Anti-Consumerism: Why The Next Gen Officially Scares Me

Xbox PS logo SHACKLED

I’m scared. Really scared. The kind of scared you’d normally attribute to Lady Gaga’s stage team, or David Cameron’s children. Petrified. But my warrant for fear doesn’t come from the anxiety of misplacing her majesty’s needless plastic appendage, or growing up with a slimey, foreheaded arse basket for a father; nope, I’m currently scared for the next generation of consoles.

‘But Rob, surely you’re horrendously, giddily, break-a-table-lamp excited for all the bountiful wonders the year of 2013 will inevitably bring, that’s what you told us anyway’ you might say had I brashly confronted you in the street and somehow paid you to a) pretend you’d read this blog ever in your life and b) converse with me presumably through a nervous, terrified smile. Well, yes. There’s that. And that still stands, I am honestly eating my own face in unhinged anticipation of seeing all the new sights and hearing how our lives will be enriched by new consoles and new games and new IPs and various other forms of questionable new hardware. But there’s now a but.

But why? Well quite. The thing is, the more I read about the purported next generation, the more I seemingly have to worry about. Whilst Microsoft’s Kinect v2, and its 2014 VR glasses and room-smearing lights show Illumiroom all look utterly eyeballingly delicious, I can’t escape the fact that ‘sources’ left, right and centre are wildly bursting their lid in the direction of ‘real’ journalists to tell them that the new machines will block the use of preowned games, require a constant internet connection and hurl enraged, nonsensical abuse at you as you enter the room. Which actually doesn’t sound much fun at all. Other than the abuse thing, I think I’d be okay with that. Partially because I made it up.

Some are even saying the next generation won’t be backwards compatible, and before you splutter indignantly at the person nearest to you (which you should still do, at some point) let’s just remind ourselves what happened to the last console that didn’t bother to make itself backwards compatible. Or did and then took it away. Yeah. Exactly.

In fact, let’s systematically take a look at each of these and work out why we might well be crying ourselves to sleep come February 20th.

Preowned then. Blocking used games, as in, tying a new game via license to a single system and automatically prohibiting it from being used on anything but that single system is of course, a way to make sure publishers get their money from each copy of the game sold, thus nibbing the unabashed reign of terror the sale of people’s own property has forced upon the industry for years in the bud. Finally.

It’s also a way to make sure nobody buys your games in the first place, because who’s going to buy anything that essentially spits at you every time you glance sideways at the cover, muttering sentences involving the word scum beneath its breath as you turn away. Nobody. If I can’t buy a game and take it to Guesty’s (originally that said ‘my friend’s place’, but who am I kidding) or God forbid play it in the living room AS WELL as the bedroom, then the solution is pretty simple isn’t it.

It’s the kind of desperate last resort you might expect of a failed, hysterical bank robber, who tries to take his own partner hostage in a panic-stricken, thoughtless last ditch attempt to get free. It’s the kind of story that ends with ‘before turning the gun on himself’.

Next up: a constant internet connection. Or DRM, to his friends. And enemies, actually. A good place to start, MS, Sony, would be to call up your close friends Ubisoft, and just broach the subject with them perhaps. Maybe ask how an always-on DRM worked out for them? Maybe consider the unending barrage of quite rational vehemence the gaming world met the concept with, maybe stop furiously masturbating to the vague idea of yet more money and fire up a brain cell or two. Just a suggestion. If you weren’t already aware, it took till June 2012 for Ubi to finally say, OK, we were wrong, we’ll take it down.

“We have listened to feedback, and since June last year our policy for all of PC games is that we only require a one-time online activation when you first install the game, and from then you are free to play the game offline.”

Thanks Ubisoft. Quicker next time though please. Oh and Sony, Microsoft… No.

The upshot of both of these endeavours is that they are overtly, openly, disparagingly anti-consumerist, and not in the good old rage against the evil corporations and throw a chair through a window kind of way – more the, slapping the people who make your business work in the face alternative.  To the utmost degree, implementing these abhorrent restrictive measures is akin essentially to having the gamer open up their new console only to find a giant electronic turd that you have to let sleep with you and eat your food. And call you names. You’d be delivering a pretty formidable finger to your entire userbase boys and girls, and that is something you should probably try to avoid.

Meanwhile, whilst the more I read regarding the next generation of consoles makes me feel increasingly like I’m submerged in a vat of corporate phlegm, Gabe Newell is at DICE 2013 talking about bringing out new hardware, discussing the future of the industry and announcing that he wants to turn Steam into an API: he wants to put EVERYTHING in the hands of the community. Like two opposite sides of a coin.

Of course, currently these measures are all rumour and speculation, but the capacity and technology is undoubtedly there. We can only hope and pray someone at the head of the Durango/Orbis projects wakes up from their beer and cash induced, gurgling stupors and MAKES THE CALL. Gulp.


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About

Rob has been writing about video games since somebody put a pen in his hand and convinced him not to eat it. Last Thursday. He ardently scribbles for his terrible blog Respawn in 5, and also occasionally strings words together for Bring The Noise and a flock of Tech blogs too. When writing or gaming is out of the question, he reads, complains and pretends to be a musician. He's not.

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