Category Archives: Opinion
With the WiiU on store shelves, the PS4 sure to be on the way soon, and Microsoft’s plans for a new console almost certainly due for release at E3 – if not sooner – attention will once again turn to that age-old, overly simplistic sentence that sums up years of effort by the big console makers.
“So, who won the console war this generation?”
It has always been a very loaded question based on your definition of ‘winning’, but I think this is one of those generations where – no matter your allegiances – it would be hard to declare a winner.
Nintendo’s console makes a strong case – it crushed the 360 and PS3 in terms of actual console sales, raked in huge profits for Nintendo thanks to its expensive and numerous accessories, low development costs, and the fact that units were sold at a profit. It also introduced more families and senior citizens to video games than any other console in history other than the PC. Finally, it must be said that Nintendo largely steered clear of controversy beyond the decision to go outside their traditional audience with the console itself. They didn’t have the hardware problems, poor marketing, or other ancillary issues which plagued Microsoft and Sony.
However, the Wii’s underpowered hardware, lack of AAA titles and multiplayer support, and branding as a ‘family console’ left many to declare it a console for casual gamers and not the stereotypical gamer audience, which then begged the question if the Wii ‘counted’ in the console wars. Adding fuel to this argument was the poor sales numbers for non-Nintendo titles (note you have to get to #15 on the list before you get a non-Nintendo affiliated title), which hurt third-party support for the console; many other publishers couldn’t make money on Nintendo’s platform. Coupled together, the quiet end to the Wii era has undoubtedly harmed sales for the Wii U, which Nintendo used to try to reach out to the hardcore audience they ‘betrayed’, and caused some publishers like EA to drop support for it (a console which hasn’t even been out a year) in their new graphics engines. Declining sales for the Wii and the rough launch has hurt the company’s bottom line.
Many thought this generation would belong to Sony. They were expecting Sony could build on, and carry forward, the success they had with the PS2. They exited the last generation with a huge install base, a number of AAA titles that could be exploited for sequels, and they created Blu-ray discs that would make their games fit all on one disc! Their hardware advantage, their experience in making consoles, the added value of the Blu-ray player…it looked like a sure thing.
Between the high price point, the abysmal PR, and a launch lineup largely devoid of the characters that made them successful, Sony stumbled out of the gate and really had trouble righting the ship once they got going. The Playstation division has led the way to the bottom as the company hemorrhages money, and it is largely the result of a few too many gambles which didn’t pay off. They launched a lot of new intellectual properties and unfortunately many didn’t perform. The starting price point was too high, especially against an established competitor which had been out for a year. While Playstation Network is beginning to catch up to Xbox Live in terms of quality and value, it makes you wonder why they spent that much time on Playstation Home when that wasn’t what gamers were asking for. And finally, they followed the motion control bandwagon by releasing their own Wiimote-inspired controller instead of foreseeing that the bubble was bursting and letting the trend pass them by.
The Xbox 360
Microsoft’s effort to be the first ones out of the gate paid off in the short-term, with games that largely appealed to their ‘bro gamer’ demographic and a mix of new intellectual properties and classics like Halo 3. They revamped Xbox Live to offer a bit more for the subscription fee, though paying for it at all remains a contentious issue especially with the advertisements on your dashboard. They stepped back from publishing many games and largely relied on third-party support and timed exclusives to carry their console forward. Between the robust social features, retention projects like gamerscore, and a healthy stream of games, Microsoft was largely the online multiplayer console of choice, and owners typically had the largest game library of home console owners this generation.
Of course, you can’t bring up the 360 without mentioning the crippling Red Ring of Death or ‘RROD’ (it has its own Wikipedia page!) which ruined many consoles because of poor design. While Microsoft started offered better warranty coverage in later years, it served as a reminder to me (and I hope many others) that ‘early adopters always get screwed’. Microsoft was also criticized by gamers for having expensive proprietary accessories, a confusing ‘points’ currency system for online purchases, and a limited range of games since most of the ones they published were, again, of the ‘bro gamer’ variety. That all changed when Kinect arrived on scene. Despite a high price point, low number of quality games, and reports about it not working without excessive lighting, the device sold well…now gamers are waiting to see if it will be incorporated into the next Xbox, or if it was just another expensive add-on that will be replaced.
I think you could make the argument consumers won the console war this time. Some companies very clearly got the message that consumers are king and, if you don’t give them what they want, you are limiting your own success. That’s why projects like the Ouya were able to come together. It’s why Sony went back to its stable of successful PS2 intellectual properties years into this cycle. And it is why we had a longer console cycle with a number of great games – no matter which platform you owned.
Of course, consumers also lost studios and publishing companies like THQ and Lucasarts, though that was less their will and more poor management and Disney’s fault respectively. You can also argue, with the rumours around next generation consoles not supporting used games, that publishers won and its to the detriment of those looking to make a living off the game industry and gamers themselves.
What are your thoughts? Who won? Who lost? Are you a PC gamer who thinks the whole lot of it was entirely pointless? Let us know in the comments!
Heck, this is only tangentially related to tech or social media.
But gosh darnit.
Is Star Wars better off with the house that Mickey built?
I believe George Lucas when he says he wants to see Star Wars persevere into another generation – whether for money reasons or because there’s never been (and probably never will be) another series quite like it – but is a new movie trilogy the way to do it? Is there no other way to introduce young people to Star Wars?
My fiancée is a big Looney Tunes fan, and her favourite character is Tweety. I’ve been looking for Tweety stuff for birthdays, Christmas, and what have you and it’s no easy task – likely because the show has been off the air for a while. I want to give them my money for Tweety merchandise but I effectively can’t do it! I shudder to think of a similar scenario where I won’t be able to find Star Wars stuff for my potential son or grandson. Sure, maybe some new series will come along that will be more relevant to his generation and I’ll be buying him action figures from that universe, but I firmly believe Star Wars is a unique universe. Maybe I’m biased because I grew up as the original trilogy came to VHS and as the new trilogy was just beginning production, but I’m not sure there will be another sci-fi movie series like it. Some compare Mass Effect to Star Wars, but Mass Effect has been and will always be a video game series first and foremost and, with an M rating, it is targeting a slightly older age group than Star Wars. I don’t know if it’s possible to have that same childhood nostalgia feelings about it as a series. So between the need for new merchandise and the gap in the market for a sci-fi series for tweens and teens, I can understand why Disney would look to launch a new trilogy…even if it is probably doomed to the same mockery that Lucas says forced him to step away from making Star Wars movies.
Why am I nay saying the new trilogy without knowing anything about it? It’s not just because it’s a cash grab or because I expect it will suck. My worry is that this series won’t be made for the Star Wars fan. I think this series is going to be for ‘new fans’, just like movies one to three, and it certainly will not be a love letter to guys like me or guys my dad’s age who saw the originals debut in theatres. The pent-up demand they refer to is not the demand of fans, who probably don’t want another movie since the story is complete as it is (and doesn’t need more editing, might I add Mr. Lucas). The pent-up demand is the demand for a new sci-fi series to inspire young minds and hock merchandise. Rather than start fresh, Disney aims to exploit the Star Wars brand and capture the imagination of a new group of pre-teens and teens by returning to a galaxy far, far away. And milking it dry.
If you think the future could sound bleak for Star Wars, I need hardly remind you that Lucasfilm also owns Indiana Jones and, with a more recent sequel that seemed to set up Shia LaBoeuf as the new Indy, that universe could also be headed to a dark place as Disney goes searching for lost treasure.
In the meantime, I eagerly anticipate Spaceballs 2: The Search for More Money as a direct commentary on this whole situation.
Oh and don’t take my gripes as me saying I won’t go to see it.
Talknowledgy debuted as a radio show on CKDJ 107.9 in Ottawa in September of 2010. At that time, podcasting was still kind of a new concept to Ted Raymond, my co-host at the time, and I. It was a neat idea to us but we weren’t sure who would listen, how we would get people to listen, where we would post it, and how much time we could devote to that (as we were college students at the time in what is the busiest term of Algonquin College‘s Radio Broadcasting program). Along the way we learned a few things, and I hope this checklist below will give you a starting point if you’d like to create your own podcast someday.
Pick a topic: First things first, what is the topic of your podcast? Is this a topic you’re interested in? Is it a topic that is broad enough that you can find listeners? How will you prove to people you are an expert in this topic?
Find a co-host or co-hosts: You could do a solo show or podcast, but it’s certainly more lively with one or two other people. It also helps if you have others to fall back on in case one of you is unavailable to do one show.
Line up the equipment: Good quality microphones is very important. Great content can be utterly ruined by bad or inconsistent audio quality. Everyone should be using the same microphone, and it should be in a quiet room with a lack of echo. Phone quality is acceptable in small bursts but a co-host should not be permanently on the phone. It gets hard to listen to!
Editing: Having good editing equipment is even more important. Thankfully, it’s pretty easy to get! A copy of Adobe Audition is what you need! ProTools, Audacity, and other software will perform a similar function but in my opinion Audition is the easiest to use and does the job quite adequately – nearly every single Talknowledgy podcast was edited down through Audition! (One or two were edited using a radio news software called ‘Burli’ – not recommended for large-scale editing jobs and not cost efficient if all you need is the editing audio capability).
Length: Determining how long your podcast is important, especially if you want to syndicate this content by turning it into a radio show. If it’s purely for the internet, it can be as long as you want it to be and – in my opinion – it should be as long as it has to be. When Talknowledgy was on CKDJ, CKCU, and CFRA, the show was constrained by the ‘show clock’ – it had to be a certain length and couldn’t be longer or shorter. Now that it’s solely a podcast, we get to talk about every story we have lined up for the week! There are advantages to both models.
Schedule: When will your content go out? It can be easier or harder to get play throughs depending when it is released. We settled on Saturday morning because it was easiest from a recording standpoint and because we had a good number of clicks. By contrast, Friday night did not work for us at all. Your mileage may vary.
Get a podcast host, get a website: This will set you back a few bucks, but both are necessary. Find a podcast host that has a good billing structure based on your needs, looks presentable, gives you an RSS feed, makes it easy to embed audio, and helps spread the word about your podcast effectively. As for a website, WordPress is one avenue if your budget is tight or you aren’t all that web savvy!
Eventually you’ll want to look at things like budget, a content strategy to bring in more traffic to your website, a division of work among your partners, a promotion strategy, and many other things…but if you have the above figured out, you’re ready to start!
Good luck! Post a link to your podcast site in the comments – would love to check them out and chat with you about podcasting!