Before I get into today’s post, I just want to congratulate Giant Bomb’s Patrick Klepek on breaking the story about the Xbox DRM policy reversal. Say what you will about Giant Bomb’s cult of personality, but Klepek has been an ace reporter, a fount of knowledge, and my primary reason for tuning in to / putting up with the Bombcast every week. His audio diary of this year’s E3 was arguably more interesting/informative than any other reporting I absorbed, and he deserves all the credit in the world for getting this story right.
And, so: the morning after the backtrack heard ’round the world, I find myself still leaning in the PS4’s direction, even if I’m appreciative that Microsoft paid attention to the backlash and did something about it. As I’ve said before, I was never particularly troubled about the always-online aspect of the Xbox One, because I’m fortunate enough to already have an always-on wi-fi in my apartment, and I don’t buy used games. (It would’ve fucked up my Gamefly account, though, and that is a big deal.)
Still, my hesitance about the One is less about the online stuff and more about their very stubborn refusal to play ball with indie developers and self-publishers. As I find myself increasingly turned off by AAA shooters, I find that the indie space is where the really neat stuff is happening – maybe the graphics aren’t as impressive, but the gameplay mechanics are more interesting, the narratives take real risks, and the overall experience is far more satisfying because it feels crafted by people who actually give a shit, and that means something to me. It’s the exact opposite of the feeling I get about knowing that Ubisoft has 1,000 people all over the world slaving away at various Assassin’s Creed sequels that get shoved out the door every year.
Sony made a very big deal out of the indie space in their press conference, and some of the games shown in their little stage demo montage are the games I’m probably most looking forward to. And the rockstars of the indie scene (Phil Fish, Jonathan Blow, to name a few) are very appreciative of what Sony is trying to do, as well as being increasingly frustrated with what Microsoft isn’t doing.
Here’s the deal: I’m in a financial position where I could only afford one of the new consoles at launch – assuming that either console had a Day One launch lineup that was actually worth getting in on (and neither console is offering anything must-buy with launch, as far as I’m concerned). Ultimately, my decision will depend on the following factors:
I’ve been a very happy 360 owner, even if I’m currently on my 4th 360 (which has been dying a slow death for a few months now). And to be honest, I originally only bought a PS3 so that I could have a blu-ray player, once the blu-ray/HD-DVD format war was decided. As it happens, I still think the 360 is the superior console of this current generation, and it’s certainly where I spent the bulk of my time; but I also must say that Sony’s 1st party library in the last few years has been the strongest by a pretty wide margin. (Speaking of which, I’ll have more to say about Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us in a future post.)
Ultimately, it’s the games that matter. It’s why I haven’t bought a Vita, or a WiiU (and it’s why I got rid of my Wii). The PS4, right now, has a brighter future on the software front. There’s still plenty of time left for things to change, of course, and Microsoft can still turn their ship around. But they’ve got a lot of work to do on that front, and a lot of the work involved requires a radical rethinking of their business philosophies, and I’m not entirely sure how willing they are to do what needs to be done.