25 May 2010
We at Consolesports.net play more games than just sports sims. That's why we decided to create this section several months ago. However, due to the fact that my one year old toddler (with her newfound walking/running ability) is in full-swing lately, I haven't had much time to actually get some thoughts up here on what's going on in the non-sports world of console gaming.
2010 is showing itself to be a banner year for quality games accross the board. Look at what we've had just 5 months in. We have Red Dead Redemption, an instant classic of epic proportions. We have Super Mario Galaxy 2, which is probably the best platformer ever made by Nintendo. We have Battlefield: Bad Company 2, which is a top notch game, which has everything COD:MW2 has, but with more depth and the addition of driveable vehicles. Bioshock 2 was fantastic, and had a fresh take on the whole Rapture setting with life as a "Big Daddy". On the PS3 we have God of War III and it is a world-beater of an action game. Mass Effect 2 hit us in January. I know I was particularly fond of Aliens Vs. Predator as well. Capcom recently released Super Street Fighter IV, it's critically acclaimed magnum opus in next gen fighting. Then, to top it all off, just from the beta of Halo: Reach multiplayer, (which had about 2.4 million players sign in to give it a spin) is shaping up to be something VERY special. And hell, I haven't even mentioned the high quality of the sports games that have released so far this year.
And we are only five months into 2010.
FIVE MONTHS, people!
Still, to hear "industry analsysts" talk about how "slow" April 2010 sales were, you'd think we'd have a gaming-industry financial-meltdown underway. What people don't seem to get is that gamers are selective, and always have been. Many of us, knowing a huge game or big release is coming, will selectively pass on "good" titles that may come out during the wait. Money is not an infinitely available commodity for most of us (sadly!). Plus, lets face it, not all games are AAA level. Suffice it to say, however, that 2010 is really showing itself to be a banner year in terms of game quality. Frankly, I can't remember a time in console gaming history when there were so many non-sports releases THIS good.
But why is that?
Well, for one thing, we are almost five years into this generation of gaming. The XBOX 360 will celebrate its 5th birthday this November, and PS3 and Wii will be celebrating their fourth. Developers now have a very firm handle on the hardware and their in-house toolsets for creating games. They are now able to focus on gaming depth and content moreso than in previous years, when they were still figuring out what could be done on the hardware (and how to do it.) Right now, both the XBOX 360 and the PS3 are hitting a nice stride. Conversely, on the Wii, Nintendo corporate is realizing that relying on third party devs for their gimmicky hardware isn't the ticket, so now they are pushing out the occasionally brilliant first-party wares, such as New Super Mario Bros. 2, Metroid M, and Super Mario Galaxy 2, with a new "Zelda" rumored to be out before Christmas.
All in all, it is a good time to be a gamer.
But I think we have another factor to thank for this glut of game quality reaching our televisions.
We actually need to give kudos to The Recession!
Sounds awful, eh? Sure it does! But hear me out. What normally happens in the fourth or fifth years of a console generation's life-cycle? Developers get pulled off of projects on existing hardware to go design for "generation next" in terms of the upcoming new system hardware releases. By years four and five, consoles are generally just beginning their "farewell tours" with rehashed releases and middling quality games. We remember those days. Remember those PS2 titles and XBOX games in their fourth or fifth year of the console cycle? No? You don't remember those games? EXACTLY!
I also have no doubt, were it not for Mr. Recession rearing his ugly head, we'd be talking about the next XBOX and maybe even the "PS4" already. But as it stands now, have a gander at the industry trade mags and the hobbiest mags at your local book store. What do you see about "gaming generation next"?
At best, you'll read about upcoming peripherals for the existing systems, such as Microsoft's "Project Natal", or Sony's "Move" controller. However, you probably won't read about new systems. We are seeing a "hardware generation freeze" on the current generation of systems, with the recession being the root cause. While this may be viewed as problematic for hardware makers to a degree, software quality is seeing a huge "up-tick". Teams of devs are working with known, familiar hardware and are really honing their craft with that existing hardware. Depth, storytelling, features, and online play are driving game quality to levels we haven't seen as gamers. The recession of the past two years has caused what seems to be a "perfect storm" as it pertains to software quality.
Had this recession not happened, I contend we might be waiting some time to play a slightly enhanced version of "Red Dead Redemption", "Biosock 2" and "Halo: Reach" on new Microsoft hardware, since such AAA titles would have been coerced by MS or Sony to be made available on their new hardware as an incentive to early adopters. But instead of that "industry standard 4 to 5 year refresh rate on system hardware" we have seen since the 80s, we are instead seeing something totally different. We are witnessing the quality of the games, and not the newness of the hardware, take center stage.
That is a big win for us gamers, in my opinion.
It is simply not profitable to release any expensive hardware in the current state of the recessed world economy, so smart money is now being spent on game quality for THIS generation of hardware. Subsequently, the sheer quality of that now-intense competition is also pushing developers to better and better things.
So, thank you, Mr. Recession. We didn't know about that bright silver lining in your otherwise dark clouds...
Article by Scott Hemphill
Co-founder, senior writer