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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were received badly and that the One costs $100 more than the PS4, I consider these fairly moot points as Microsoft has rescinded the most egregious of the policies and the cost difference is easily lost in the enormous expense of buying games and peripherals.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.

You and Your Console(s)

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This is a big week in the gaming world. Yesterday, we learned much more about the upcoming Xbox One and the fantastic games that it will play. But that is not what this post is about. If you want to learn all about what is coming this November, there are multitudes of sites and blogs with recaps of the entire presentation. VG247Joystiq and The VideoGame Blog, for example all have extensive coverage. All of this talk of the new versions of the Xbox and PlayStation remind us of the importance of these platforms and the hardware that run the games that we play.

The photo above is not the happy occasion of unwrapping a new console, but the much sadder reality of sending a damaged unit to be repaired. I am not Xbox bashing or even complaining really. We have two Xbox consoles in our house and they get regular play every single day. Many days, they run hour after hour as my three sons play together or one after another and then run late into the night when I take over. This hardware takes a pounding and for the most part runs without much ado.

Having said that, I cannot recall the number of times that we have a Xbox repaired, it is either four or five times now. In the days of the original white Xbox 360, the red ring of death was the culprit several times and there is no question what you must do. There is also no warning typically, so the transition is abrupt. With the newer black Xbox 360 S model, our issues have been less absolute. The laser seems to go out of alignment and only reads parts of the discs correctly. The result is that the console can play installed games, be they Xbox Live arcade games or disc-based games installed on the hard drive where the disc is just read for confirmation and then stopped.  Unfortunately, no new games can be read and so the unit was sent for repair.

This is always an emotional time that reminds us of our deep connection with gaming. It also means that four of us need to share a single machine for three weeks. I am happy to report that the unit has been repaired and should be back this week and that no one was hurt in the process (although tempers may have gotten a bit heated a few times between the brothers). We are attached to our hardware not only because of the games that it enables us to play but because it defines us to the gaming world. Much like which car you drive gives the outside world a view (however inaccurate) into who you are or who you or who you wish to be, which gaming system you choose defines the gaming experience that you wish to be a part of.

At my house, we are strongly skewed towards Xbox, PCs and Ipads, but we have a GameCube as well. My sister has multiple Xboxes as well as PS3s as well as GameCube and Wii. There are few limits to the gaming experience at her house and her multi-system experience gives her a much broader view into the differences between the communities that play on each system. There is no doubt that the online communities are different as are the audiences that play the various popular games. But one thing all gamers have in common is the desire to have a comfortable and familiar environment in which to play. This environment is made up of the room, a favored chair, the console and peripherals, etc. Once you get your space outfitted it is always a bit unsettling to have part of it changed.

Come November, many game rooms will have a new console next to the existing one. There is no doubt that this will greatly expand the experience but for now I am just looking forward to having my 360 back.

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