Why I’m Not Ready for a New Console
Recently I ran into a sadness: my PC of six years fell below the minimum requirements for upcoming game Dishonored.. The old girl, who’s already operating off upgraded parts in nearly every area—more RAM, non-packed in video card, second hard drive—tumbled off the board in pretty much every category.
This put me into upgrade mode, at a time when I’m wondering whether it’s really necessary or not.
Yesterday, the Wii U’s final announcement raised the same question in my mind. But there it’s an even greater question: can I work up the enthusiasm to pay hundreds of dollars for what’s technically a computer weaker than my six year old desktop? My laptop, which struggles to play even the occasional low-budget indie game, has more RAM than the thing. It’s got a faster processor.
There’s another question, though: why do we need more horsepower? Has anyone done anything really extraordinary with what we have?
This console cycle has been different from those of the past: we’re missing that final stage. The Playstation 2 went from games like Dark Cloud to Persona 4. The Playstation transitioned from Wild Arms to Final Fantasy IX. The Super Nintendo moved from early oddities like Actraiser to Super Mario RPG. As time passed there was an obvious learning, an obvious improvement of the games. Sure, there were outliers like Super Mario World and Final Fantasy VII, but, in general, games got better.
The modern generation, though? There’s not so much difference between The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion and Skyrim, two titles on the edges of the modern generation. We’ve gone from Gears of War to Gears of War 3. From Bioshock to Bioshock Infinite. These games are prettier, sure, but we’d be hard pressed to say they’re end-of-console masterpieces. Nothing on the Playstation 3 has said, “This is the best this console can offer.” It’s why Nintendo’s launching a console with specifications akin to the Playstation 3 and the Xbox 360: there’s a lot of room left, here. Computers are doing the same: operating systems are becoming more complicated, more resource intensive: that’s where a lot of the extra processing power is going. It’s going to making sure Games for Windows Live can be packed in with everything and leech resources, rather than to making things prettier.
Couple this with the fact that my laptop or my hypothetical mobile phone can run a lion’s share of the best games released in the past couple years. In one of the best years for video games ever, which one of the as-yet released big budget games, the ones that need this horsepower, really merits discussion? Max Payne 3 is pretty much the list, so far. Borderlands 2 and Assassin’s Creed 3, among others, might merit discussion, but not as much as less demanding games: Journey, Xenoblade Chronicles, Papo & Yo, and the released-today FTL.
It makes me ask, why do I need to pay three hundred dollars for what will probably join its predecessor as an expensive paperweight I bust out exclusively to play Super Nintendo games? Why do I need another console to not buy Darksiders 2 on? A fifteenth sidescrolling Mario game that doesn’t push the envelope in any conceivable way, that could have been on the Gamecube? More awkward games to feel out a new console, more Kameo: Elements of Powers.
So I cringe for Bayonetta 2′s obligatory Bad Touch Screen Features, and for the plethora of miserable ports the Wii U will be home to. I shudder at the idea that Call of Duty 15 will be better on Xbox 360 than on Xbox 720.
Then I shrug my shoulders, become a PC master racer, and zoom into the cosmos. At least for a couple of years, until my willpower breaks and I snatch them up. Until then, I’ll sate myself on the old, the borrowed, the brilliant, and the startlingly new, the games that don’t demand the horsepower of my old PC but instead make do with what we have.