I’ve been a gamer since I was a little Craig-ling. My mom loves reminding me that I used to boot up the old Apple computer to play Frogger when I was 5. Some of my earliest memories were of me and my sister playing Super Mario Bros 3. Now that I think about it, I’m pretty sure I can remember how I acquired every console I’ve had. I like to consider myself a pretty devout follower of the industry, but there are several things about it that have raised red flags recently and have made me wonder whether my loyalty is displaced.
Nintendo has always been a very reputable company. They completely changed the industry during a time that looked very grim for most developers. Go ahead, Wikipedia “video game crash of 1983.” I’ll wait. Done? Alright, so the Super NES years were undoubtedly their best in terms of quality of product and revenue, even though I didn’t get around to playing those games much until I downloaded emulators online. But let’s face it–there were only 2 competitors in those times and Sega was always ahead of the game, in the end left behind.
Project Rainfall is a phrase that should be familiar to most gamers, whether they have a Wii or not. It revolved around 3 RPG’s (role-playing games), 1 in particular, being made in Japan, translated into English, then released in Europe instead of the United States. Original RPG’s were scarce on the Wii at that time, and it was especially unheard of that a game be released in Europe, where there’s little demand for games, but not the US. People to this day are still outraged and I think the whole issue shows that Nintendo of America simply doesn’t care for their customers as no real explanation was given.
The big N has a great resume to be sure, and they really sold the Wii well with its motion sensing technology. But their problems actually started way back with the N64, with their inability to have 3rd party developers make games for their system. Now that issue has evolved to a point where they won’t even allow other companies to develop, making their 3DS which has been out for and they may end up following in their former competitors’ footsteps, becoming strictly all about developing software.
After that long spiel on Nintendo, you’d think they were the only ones with problems. Granted they have the most, but Sony has definitely had their fair share, particularly in the last several months. Unlike Nintendo, they have a very large catalogue of games especially if a person has a fully backwards-compatible model (like yours truly!). However the company is beginning to make the same mistakes as Nintendo by not bringing over certain material from Japan. Most of them aren’t a big deal, so this is pretty much a non-issue right now.
The biggest problem is their customer service. A few months ago a hacker managed to break into Sony’s network. For days people wondered if their accounts were hacked into as well, keeping an eye on their bank statements. Meanwhile the company was working tirelessly to restore security to the network before restoring service. During these first few days, Sony literally said NOTHING regarding any details about people’s accounts. In fact it took Congressional involvement for them to finally tell the customers what had happened.
That brings us to the youngest of the trifecta: Microsoft. I have to admit that I don’t have much against the video game division of the company besides the fact that they don’t really have a lot of decent material exclusive to the X-Box. I personally feel like Microsoft shouldn’t even be in the industry because it cheapens the brand, the games, by making their name too available. Therein lies the problem–the corporation is so bent on world domination that they push the hardware before it’s ready. Red ring of death, no native Wi-fi connectivity, and corded controllers are all products of this ambition. Even the Kinect, while enormously successful in the short-term, lacks the software support it needs in order to be revolutionary.
I’m a little worried about the state of the video game industry. The main cause of the crash in 1983 was oversaturation which led to poor consumer confidence. I definitely feel less confidence right now in the industry’s future than I did 10 years ago. I think 1 of the 3 major corporations needs to do something that changes the business soon or gamers will probably have to start going without their favorite pastime.