Extra Punctuation

Extra Punctuation
Seriously, Console Wars Are Pointless

Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw | 8 Jan 2013 12:00
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On December 28, Sony officially stopped making the Playstation 2 in Japan. Which wasn't terribly cheery news for the end of the year. Oh, I know they'll still be kicking around, they sold millions of the buggers, but it still feels like the end of an era. Of the string of consoles that make up my own personal gaming genealogy, I still rate the PS2 as the best, sitting in a lovely sweet spot where the technology was powerful without deterring third party development. A lot of my favorite games were on it: Silent Hill 2, Shadow of the Colossus, Prince of Persia: Sands of Time... now all those memories will be lost. Like tears in a tear storage facility.

Last week in XP I made an impassioned request that we pack in the stupid console war system and the obsession with trying to reinvent controllers and interfaces with every generation, and part of that is in the interest of historical preservation. If Sony and Microsoft do massively disappoint me and bring out a new generation PlayStation and Xbox, what really haunts me is the thought that they'll completely bugger up the backwards compatibility, like they did last time, and that'll be another generation of games, classics and space-fillers alike, thrown to the furnace. Or left at the whimsical, cack-handed mercies of the "HD remake". You can't just keep doing that. The people who invented photography did not then immediately burn all the paintings. Art is nothing without the context of all the art that has come before it.

That's why I've called for the standardisation of gaming technology, and the company-specific console replaced with what is basically a living room friendly gaming PC with about five hundred USB ports in the front. Something that will run pretty much any software you jam in it even if it is twenty years old, or - if you're into the seriously prehistoric - is equally content to run a downloadable emulator developed by some third party who cares for a company's old catalogue even after the company itself doesn't.

I feel I need to clarify last week's position a bit, because some of the comments I noticed seemed to indicate that a few points were being missed. Some people started invoking the word "competition", how it's an important thing to have in an open market, and that a standardized model for consoles would be detrimental to it. That's a point that needs a bit of debating, I think, and personally I don't see the issue. No one complains about USB ports having no competition in the field of hardware connectors, or at least no-one who'd make for stimulating company.

But what people arguing for competition in games hardware don't seem to realise is that the current console situation isn't competitive in the ideal sense. It's not referred to as the "console competition", it's a "war". And I would love competition. It would suit me down to the ground if the companies would start treating it like a competition rather than a war. The difference being that, in a competition, if you start supporting a different side it's accepted that this is because the other side suits your needs better. Whereas, in a war, if you start supporting the other side, you get fucking murdered.

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