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On the Eve of the Next Generation

XBox-One Horizon 1000This has been an important week for the gaming world. The Sony Playstation 4 was released and despite some issues is being heralded as a success. Its rival, the Xbox One is being released on Friday and with it the next generation of gaming is upon us. The flow of new games has already started with many, many more queuing up behind them. Along with these releases and announcements, there are the obligatory worries, criticisms and panics concerning what might or might not be changed or removed. There certainly has been a lot of talk. It is to be expected as this is the first major update to the two leading consoles in many years. The Xbox 360 debuted in May of 2005 and the PS3 in November of 2006. That same November saw the release of the hugely successful Wii console. Its replacement, the Wii U debuted last December but has not sold well in the U.S.

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(Selected) Total Gaming Platform Sales | 11/20/13

Pos Platform North America Europe Japan Rest of World Global
1 PlayStation 2 53.65 55.28 23.18 25.57 157.68
4 PlayStation 38.94 36.91 19.36 9.04 104.25
5 Wii 44.95 33.47 12.75 9.28 100.45
7 PlayStation 3 27.45 32.26 9.6 11.24 80.55
9 Xbox 360 44.86 24.87 1.65 7.77 79.15
16 Xbox 15.77 7.17 0.53 1.18 24.65
23 Wii U 1.64 0.87 1.15 0.27 3.93
Source: VGChartz.com | For more poll details

Many predictions have been made about the success of the new consoles and polls have been taken to gauge public reaction. I have written about what I consider unexplainable biases present in some of these polls in earlier posts. Cast Your Vote: Consoles and Cast Your Vote: Xbox One Anger – Is it Genuine? While understand that some of the policies initially presented at the Xbox One’s launch were received badly and that the One costs $100 more than the PS4, I consider these fairly moot points as Microsoft has rescinded the most egregious of the policies and the cost difference is easily lost in the enormous expense of buying games and peripherals. In any case, I simply cannot understand why so many who responded to the surveys were turned off by buying any new console.

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Poll of the Day | 11/10/13

With the launch less than two weeks away, do you plan to buy an Xbox One?

Yes, I’ve got one pre-ordered from a local store 2.58% 907
Yes, I’ve got one pre-ordered online 2.17% 763
Yes, I haven’t pre-ordered, but I plan to find one on launch day 0.56% 196
Not at launch, but I expect to have one by the end of the year 5.4% 1901
No, I don’t have any plans to get one yet 89.3% 31428
TOTAL VOTES 35195
Source: GameFAQs.com | For more poll details

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Poll of the Day | 11/09/13

With the launch just a week away, do you plan to buy a PlayStation 4?

Yes, I’ve got one pre-ordered from a local store 7.36% 2372
Yes, I’ve got one pre-ordered online 5.94% 1914
Yes, I haven’t pre-ordered, but I plan to find one on launch day 2.28% 735
Not at launch, but I expect to have one by the end of the year 23% 7417
No, I don’t have any plans to get one yet 61.42% 19805
TOTAL VOTES 32243
Source: GameFAQs.com | For more poll details

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If these numbers accurately represent the gaming public, then I feel badly for Sony and Microsoft and for the industry as a whole.

Despite the GameFaqs polls, the industry is doing well. A recent report aired on NPR’s “All Tech Considered” stated that the gaming industry has grown to $20 billion a year – that is twice what Hollywood brings in. Some close to the industry expect this total to rise to $70 billion by 2015.

I for one am looking forward to the new games and new capabilities, but I can’t escape the feeling that the general gaming public is spoiled and jaded and expects that everything will be perfect at launch. They are ignorant of the fact that the consoles are not the money makers (as it was released this week that Sony spends $381 manufacturing each PS4 which they sell for $399) and that many of the new games do not fully take advantage of the power of the new systems.

For me, the Xbox 360 was a significant milestone for many reasons. It was my return to gaming after a long absence. It was my first gaming console since I was a teenager and most importantly, it is the console that my children are growing up using. When we purchased our first 360, back in 2006, my eldest son was five years old and my twins were three. My eldest took to it like water and I tend to forget just how well he did playing games, some of which are still challenging for adults today. I think of all three of them playing MotoGP 2006 with me. It is still a beautiful and excellent, but very demanding game and I doubt that they would put up with it today. As new games came out and the boys grew, they each found games that appealed to them personally and today they all have their specialties. There are still many new games that they all play together such as Minecraft and BattleBlock Theatre.

My first post, in fact dealt with this feeling related to Pixar’s ”Cars” games (Nostalgic for Cars) and I can easily think of several times when the boys and I all focused on a single game together. Past favorites included Castle Crashers, various Halo iterations as well as the music games, Rock Band and Guitar Hero

But the point is, I have literally watched my boys develop and grow using the 360. They have become better players and in many cases learned valuable lessons about how to interact with those sitting next to you as well as those with whom they play remotely. (My twelve year old now spends most of his time playing with friends on Xbox Live.)

So I am looking forward to the new generation and all that it its expanded technology can bring. The increased graphic capabilities, the levels of interactivity, the integration of the television all have potential to elevate the experience. It took six or seven years to get where we currently stand. I bet that looking back in 2020, when my boys are nearly independent adults, we will have a similarly nostalgic feeling for this time and this new generation of consoles.

My Cousin Finny, Smartphones and Drive-Ins

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Yes, I’m getting older and it’s true that there was a drive-in theater not far from where I grew up and we did go a few times, but the heyday of the drive-in, the symbol of the baby-boomer’s car-centric teenage culture, was long over. Still, the car was what provided the freedom that made being a young adult fun. Most memories of my teenage years revolve around a car.

Admittedly I am a “car guy” and always have been, but I can completely understand those who feel that cars are just appliances to get you to where you need to be. The same can be said of clothing and food I suppose, but there are entire industries that exist only to provide haute couture and haute cuisine for those who want more.

Over the last year or so there has been much attention paid to the Generation Y’s apparent indifference to driving. There are many reasons for the feeling that cars do not represent what they did to previous generations.

Gen Y has been dubbed Gen N, as in Generation Neutral — which is the way some describe how millennials feel about car ownership. Studies have shown that fewer young adults have driver’s licenses, that this group  hates the traditional car-buying process more than other demographics, and that they prefer urban living and socializing online and therefore  have less need for cars.

The Great Debate: Do Millennials Really Want Cars, or Not? | By Brad Tuttle | Time

“That moment of realizing that you’re a grown-up — for my generation, that was when you got your driver’s license or car,” said Tony Dudzik, a senior policy analyst of the Frontier Group, a California-based think tank that has studied this phenomenon. “For young people now, that moment comes when you get your first cellphone.”

America’s Generation Y not driven to drive | By Deborah Zabarenko | Reuters

The economy is also a huge factor. Many young people face soaring tuition costs, and the money they’re earning in their part-time, summer and first jobs is going to pay for school and rent. Even if they can afford cars, insurance is expensive, and just getting a license can cost hundreds of dollars in driving instruction fees. 

Why Generation Y Sees No Need To Get Behind The Wheel | by Micheline Maynard | Forbes

In an effort to attract young people to cars, automakers have set up shop in Silicon Valley and are looking to the digital world as a way to lure them.

What the savvy people in the car business say is that they have to look outside their industry to learn — from cellphones, apps, computers and video games.

“We can make the car that’s becoming part of your digital life,” says Chuhee Lee, the deputy director at Volkswagen’s Electronic Research Lab in Belmont, Calif., a little town at the north end of Silicon Valley.

Volkswagen’s vision boils down to this: bring its cars into the digital world and make them an extension of all the services millennials already love.

“The car should be intelligent enough to interact with other intelligent systems around you, like a smartphone being very intelligent about … your schedule, trying to propose and make arrangements for you,” Lee says.

Lee describes turning your whole car into sort of a voice-activated system like Apple’s Siri. And GM’s (John) McFarland says his company, like VW, is working on cars that learn your habits — your schedules, destinations and radio stations. And, McFarland says, ideally, these cars get better with time.

“We think there’s opportunity to make it so that the day you drive it off the lot is the beginning, and you continue to personalize it and customize and add new content just like you do with a phone,” McFarland says.

To Attract Millennials, Automakers Look To Smartphones | Noah Nelson and Sonari Glinton | NPR

While I applaud the integration of many of today’s technologies into most parts of my life I recognize that sometimes advancement is in the eye of the beholder. I do not need a car that drives itself. I like the feeling of being in control and feeling the road. It is important that the tactile sensations of driving are not lost on the younger generations and what better way to lure them then with racing? I regularly play driving and racing games with my sons and their friends. Some of our favorites to play together are the Forza series, especially 3 and 4, Driver San Francisco and Midnight Club LA.

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This last week, we had Josefina or “Finny”, our fifteen year old cousin from the Czech Republic staying with us. She was drawn to our Xbox racing wheel and spent many hours driving, racing, crashing and having a good time. Whether smashing a Bugatti Veyron into the back wall of the Mulsanne Straight at Le Mans in Forza 4 or clearing traffic amid the constant sound of breaking glass and crunching steel in Driver San Francisco, she thoroughly enjoyed the experience.  She tried to outrun the cops all over Los Angeles in Midnight Club LA and tried not to get hit by our various projectiles in Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed. We even tried motorcycles playing MotoGP 2006 and 2007. I was looking for the Prague track but I think that it is in a different game, so we settled on Brno. We took to off-road motorcycles and ATVs in MX vs ATV Alive and while we played we talked about driving. She has none of indifference displayed by teenagers in this country. She really made my day when she said that in America drivers seem to all prefer automatics. I reminded her that my car has a six speed manual and many of my friends still prefer them as well.

I guess that I have never realized how much of my day is spent thinking about cars. I was recently stunned to learn that Fox removed the Speed channel from my FIOS line up. I watched Speed more than any other channel and there is nothing to take its place. Although Fox has apparently stated that the majority of the racing content would remain on other Fox sports channels, every time that I have tuned in they have been showing football.

After visiting some of the more typical tourist attractions we thought that it would be fun to try go-cart racing at Pole Position, a local indoor track. A great time was had by all. Here is a short excerpt from one of the races. No, I do not have flesh-eating bacteria on my legs. I am recovering from sunburn.

We didn’t even get to try our slot cars. Next time I guess.

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