What the Next Generation of Consoles Doesn't Need
The current generation of consoles has been around for nearly half a decade now, and the big three are here to stay for a good while longer. The Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Wii have all pushed boundaries in one way or another, and they've managed to take advantage of the technological advances at hand by providing some of the most thrilling video game experiences in the history of the entertainment form. But for all the praise that can be bestowed upon the modern generation of gaming, there are also plenty of gripes to accompany it. Looking forward at the eighth generation, it's obvious that Microsoft, Sony, Nintendo, and any other company that dares enter the console race are all going to have to enhance their strengths and completely strip away any weaknesses.
The gameplay over graphics argument has been made countless times before, and during the launch period of the Wii, Nintendo followers engaged in heated discussions with Microsoft and Sony lovers, claiming that graphics weren't everything and that the Wii's innovation was its strongest merit. While the console definitely helped gamers and developers think outside the box, the argument that graphics are irrelevant is essentially dead at this point. Take it from a loyal Nintendo and Wii fan who's been playing Mario and Zelda since he was four-year-old: Graphics do matter. Gameplay may be the most important spec of any game, but when a title fails to meet the technical standards of its current-gen opponents, people are going to notice.
In the next generation of gaming, every console is going to have to be on an even playing field when it comes to graphics. The Wii being technically handicapped has not only heaped a ton of criticism upon Nintendo, it's also discouraged big developers from releasing quality titles on the system. Red Dead Redemption, Borderlands, Darksiders, and Dead Space could have all been on the Wii had the system met the graphical standards of today's generation. If Nintendo, or any company for that matter, wants to ensure its place as a top console in the next generation and get developers to release solid, multi-platform titles on its system, graphics must be given a higher priority. Curiously, in hindsight 8-bit graphics hold up a heck of a lot better than 128-bit graphics do these days.
While we're on the subject of console deficiencies, let's take a look at the blasted Friend Code system of the Wii and DS. Entering multi-number digits in every single game to register a friend is plain ludicrous, so it's a good thing that the upcoming 3DS will only require one universal system-based Friend Code in order to play with others online. But even then, what's the deal, Nintendo? Just let us create usernames! Entering something like "DrCabana" or "PimpDdy" (both horrid examples) is much easier than registering 1667-3349-0875-2740 just to play online.
Nintendo isn't the only culprit when it comes to video game console mistakes. Gamers talk on end about the surplus of accessories released for the Wii, but during the last console generation, the iconic PlayStation 2 was guilty of this exact same crime of highway robbery. The Multitap could quite possibly be the biggest farce in the history of video game accessories. Four-player multiplayer should have been an assurance during the sixth generation of gaming, so it's pretty ridiculous that a peripheral had to be sold just to allow three or four gamers to play together. And let's not get started on all of those lame plastic shells that the Wii is passing off as real accessories. I have two Wii Wheels and a Wii Zapper that are probably collecting dust. Who knows if they actually are—I tend to ignore my pile of gaming rubbish, which consists of the aforementioned peripherals and a copy of Clay Fighter 63 1/3.
And then there's the whole motion control fad that was brought into gaming as a major force by the Wii. Swinging the Wii Remote so that Link can slash enemies with his sword may be a nice alternative to button presses, playing Heavy Rain with the Move controller may add a nice level of precision to your actions, and moving your furniture around only to realize that the Kinect isn't for you may be somewhat innovative, but the fact of the matter is that motion gaming, though fun, is extremely gimmicky. Motion controls may not be the most terrible thing to come along—that demerit goes to Deca Sports—but are they necessary? This argument is debatable, really. Like graphics, motion-sensitive controls may not be the most important factor in a game, but in order to keep up with current standards, there at least needs to be the option for motion gaming. Just make it inventive and fun. Poor controls can kill a game, stressing the already finicky gamer.
The seventh generation of consoles has brought along some of the most impressive innovations, just as much as it's spawned some of the most questionable decisions in game and console design. When we look back on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Wii years from now, we'll remember the good and laugh at the bad. Let's just hope that the inadequacies of the today's generation don't carry on into the eighth generation of gaming. It's one thing to be retro, but archaic game design is out of the question. The future of gaming needs to stick to the basics and provide a solid combination of gameplay, graphics, and innovation. Oh, and totally eliminating plastic shells that pass as "accessories" would be nice, too.