The Xbox One and PS4: When did gamers stop caring about video games?
For the last 20 minutes, my hands have been positioned slightly above the keys on my laptop just like my keyboarding instructor demonstrated on the first day of class — he would be so proud. Unfortunately, I can't seem to convince my fingers to type anything that resembles a coherent thought, so I've just been starring at a blank screen or finding creative ways to distract myself.
Now, I'm sure that most of you probably don't think of video game journalism as an emotionally draining profession, and you're right, but this article is a little different. Normally, when I write, I like to start things off with a little joke, or a funny anecdote that'll convince you to like me enough to trudge through six or seven paragraphs worth of self-satisfied, overly opinionated garbage. But this time I plan to wag my finger in your face for a few hundred words, and I'm already feeling a little guilty about it.
It's just that, over the past few months, I've noticed a particularly destructive trend in the gaming community, and everyone seems happy to ignore the issue. Or worse, they're actively participating.
I'm not exactly sure when it happened, but at some point in the recent past, being a gamer started to mean that you had to religiously align yourself with a console manufacturer. And these days ridiculing Microsoft has become so vogue that the rhetoric is starting to resemble the kind of meaningless drivel that we've become accustomed to in politics.
Before I go on, I feel the need to defend myself a little.
I'm not a Microsoft fanboy. Of the many consoles that reside in my house, the Xbox 360 is currently getting less airplay than the PlayStation Vita, which is actually a little embarrassing. I have no specific affinity toward Microsoft, and I'm completely cognizant of their recent PR failures. But the fact that I'm nervous about our readers misinterpreting my position should sufficiently prove my point: Gaming is no longer about the games.
A couple of weeks ago, for example, Microsoft's favorite voice box Larry "Major Nelson" Hryb, uploaded an unboxing video for the Xbox One. The whole thing was the type of inoffensive, self-congratulatory affair that anyone with an ounce of sense would have expected. But, when Hryb revealed that the package would include a headset, gamers instantly started accusing Microsoft of flip flopping on their promises.
Granted, MS did say that the Xbox One wouldn't include a packaged headset, but can someone explain to me how this is a problem? It's a free headset that Xbox owners weren't expecting to receive. There's literally no downside.
However, because poking sticks into Microsoft's open wounds has become one of the internet's favorite pastimes, a free headset has somehow become unacceptable.
It's ridiculous, and far more embarrassing than owning a Vita.
Gaming is supposed to be about playing video games, not about which political affiliation you currently subscribe to. You should buy the system that meets your needs, not the system that the horde has decided to align itself with in the comment section of every single pro-Microsoft article.
The PlayStation 4 and Xbox One are nearly identical when it comes to their hardware specifications, and when you consider that the Xbox One includes a Kinect 2, they even land on the same price point. And yet, so many gamers will go out of their way to make fun of Microsoft simply because of their past faux pas.
I'll never understand why Microsoft isn't getting credit for actively changing their policies based on customer feedback. The console no longer requires an always-on connection, indie publishing is becoming easier, and now we've learned that the Kinect 2 isn't required to operate the system. This basically covers all of complaints that gamers originally had about the console, doesn't it?
So, what does Microsoft need to do to get out of the doghouse?
The weirdest part about all of this is that the Xbox One actually has more confirmed titles than the PS4. This week, Microsoft published a list of 50 titles that are in various stages of the development for the Xbox One, and 23 of those will be available on launch day. By contrast, Sony’s console has 33 titles in the works, and only 15 of those will become available during the launch window (notice that I said launch window instead of launch day for the PlayStation 4). Now, it's probably safe to assume that these numbers aren't entirely trustworthy (a fellow GZ writer pointed out that a few of the titles on Microsoft's list, including Kingdom Hearts III, didn't actually make it onto Sony's list, so there are some discrepencies). But the distance between these figures is so large, that it's hard to imagine the gap shrinking by a significant amount.
And just to reiterate, I'm not pointing this out because I have a problem with the PS4's lineup. In fact, I'm sure that the console is going be a wonderful system, but it seems a little strange that gamers are actively making fun of the system that has more games—and more triple-A titles, for that matter.
Whenever I run across someone who is having one of these flamboyant fits of fanboyism, I always ask what makes the PlayStation 4 so much more appealing. And, so far, no one has ever cited the console's library. No one seems to care about the games.
The Xbox One is going to have some great games, and so will the PlayStation 4. But let's face it, most of the people who buy a next generation system are just going to play Call of Duty anyway, and that game will be nearly identical on both systems.
But if you're one of the people excited for Titanfall or Killer Instinct, then buy an Xbox One and don’t be embarrassed by your decision. And if you're excited for InFamous: Second Son or Killzone: Shadow Fall, buy a PlayStation 4. But don't try to convince the rest of the world that your taste in video games represents the only intelligent position, and, more importantly, don't be afraid to change your mind.
Sony isn't Jesus Christ, and the sooner we stop attaching dogmatic labels to console developers, the sooner we can actually focus on video games. Buying a console shouldn't be like converting to a new religion, and, these days, the two have far too much in common.