Monday, June 10, 2013

A Penultimatum

I can't make any sense of it, really. I was pulled from PS2 to Xbox (the first one, which I am no longer able to call Xbox 1 as the next Xbox is called Xbox One, tragicomically abbreviated to 'XBone' by the internetterati, perhaps in vengeance) by the latter's focus on games. A games console is primarily about the gamery: my PS1 could play CDs, by PS2 DVDs, all very useful and lovely but not the point of the purchase.

Sony screwed the pooch royally with the PS3. First there was the stumbling and shambolic early PR, where corporate high-ups sniffily insisted that the PS3 was not a console, because consoles were 'toys for children'; the exorbitant price tag excused (well, not even that) by the now-infamous comment that gamers would simply have to work harder to buy one. The constant banging on about online and social connectivity, all the while downplaying the games.

Just read that again, and absorb the magnitude of the idiocy restrained within like a psychopathic genie in a grubby lamp. Sony were downplaying the importance of games and gamers to a games console. This was a level of batshit stump-fuckery hitherto unencountered by gamers, and remains a notorious nadir for our hobby and the curious world it has created.

Sony had - that is, possessed in whole - the lion's share of the games market, and they threw it away by trying to market the PS3 as a media hub, an entertainment centre, as anything but Gods forbid a filthy games console. Xbox had an arguably less powerful machine with a tighter focus, and they won. Analysts will piss and whine about Japan's domestic market but, let's face it, Microsoft won.

Now we have Sony focusing on games, even apologising for losing focus in the last round of the console wars. Now we have Microsoft pushing the XBone as a glorified set-top box for US TV viewers, effectively deleting the entire pre-owned games market, telling gamers in no uncertain terms that this games console is far too good for the likes of them... and acting all surprised and offended when the customers rebel. I am genuinely unsure what is most astonishing, that Sony have learned their lesson so well and quickly, or that Microsoft have so thoroughly unlearned it.

I have a 360 and have enjoyed it thoroughly. I am no MS fanboy: I took mighty persuasion to trade in my PS2 (please note the words trade in: most of us cannot afford a gaming hobby without a pre-owned market. Microsoft, I understand that the games retail sector shafted your publishers but kindly punish them, not the customers). Already I am looking Sony-ward. The £429 price tag for an XBone is not itself off-putting: the fact that it is over a hundred pounds north of the price they're charging the US is. Pissing on about localisation doesn't cut it anymore. This is gouging.

Sony have not revealed a price, nor a box, nor a clue about their own pre-owned ecosystem plans (they surely have them). Sony may turn out to be just as draconian, just as mean, just as slavering in their thirst for cash. But at least they admit they were wrong in the past. At least they want gamers to want their machine. At least they don't consider gamers the dirty, pathetic embarrassment that Microsoft appear to; don't consider us, their customers, the geeks that their marketing football jocks must suppress and denigrate to feel big.

Customers aren't dumb. We understand PR, we know when we're being courted. Under those circumstances, in that world defined by marketing departments, we no longer listen to what we're being told: we watch for what's being done. So far Sony are doing more, and they haven't even shown a damn logo yet. Don't insult your customers, Microsoft. The mainstream doesn't exist: we are all you have. Fix this or lose us.

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