal that leaves one to question if the Xbox ship truly knows what direction it wants to sail. Also, Microsoft’s marketing focus on television integration and live sports appeals to the average joe but NOT the average gamer. They need to hook gamers first, then grow the base. 

Which console do you think “won” this generation? (Xbox 360, Ps3, or Wii)
Matt Dykstra: This is a tough one. I’m going to say the Xbox 360 because it was the most consistently entertaining box over the entire eight year generation. It launched in 2005 with a Live service so good that the competition spent years trying to catch up (and even then, wasn’t as well integrated and supported.) Halo and Gears of War led the exclusives charge, becoming household names.

The PlayStation 3 launched a year after the 360. It was overpriced and gamers would have to wait a further year before exclusive titles started to garner attention. If Blu-ray had lost the format war with HDDVD, it may have been the system’s end. However Sony started turning the ship around in 2008 or so when games like Metal Gear Solid IV came out. Sony started building a really impressive catalogue of titles and around the same time they redesigned their console and dropped the price. They gained huge momentum, eventually catching up with Microsoft’s global 360 sales.

The Wii might be Nintendo’s biggest mistake. It hit mass-market appeal and garnered huge sales figures but the success was short-term and at the cost of abandoning hardcore gamers, which led to a rapid decline in interest. First-party games like Mario and Zelda sold huge, but third-party support went out the window. Everyone owns a Wii but does anyone still play it? Worse still, the WiiU — simply by sharing its name — is currently struggling. 

Which console do you think will “win” this next generation? (Xbox One, PS4, or Wii U)
Matt Dykstra: This is also tough because it’s a situation where you can’t count your chickens before they hatch. Both the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 are offering similar visions but with contentious differences. Services such as cloud power and remote play have been announced but who can say how well they’ll function? Personally, I think both will thrive. I’m buying a PS4 because I feel the system has a momentum last seen at the PS2’s launch, with tons of developer support and games I want to play. I’m going to be watching the One’s first year with great interest and will likely also buy it at some point.

I maintain that the WiiU is not a next-generation console. I feel it’s more of a “bridge” console, catching Nintendo up to the world of high-definition (it’s about damn time too) but still not pushing the envelope. Nintendo’s online plan is so far behind, it’s laughable. However, Nintendo has always carved out their own niche, so I wouldn’t count them out just yet. 

Do you think the two newest consoles can compete with PC gaming?
Matt Dykstra: Yes, with some caveats. Games will look and play roughly the same on PS4, Xbox One, PC for a few years but PC technology is always under iteration. Microsoft needs to prove the “cloud” sorcery they’ve been touting actually works. Another big factor is Steam. Valve has been really ramping up their efforts with new services and boxes soon. The future is exciting and hard to predict. 

Which new console do you think has the best launch day line-up?
Matt Dykstra: They’re both kind of the same and both ‘meh’, personally. Setting aside games launching on both platforms (Assassin’s Creed 4, Call of Duty: Ghosts, Battlefield 4) you’re left with exclusives like Knack and Killzone: Shadowfall on PS4 and Ryse and Dead Rising 3 on Xbox One. Those reviews will be a huge determining factor. Do either of these consoles have a true killer launch app? Remains to be seen. 

What game are you most looking forward to in the coming year?
Matt Dykstra: In 2014, probably Metal Gear Solid V but as we know so little about it, I’m going to say Destiny. Bungie is BFFs with Sony now, so it should have a strong community at launch. There’s too many others that also deserve a mention like Titanfall and Watch Dogs. What game was you favourite this past year? Matt Dykstra: The Last of Us. Gripping story, accessible gameplay. 

Which console would you tell my Wife to buy me for Christmas?
Matt Dykstra: Hahaha, buy yourself a PS4 and then get your wife to buy you an Xbox One. Can’t go wrong with both :)

Oh, you say I have to choose just one? Hmmm, personally I would say PS4 but a lot of people choose based on their friends list and sense of community. If all your friends are on Xbox 360 and plan to purchase a One, maybe that’s best to keep your gaming social.

 

And there you have it! Awesome answers from an awesome guy. Stay tuned to Matt’s Twitter account for what I’m sure will be a fun couple of console launch days. And be sure to congratulate him on what I heard was a wonderfully successful #YEG Extra Life this year.

Jay Runham

Edmonton, Canada

My name is Jay Runham, I design and build websites, I eat Hummus, I create rich graphic elements and dabble in many different multimedia worlds (including iPhone web development). Design is my passion and I love to create, debate and stimulate conversations about the different aspects of design in our multimedia world today. I take pride in being a Canadian web developer and I’m looking to further my local Tech scene here in Edmonton, Alberta. Want to pick my brain? Or maybe just wondering what my favorite color looks like next to yours? Find a way to connect with me and let me know what you're passionate about.