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What Lies Ahead For Gamers?

Please be aware that this entry is over two years old. Therefore, it may contain broken links, outdated information, or views and content which are no longer completely valid.

The online geek/gamer comic strip Ctrl+Alt+Del (named after the infamous three finger salute), had a humorous strip a couple weeks back that poked fun at Microsoft’s new attitude towards PC gaming, and Sony’s typical way of futzing around with the batter too much before the cookies are actually done.

Now, because of the strong language in the strip, I won’t directly link to it, but here’s how it goes:

The game developer turns to the elderly Microsoft representative and says, “So…Microsoft…still publishing Vanguard for us??”

“Yep. We’re planning on making it Windows Vista exclusive.  You know, to force…erm, I mean, encourage gamers to upgrade,” replies Microsoft.

The developer turns to the suave, hot-shot Sony representative and timidly asks if Sony could publish the game.  Sony says, “So the big man comes crawling back, eh? Yeah, we can release your little game for you.  We’ll even wait six months before we botch up the game and alienate all the players.  But only because we have a history together.”

The developer then turns toward MS saying, “Uhhh…you’re going to alienate 90% of our fanbase to sell your new product?”  “Naturally,” says Microsoft.

The developer turns back to Sony and says something to the effect of: “Hmm…you drive a hard bargain, but if I know somebody is going to botch this game, at least I know what’s going to happen with you.”

So, how does this exaggerated comic apply to anything?  Well, it does have a grain of truth.  Most sarcasm does.  Bungie (Surprise! Owned by Microsoft) has announced that the PC version of Halo 2 will only play on the upcoming release of Windows Vista. This is significant because most gamers today are running Windows XP (or some derivative of it), and like the comic strip implies, this move will alienate hordes of gamers who refuse to upgrade to Vista simply to play one game.  As much as I was looking forward to the PC version of Halo 2, personally, I don’t see myself upgrading to Vista for the sake of one game.  XP does everything I need it to, and Vista is simply a resource hog.

There’s no way most gamers are going to shell out $300-$600 in upgrades to get their gaming rig into shape for supporting gaming on Vista.  Sure, many people with newer machines will meet the minimum requirements to run Vista, but it’ll take a lot more to be able to render games effectively.  Then on top of that, Vista will probably be somewhere in the vicinity of $100, depending on which one of the 8 versions you choose.  Last, but not least, the game itself will probably cost around $60.  All of that is certainly a huge investment, all for the purpose of playing one single popular game.  Quite a racket, eh?  (for other upcoming titles, see here)

As for Sony…they have currently embarked on a high road that few gamers (and even music lovers thanks to their rootkit fiasco and perusal of over-restrictive DRM technologies) will travel.  Sony’s new PlayStation 3 is currently estimated to wear a shelf price of about $600, and even that, said SCE head Ken Kutaragi, “is probably too cheap“.  There is obviously something wrong when a game console rivals the price of an entry-level PC found on Dell, Gateway, or built by yourself.

Put simply, Sony seems to have lost touch with today’s gamers in the modern gaming market.  They are in the business of making money, first and foremost, rather than filling the expectations of loyal gamers.

Yes, gamers are a fickle bunch whom are often hard to please, but when countless webpages and blogs go up filled with complaints about what Sony is doing, you would think they would take notice and possibly rethink the direction they are heading in terms of the gaming industry (Digital Rights Management is a whole other can of worms, so I won’t get into that here—that’s certainly one of the other top gripes about Sony these days).

But of course, this is comparing apples to oranges here when I talk about Vista and gaming on PCs and Sony with their console games.  For the most part, console and PC gamers stick to their own areas, unless something really good comes out on one platform or the other.  However, the point is that it is getting to be quite expensive these days to be a gamer.  It looks like the only company that seems to be on the right track at this point is Nintendo with their Wii console.

Comments on the issues at hand?  Be sure to add your thoughts here.

(Originally published on a now-defunct blog)