I’ve always, when opting for my next big console purchase, gone for Sony. Why? I can only assume that it’s because my first console – my seventh birthday present – was a PlayStation. Since that day in 1999, I’ve become a bit of a Japanophile over the years; growing increasingly obsessed with anime, manga, JRPGs, the band Dir En Grey, and various other exports from that funkily artistic island nation. So, is that it? A mixture of loyalty and a fetish for the nation of origin? Is that why I’ve deprived myself of so many brilliant games?
Of course, money is an issue too. I’ve never been wealthy enough to splash out on more than one big next-gen release. I’ve occasionally owned the odd handheld Nintendo; I had a Game-Boy Colour and a DS. But never a Wii or a Switch. And I’ve never owned anything X-Box related. That really would seem like blasphemy. But why? I mean, the Fable series looked pretty decent. As did Blue Dragon – I’d have emptied my wallet on both these games had they been on the PlayStation.
This is where games are a unique commodity. While there are plenty of games released across platforms, the idea of “exclusives” is quite an absurd one when you put it under scrutiny. Hardware companies are competing against each other, and gain headway by signing contracts with developers. Imagine this happened in the film industry.
Thought experiment time; HD-DVD optical disc was never discontinued, and it continues to compete against Blu-Ray to this day. And in their battle, HD-DVD won the rights to all the DC films, and Blu-Ray gained Marvel (that’s how I imagine it would go). And, in doing so, forced the public to buy two pieces of hardware if they wanted to watch both films. And, back in the 90s, VHS got the rights to Jurassic Park while Toy Story was a Betamax exclusive (forget the cinema, this isn’t a robust thought experiment, but you get the idea).
At film conventions, Martin Scorsese shows up alongside hardware developers, talking about the latest movie-playing machine, and how it’s going to bring his dream to life. Meanwhile, half the movie-watching public wouldn’t be paying attention, because their eyes are on Steven Spielberg and the other big machine in the market. Only the wealthy have a keen eye on both directors, because only they can watch both films. Thought experiment over – I’ve made my point.
What is most interesting about this divide is the fans – or the “players” – rather than the companies themselves. I remember being in secondary school when the seventh generation of consoles came out, and the arguments in the yard were nerdy versions of football banter. “We get Gears of War as well as the next Halo!” “Yeah, so what? Halo’s shit – we’re getting Metal Gear Solid 4 and Killzone 2.” All the “we” and “you” – us nerds were supposed to be above such tribalism. But there we were, supporting Sony and Microsoft the way others did Liverpool and Man U. To be fair, though, we never fought. We were too unfit.
At this moment in time (unless I get rich) I can safely say that I’m sticking with Sony for the foreseeable. There isn’t an X-Box release that’s catching my eye, but I don’t really follow X-Box news so that’s my fault. The reimagining of Final Fantasy VII, The Last of Us: Part 2 – these distant glowing specs in the horizon make me glad I’ve stuck with the Japanese hardware.
But it’s only a matter of time before someone, probably Google, creates the gaming equivalent of Netflix and all consoles will be obsolete. At least that’ll seem cheaper – paying for two streaming services, rather than forking out for two £400+ machines. Plus, I doubt nerdy kids have “Netflix vs Prime” arguments in the playground.