It seems no matter where I look as of late there is nonstop talk of new consoles. Even my local newspaper had a bit on it recently. This sort of hype is expected–they are new and exciting. It happens every time a new console generation launches, but there is always one aspect of the so-called console war that bothers me. Everyone talks about how they own up to the last generation, who has the strongest hardware, how many features Microsoft can force into its next not-PC or how out there Nintendo is being, but something is missing. For all this back and forth about game consoles, there is shockingly little talk about games.
Putting aside the Xbox One nonsense and the string of press releases about the new generation, this phenomenon is hardly new. The first thing people talk about is specs, which is all well and good, but specs do not really tell me what I care about when I look at a console. I only really care about specs when PCs are involved. This console has a more RAM, this one has a bigger processor, Microsoft’s watches you sleep and Nintendo has more touch screens. At this point you can assume Sony’s has the most computing power, Microsoft’s is a glorified PC, and Nintendo is doing something different, though not everyone likes it.
Funny thing is, none of those details will sell me a console. The only things that will encourage me to get a new device to play games with are the games available. I will not pretend that I am not a long-time Nintendo fan. I’ve been playing their games my whole life and will in all likelihood continue, but I do not have a WiiU. Not yet, at least. All the games I want to play are on the Wii, PS3, or PC right now (or something older), and while I know it will not be a great deal longer until the games I want are available (see: Pikmin 3 and Wind Waker HD), I do not feel the burning desire to drop the kind of money needed for the WiiU prematurely. Sony has enough IP under their control that it is entirely likely I will get their next monolith eventually, but at present the Playstation games that have my attention are for the systems I already have. Until that changes, the PS4 is just another device. All the power and extras mean little without a library to take advantage of them.
I realize part of the reason all the other features get played up is an attempt to make consoles seem more accessible to those who do not play games. Netflix, a television-based browser, and general multimedia support is something everyone understands, whereas games could be intimidating to one unfamiliar with them. While valid to a certain extent, it is rather difficult to justify dropping the kind of money needed on a console if all it would be used for are things that the computers and tablets so many people already have can do. The Wii did not sell to the casual crowd based on multimedia support; the Wii sold thanks to Wii Sports and Wii Fit and accessible games. Even to non-gamers, it is the games that sell a console.
I like consoles. I play most of my games on them, and given the choice, I will often choose the console version of a game over the PC version. Something about being able to sit down in front of the television, pick up a controller, and start playing a game is attractive, because in the end, the games are what matter. Now, I do not want to suggest that some of the newer features of consoles are a bad thing–I love that the PS3 can play normal blu-rays and that the Wii has Netflix support. Those added features are great, but they’re not the reason I buy consoles. The Wind Waker, Xenoblade Chronicles, and Demon’s Souls are reasons I buy consoles, and it is our job as consumers to let publishers know this.