Friday, June 17, 2016

Live and Learn

Well, one would hope, anyway.

The Playstation 4 I bought on eBay, alas, appears to be a dud. There's no picture, no sound, and no access to the safe mode... just a blue light on the top of the system that strobes at an agonizingly sluggish pace. So unless I plan to host a rave party for sloths, it doesn't seem like I'll be getting much use out of it.

Go, sloths! Go sloths!
...uh, are you going, sloths?
(image from Pinterest)
Outwardly, I'm frustrated that I may have flushed a hundred dollars (plus shipping!) down the crapper. This PS4 was bought as-is with no returns accepted, and it may not be feasible to get it fixed. My options are to either take it to a repair shop in Tucson or ship it to Sony, and either will likely double the initial investment. I've been able to buy busted systems and revive them in the past, but I'm not confident I'll be able to bring this one back to life. It's kind of a downer, walking past that Playstation every day and knowing that it may never be anything more than a rhomboid paperweight.

Deep down inside, however, I'm not that choked up about this. Back in 2006, I was eager to step up to the big leagues of the Xbox 360, but ten years later, buying a current generation console feels like an obligation; something I HAD to do to continue enjoying the hobby, rather than a choice I was happy to make. 

Admittedly, software for the Playstation 4 and Xbox One is getting better... we're starting to see fewer rehashes of last generation games and more titles designed especially for the new systems. I'm especially excited about Horizon Zero Dawn, an upcoming action-adventure title that likely would have been held back by the ten year old technology of the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. Here's a clip of the game's robot-slaying warrior princess in action, in case you missed the reveal at E3:

Yeah, I'd like to play that. But it's probably not going to be out until next year, and I wouldn't have much to tide me over while I waited. There's not a lot on the Playstation 4 that thrills me at the moment... just Street Fighter V (once it's finished, cough) and a handful of indie titles which could just as easily been released for the Playstation 3. Many of these are already available on personal computers, and a few can be played on the significantly cheaper Playstation TV.

Then there's this push toward iterative consoles. If I bought a working Playstation 4, how long is it going to be before I'm nudged into purchasing the next Playstation, and the Playstation after that? If last week's E3 was any indication, maybe a couple of years at best. I've had friends argue that frequent hardware refreshes could benefit early adopters, in the same way that the owner of an older PC or Android phone can still run the majority of software available for those formats. I just wish I could be that optimistic.

The S stands for "sucker."
(image from Microsoft)
Game consoles aren't phones, and they're not personal computers. They're closed source platforms, and competition is limited to three manufacturers, rather than dozens. Yes, Microsoft and Sony are claiming now that you won't need the Playstation Neo or the Xbox Scorpio to remain in the two companies' ecosystems, but details about these high-powered consoles are both elusive and subject to change at any moment. Sony claims the Neo will complement the Playstation 4 rather than replace it, but this suggests separate software libraries for the separate product lines. Microsoft is months from launching a redesigned Xbox One that's smaller and more powerful than the original. That's not even the Scorpio, but a second model of its flagship console with just enough benefits to make owners of the first feel profoundly foolish about their purchase.

Sony and Microsoft are insisting otherwise (for now...) but when the new consoles arrive, who's to say the two companies won't shift the focus to their new products, at the expense of the old ones? Who's to say developers won't take advantage of the advanced technology of the Xbox Scorpio and Playstation Neo, while releasing inferior versions of the same product for the legacy consoles? It's the way the industry has always worked in the past... there's no reason to believe things will be any different now. If Sony and Microsoft have new consoles, you'd better believe they'll find ways to incentivize a purchase.

So yeah, I feel a little stupid for having bought that Playstation 4. Not just because it didn't work, but because I don't think I'm ready for one that does. Or the systems that will be nipping at its heels.


  1. Yeah, although I initially liked the idea of iterative consoles, I'm not so sure anymore. Just look at mobile devices. Some games break as soon as an OS update is released and the devs/pubs never update them, so they're effectively lost. I have a feeling something similar could happen with iterative consoles, esp. if any of them are heavily digital in nature. Oh, well, gaming had a good run, eh?

  2. Conversely, you can quickly get left behind if you're using legacy hardware. I had to beg the creator of Forget-Me-Not to make a version of that game for first generation iPod Touch systems. Years later, now even fourth generation iPod Touches are on the digital dustheap. Android devices are better about this because there are hundreds of different ones by dozens of manufacturers. You can afford a decent Android for very little money and they tend not to get obsoleted as quickly as Apple products.

    However, I suspect that Sony and Microsoft are going to go the same route as Apple, since their formats are closed source and only they produce Xbox and Playstation products. They may surprise me and continue to support the PS4 and Xbox One for years to come, but I wouldn't put money on it.