xbox 720

One Man’s Junk

We forsook the aged for youth.  We placed our value on progress over understanding, innovation over experience, instant gratification over pondering consequences.  In short, evidences of our great knowledge are everywhere, but wisdom is seldom found

This dilemma has no other explanation.  The digital revolution brought us e-books and mp3’s.  Television and movies can be streamed.  Comics, magazines, and newspapers can all be read on tablets.  We are fine with this because of convenience.  We are enamored with it because the technology looks so pretty and smells so good.  We have failed to consider the long term impact on intellectual property rights of the goods we buy.

When book stores and comic shops completely go the way of record stores, perhaps then that cartoon light bulb will flicker on above our heads.  Loss of ownership over the goods we buy?  Nonsense, right?  Yet, that is preciously what has been gradually happening in the interactive entertainment industry.

Imagine the repercussions a ban on used items could have.  You would be paying for the right to “borrow” items to live on and those said items can be stripped from you at a moments notice.

That’s the attitude behind proposals to eliminate the sale of used games.  One idea gaining a lot of steam is inserting a chip into next generation consoles that disable them from playing used games unless you pay a rental fee.  Game publishers protest that they are not making money off the sale of used games.  However, authors don’t cry they don’t make a penny off used book sales.  Directors don’t hide their heads in shame over the sale of used DVDs.  What makes games any different?

It began with the digital revolution.  Today it is common place for new games to be released as bug filled messes.  It can be patched later, if they get around to it.  In order to inflate the price of the game past $60, certain elements are packed into downloadable chunks and sold separately.  Buy the game used and you are forced to pay for an online pass.  Don’t think for a moment that other industries are not taking notice.

Who owns the property you buy?  Well, if its 100 percent digital, it’s easy for publishers to say they do.  You are paying to be entertained by it and no more.  Your rights to use can be canceled at any time and will be nonrefundable.  We are essentially feeding a big, bad wolf that will turn on us at any moment.

A clear message needs to be sent by us, the consumers.  Corporations are deaf to protest rallies, picket lines, and angry letters.  The only thing they listen to are dollar signs.  We must speak with our wallets.  If that chip goes into that system, I don’t buy it.  If the game is broken, it can stay that way on the shelf.

Yes, piracy is awful.  I understand that artists deserve to be paid for their work.  However, I am against hurting honest consumers, like you and me, because of a few rotten apples.  It’s time we ponder long and hard over the long term effects of a completely digital society.  Are these fancy technological advancements really to our benefit?  Or will it be to our decline?

By D.L. Timmerman

Next Gen Gaming

The rumors are spreading on the internet faster than the latest viral youtube video.  Spend too long eyeballing quotes from one “insider source” and you’re likely to have it debunked by an update a minute later.  Going on seven years, this is the longest gap between generations of game consoles in the history of the interactive entertainment industry.

To put this into perspective consider that the Xbox 360 was behind computer technology when it hit store shelves in November 2005.  Translation: console gamers are fumbling around in Gremlins while their pc buddies are cruising by in BMWs.

Over the past seven years we have seen an explosion of digital content.  Add to this the majority of yearly best sellers in the gaming world contain some element of multiplayer, and it’s safe to say that online functionality is now a staple of gaming.

Coinciding with the advancements of technology this past generation has brought is the cost of production.  Stars Wars The Old Republic and Red Dead Redemption had budgets exceeding $100 million.  Big budgets mean that the price for failing to meet sales margins may lead to layoffs and bankruptcy.

We already know that the Nintendo Wii-U will be launching this fall and will incorporate the use of an innovative tablet controller.  What direction will Sony and Mircosoft take?  Let’s put aside Sony’s present financial woes for the moment to offer up some conjecture:

The sale of used games has hurt the industry for years.  Rumor has it that a chip will be inserted into the new Xbox that will disable the play of used games.  True or not is beside the point.  This is a major issue that will be addressed in some form.

Expect an expansion of Xbox Live and the PSN Network. You know the new Xbox will have an updated Kinect attached and Skype will be squeezed in.  Both systems will allow every release to be purchased digitally.  And fully anticipate the new Xbox to have a Blu-ray player.

I would love to see new consoles crammed with enough new technology to make even the purring engine of a Ferrari jealous.  The reality is that Mircosoft and Sony will probably go the cheap route and offer up a cpu and graphics card powerful enough to play next gen games.  That would entail offering up older but working technology that would bring the price of consoles on par with where they are now.  It still stands that the Xbox controller needs better D-pad functionality.

Backwards compatibility is a must.  Not to mention a killer line-up of launch titles.  The Xbox 360 has been lacking 1st party titles and exclusives.  They risk losing core-gamers in their pursuit of a causal audience.  The PS3 has been hurt by inferior online play and developers unable to take advantage of the hardware.  This is why most multiplatform releases are generally better on the Xbox.

Uneasy economic times make for a puzzling transition.  I think we will see the new Xbox hitting store shelves late 2013, followed by the PS4 unveiling in 2014.  The next generation of gaming must pave the way for new trails to be blazed and worlds to be explored.  With interactive storytelling in its infancy, next gen gaming could prove to be a defining moment.

by D.L. Timmerman