Freedom: that word may seem the most unlikely to come up in the comparison between the next generation of gaming machines, but I find it to be the most appropriate. What we, as consumers, are being faced with in the next era is something that offers amazing opportunities ranging from the immersive to the invasive.
I won’t shy away from the fact that in the ongoing battle between Sony and Microsoft*, I have come to believe the latter has lost touch with its customer base. Then again, Microsoft hasn’t truly understood consumers since the Windows Vista debacle. This isn’t the same company that gave us Windows 95 and made PC gaming something worth talking about. If anything, the success of the XBOX 360 was what has finally driven Microsoft into a realm so far removed from reality that it lingers on the fringe of the known universe (and has likely passed beyond into a parallel universe, which would explain the WTF ideas since. This inspires a new word: bubbling, being so full of shit that you cause a whole new reality to emerge from the bubble you have become encased in).
Microsoft has always been a reactive company, taking ideas from others (many would say stealing) and refining them. Their first successful OS was based on Apple’s Macintosh Interface. So similar were the two programs that cosmetic changes had to be made to prevent a lawsuit. One could argue that the point of competition between the two operating systems were moot due to the fact that they were used on separate systems. The rise of the PC, due as much to the poor business decisions of Apple as much as to the sage choices made by IBM, were what put Microsoft on the path to global dominance. It was this virtual monopoly that gradually arose that has increasingly embittered me towards Microsoft as a company.
The reasons for the rise of the PC are the crux of my love for the architecture of said system versus Apple products. The PC opens itself up to entrepreneurs. It allows individuals to design for it, add to it, and become this literal group effort of many minds towards one goal: a better computer offering better opportunities. I am not going to enter Apple bashing mode, though I can be notorious for it. I will simply say that the freedom to design for the PC, allowing multiple minds and viewpoints to work on it, is what led to its dominance and which I believe will eventually lead to its resurgence. Freedom is key.
Now where do I begin with the gradual decline of Microsoft? Do I start with Internet Explorer and Microsoft’s attempt to control access to the internet? Perhaps Vista and the systems that have since followed that simply fail to understand what people need in an operating system? Or do we go with the rise of the XBOX 360?
I don’t think we truly want to go too deeply into the history of the company, this could quickly become a thirty-fifty page post, so we’ll pick up the 360. I own one. I won’t deny it. In fact, I absolutely prefer it over the PlayStation 3. The reasons are several. First and foremost, the gall (bordering on Greek levels of hubris) of Sony to believe they could gouge consumers so deeply pricewise. That was an affront to me and when you garner an emotional response from me, be ready, because I am unleashing brimstone on your pretentious ass! Sure, it had Blu-ray (which is worthless without an HD television, oh I have to buy one to enjoy this awesome capability!?!?!? That’s a deal…wait). Sure it was also an internet browser and stereo system. But the foremost reason I buy a gaming system is gaming. Don’t add bells and whistles I didn’t ask for, embellish what that means by telling me how it is the sole thing I need in my living room, and then jack up the price so high, it is the equivalent of a nut shot (Looking at the price, I could feel Sony’s hand on my ass as they tried to steal my wallet). I would gladly have had Blu-ray left off as a later possible add-on.
Second, price. The 360 offered itself at an affordable price. They didn’t try to charge extra for their HD-DVD capability (which they left off as a peripheral for later purchase), didn’t claim to be a stereo system, and offered several versions at various prices all within proper range.
Third, the games. Back when Microsoft had forethought, they owned Bungie and Bioware, two excellent developers. And the exclusives. C’mon. Halo. Mass Effect. Love this stuff. And their online gaming design was far superior to what Sony had envisioned from the get go. The 360, simply put, had what I wanted: a small fee for online play, an affordable system, great games, and eventual extras such as web streaming and more. And their willingness to repair the RROR, admitting their error, was ennobling. I love my 360, to an almost unhealthy degree. That white box has become the core entertainment system in my living room which I watch movies through, listen to music with, play hours upon hours of games on. It would seem the success of the 360 proved too much for Microsoft.
I know it has taken me some time to get to the original reason for this post, but background is important. Microsoft is notorious for attempting to smother competition, which I find to be incredibly bad for business. Competition leads to development and awesome product. The lack thereof leads to the stillborn mess that is Windows Vista, where a company thinks they can excrete something foul and worthless and charge top dollar for it because there is no other choice in town.
And the very reason for why Microsoft entered gaming. As they titled it, the Trojan horse. They saw how the PlayStation 2 combined the DVD player with a gaming system and that got their imaginations going. Imagine being able to package in a stereo system, a television, gaming, internet, and even the telephone through said system. Microsoft could bypass the PC itself with its own hardware, seize control of the electronics industry, and build one hell of a behemoth…all with a single gaming machine. But I digress.
The Xbox One. I was excited for this system. Excited because I could was carrying my love of the 360 over to the new system. Then I began to hear about the specs. The limitations on sharing games (a virtual attack on used games), the necessity of an internet connection (despite what Microsoft states, I continue to hear this is going to be a reality), the boxing in of a Kinect whether you want it or not (I scream NOT!!!!!), as well as exclusives that simply don’t catch my imagination. What seems most insidious to me is the necessity of an online connection as well as the boxing in of the Kinect. Microsoft has freely admitted that the Xbox one will record what you do with the system (gaming, video streaming, etc.) and upload said information back to the company. What they will do with said information they refuse to say though I have my own ideas, and with the requirement of an internet connection, it will be uploaded whether you want it or not. This is literally an invasion of privacy, collecting data on consumers for nefarious reasons I find incredibly foul and unethical. Likewise, the limitation of sharing games, something I grew up with from the Atari 2600, NES, and beyond, seems an unnecessary choice pushed more by greedy software publishers than consumer enjoyment. Sizing up the system, I find my choices being limited, my opinions being recorded, and a Big brother like, subtle plan emerging to guide my future choices through said recordings.
Then I looked at the PlayStation 4. My God, if anything proved that Sony listened to its consumers, it is this system. Affordably priced, a great line-up of exclusives, a more powerful graphics engine, and freedom. I mean literal gaming freedom. No lock outs on previously owned games. In fact, the games are region free! That is a refreshing change. The system has just as much to offer as the Xbox one, but it hasn’t forgotten its prime reason to exist: gaming. Sony has drawn me back, something I never thought it could ever do.
I know there will be those who favor the Xbox One over the PS4, and that is your choice. That is exactly the reason why I am choosing the PS4: the ability to choose, the freedom to play what I want, where I want, how I want. It is the reason why I love the PC, why I support the Droid, and now why I am giving Sony a second chance. I am tired of the “Gates” Microsoft erects, of the poor product it delivers, of the mundane future it represents. Time to push that Trojan horse of Microsoft’s aside.
*Nintendo was left out for ethical reasons (Wii U sucks!!!)