The Inquisitive Blogger 20/31: Buying Into Next-Gen Too Soon? - Tim Gruver Blog - www.GameInformer.com
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The Inquisitive Blogger 20/31: Buying Into Next-Gen Too Soon?

The word next-gen is one that's had more than its share of being thrown around in the gaming world these days. There's no shortage of buzz that surrounds it and the industry's pushed its limits farther than ever to the delight of many gamers, so why am I not without my reservations about it? Whether thanks to the occasional corporate double-speak or my own natural pessimism, I find it harder than most to warm up to the coming of a new gaming system in my life. I play my own counselor here to explore what strange phobias in my gamer psyche keep that part of me that still questions jumping into the future.

Like any consumer, the most immediate factor that plays its part in next-gen is the practical matter of money. Though Sony may have won many's praise for the its $100 savings over Microsoft, there's no mistake that $400 is a large wad of money in itself. Perhaps it only feeds off of the shallow comfort of comparison to the X-Box One's $500 price-tag, as $400 was really the bare-minimum of what fans would have tolerated. In my case, I suppose I've always been raised as a saver, and as of last-year I've been painstakingly saving allowances for the possibility of next-gen since about February of '12. Come this fall I'll probably have about what would cover a PS4 and, with a bit of family loans/slight begging, I could scrounge up the extra funds for an X-Box One the spring after. All the same, I would still lack the funds for much, if any games in the meantime and just looking at a next-gen console wouldn't strike me as fun. It's no doubt different for everyone's circumstances, of course. Maybe you have way more money than me, maybe you're getting both consoles and a whole stack of games, or maybe you have even less and can't get either. Regardless, it's a lot to ask of buyers so quickly and I'm afraid to commit to an investment I've only just been introduced to.

Still, I look at what next-gen is becoming as a consumer practice. We can still hope that both digital and hard game copies keep their $60 price tag, but what about the hidden fees that game companies often shower us with? Often priceless DLC, on-line passes, and the entire "pay-as-you play" is something discomforting to my wallet when I use to revel in buying a game and being done with extra charges. You could say it's necessary for the technology involved, but it's a price that I still don't enjoy jumping into headfirst. 

My next question would come down to what tech am I getting for my money? E3 2013 more than shoved horsepower, gigabytes, and generally dull CPU data down our throats and as valiant attempts as those are from the standpoint of consoles as a science, it's always fallen flatter on me as a player. Visuals and presentation are important points for a game to catch my eye with, but it's not what keeps it there. Triple A graphics and sound are nice, I won't kid you, but rarely do next-gen presentations focus on how you play the game rather than watch it. Even as improved as either consoles' controllers appear to be, the casual observer would see them to be still pretty similar and as much of a rehash as before, albeit it with subtle tweaks. You might say that's a good thing, but when I look at Nintendo's systems, I at least see the Wii U and 3DS as having entirely changed the formula of my gameplay. People frequently accuse the Wii U of not being a next-gen system, and technologically that might be valid, but regardless, is that the bottom-line? The existence of two screens on my gamepad entirely changes how I multi-task and experiencing the cool convenience of seeing glasses-free 3D on a handheld is something truly innovative to the experience and not merely the tech involved. I've always felt that the gaming industry always tries to drive out products fast and hard through the quick fixes of pretty sights and sounds and it's unfortunate when they seem to build the system around it.  

The biggest pitch this next-generation is the home entertainment system that consoles are becoming. In the manner of stores forming malls, the idea of all of your home entertainment being "All in One" as the X-Box so famously boasts this year is a logical and practical convenience that I admit makes sense. It hardly devalues the inclusion of games at all, if not just the mere budget costs of implementing them and critics are right that appealing to the casual consumer. Perhaps many new gamer converts out there will suddenly find themselves diving into Battlefield or Halo after a streaming a show. Still, DVD players and tv streaming is something that equally doesn't matter to me in a console because I already have them. What worries me for next-gen's chances is that the average person already does to and that blu-ray drives and Nexflix will already be in so many homes, there's no reason to buy a next-gen console if you're not a gamer anyway. I suppose it's then a question of "Why Not?" vs. "Just. . . why?". . .

I suppose that'd bring me to my most predictable argument of "I'm old-school, I'm stubborn, I just don't like change." Maybe that's true. Still, I cannot be the only one to defend the worth of current-gen to both the gamer and the developer. As we've seen earlier this year and probably will see again this fall, current-gen is truly hitting a remarkable stride. Such acclaimed games like Bioshock Infinite, Tomb Raider, The Last of Us, Fire Emblem, Animal Crossing: New Leaf, all came out on current-gen systems and few, if any, complained of the lack of a next-gen release. Why? When we think back to those releases, not one of them relied upon merely horsepower to wow us, but more touching aspects like their stories and characters. You could say that Naughty Dog's stellar motion-capture and Bioshock's stunning graphics were in part responsible for capturing their respective story-telling, but the point is that they all did that this gen. It partially saddens me that games have only hit their stride in the last few years on PS3 & 360 and we're already changing course so fast. One might complain about the little difference between the current look of next-gen compared to what will be last-gen and that'll be true for cross-platform games like Watch_Dogs that equally wows on either. Grand Theft Auto V is an easy example of a current-gen only game that'll easily make next-gen matter to no one for months on end with the size and scope of its world. It only encourages me to wait until the majority of developers make the effort to seriously start developing for next-gen and not bide my time waiting for them to do so.

Case in point, there's something to be said about the need to keep our current beloved game libraries. It arguably took years for both the Sony and Microsoft to build up enough titles equal in price to their consoles and you and I might not want to give them up just yet. While the PS4 will be implementing a mild offshoot of digital last-gen PS3 games for re-purchase in its "cloud gaming," the odds of service fees for doing so and having the memory for it is unwelcoming. I indeed have several games I'm impressed by for next-gen, particularly Infamous Second Son, Final Fantasy XV, and Mirror's Edge 2, but 2/3 of those will no doubt take years to come onto the market. Sticking with my current systems is just more productive with the amount of games like AC IV and Arkham Origins that I have the tools to play already.

Criticims aside, please make no mistake about it that next-gen has its potentials. Come 6-7 yrs. from now, I may be having a different conversation about what it's achieved since I've written this blog post. Nevertheless, I still feel that I won't be buying a PS4 or X-Box anytime particularly soon, but I dare developers to change my mind. I enjoy games and want nothing more than have more at my fingertips. What next-gen systems are you getting? Or are you? Feel free to comment on your gaming plans or blogging suggestion down below. See you tomorrow! 

Up Next on the Inquisitive Blogger: Need a Pep Talk? 

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