Update 8/29/2017: And now the original XBOX One has been discontinued to make room for the XBOX One S (which is *different* from the XBOX One X). Only two years and nine months after it was released. Think about that, and remember how the SEGA Dreamcast was considered a colossal failure.
Can I make an appeal to the video game industry? Can we cool it with the technological determinism shit already, please?
I want to apologise in advance if this turns into more of an angry, ranty polemic than what I’m comfortable presenting these days, but I’m deeply upset this week. I’ve always been exasperated and annoyed with the line of thinking in games criticism that graphics tech is the most important thing in the industry and needs to be privileged above all else, but at this point I’ve officially had it. The state of the current industry is so out of control I don’t really even have words to express how stunned and aghast I am by the aggressive, mindless technofetishistic lust that seems to be driving almost everyone on both sides of the Pacific right now. The most blatantly obvious example is the grotesque display that is the current console market: We’re supposed to have hardware cycles of 5 years or so between revisions and new machines, but then somebody told Microsoft and Sony about Apple’s business model with smartphones and suddenly we’re in an era of “mid-generation hardware revisions” for $500 computers. We didn’t even get 3 years between the PlayStation 4, touted in 2013 as the most powerful thing to ever anything, and the PlayStation 4 “Pro” that supports 4K resolutions, which Sony seemed so embarrassed about they didn’t even announce it until it came out. Meanwhile, Microsoft is about to unleash the XBOX One X, a machine that is so obscenely overpowered I’m convinced it comes from some outer space futurescape and that mere mortal humans aren’t worthy to wield it. Certainly nobody I know is rich or crazy enough to be able to get it to do what it’s supposed to do.
(Meanwhile, Nintendo came out with the Switch after just managing to squeak five years out of the WiiU, but that’s primarily because with the WiiU and 3DS Nintendo momentarily forgot absolutely everything they learned about branding and marketing in over a century of trading. I’ll come back to them a little later.)
None of this is of course new. Microsoft’s strategy with the XBOX One X to push 4K reminds me of what they they tried to pull with the XBOX 360 in 2005 to push 1080p (the one that forced them to rebrand and slash prices a couple years later). And there is, of course, a precedent for this going back decades. I like to pick on Sony here for how they set the discourse for the fifth generation with the original PlayStation, but I probably also have to blame SEGA of America for how they marketed the Genesis in the United States, openly bullying Nintendo and Nintendo’s fans by saying that faster processors and better graphics chips were blatantly, objectively better in every instance and anyone who thought otherwise was a dumb crybaby.…