RIP

I remember getting my first console like it was yesterday.

Christmas, 1987.  Every kid I knew that year had sat on the fat man’s lap and asked for the same thing: NES.  That magical grey box held within it a world of 8-bit awesome.  The morning arrived, I had been up all night with dreams of Super Mario Bros. dancing in my head.  There, under the fake tree, laid a box with proportions which resembled the fabled Nintendo.  I ripped through the paper, foaming at the mouth, and there it was…a Sega Master System. What the f…

Despite constant ribbing from my neighborhood buddies, I quickly learned that the Master System was a great console.  Space Harrier, Hang On, Missile Defense 3D, Cheese Cat-Astrophe starring Speedy Gonzales (ok, maybe not that one) but I loved my little black and maroon box.  My Master System was followed by a number of subsequent great and not-so-great consoles, and there was something wonderfully exciting about a new console release.  So, flashing forward all these years, I have to ask: 

Why do I dread console releases now?

Obviously, that is not to say I don’t anticipate the improvements accompanied by new hardware releases like that kid in 1987.  However, the entire affair has turned into the proverbial clusterf@!#.  Why is it so hard to be a devoted gamer without constantly owning 3 consoles?  Simple: Exclusivity deals.  There has always been a level of exclusivity in regards to consoles, i.e. Mario, but it just seems so much more vicious now.

This is where console makers have completely screwed themselves, and in turn, gamers.  Case in point:  Grand Theft Auto IV.  I pre-ordered and bought GTAIV for PS3.  There really wasn’t any fanboy reason or otherwise, I suppose I have just always associated the GTA franchise with Playstation.  So, imagine my complete "joy" when it is announced that the Lost and the Damned DLC would be an Xbox exclusive.  Really?! Really, Microsoft? Really, Rockstar?  While I realize game developers, publishers, and console makers are in the business of making money, I would like to officially call BULLS@!#.  

I would imagine that Microsoft would hope that I will run out now and get an Xbox version of GTAIV.  I would imagine that Rockstar would hope to sell even further copies of GTAIV.  Personally, actions like this and others of its ilk, does nothing more than make me angry at Microsoft and Rockstar Games.  Sure, it’s one thing when you can only play Gears of War on Xbox (it still sucks though), but it’s an entirely different beast when I can’t play additional content to a game I own because it’s not on the right console.  The moneyhat song and dance is getting old.  The console makers are pushing each other back and forth forgetting that the very people who they market to, gamers, are the ones getting the shaft. This situation is compounded by the fact that in this economy it is harder than ever to justify paying another 60 bucks for a game or another 300 bucks plus for a console.  Historically, this crap can only go on for so long until someone comes up with an idea to fix it.

Then, at this year’s GDC, proof that it may be happening:

[video:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rGrIRJlZfSg 100×300]

If you haven’t heard of OnLive yet, this is essentially how it is supposed to work.  OnLive maintains extremely fast, top-of-the line servers to host games. You hook up a "mini-console" to your TV, then with your subscription you play games that relay back and forth from the servers.  These servers are updated consistently as to keep the hardware up to spec with increasing graphic/processing technology.  Theoretically, eliminating the need for any more consoles all together.  Sounds great, right?  Will it work?  The jury is still out.   

Imagine the ability to play any game you wanted, regardless of console restrictions.  No one is sure yet if OnLive will truly deliver as implied, but the idea still brings to light a major problem in the industry.  Gamers want to play games, period, regardless of which console it’s on.  Sure, you have your requisite fanboys who will scream from their parent’s basement as to the superiority of this system or that.  However, the large majority of us would appreciate the freedom to play any game at anytime without killing ourselves economically.  

The console makers, obviously, will not go into the light without a brawl.  They will keep their IP’s closer than ever, and attempt to fight off the new technology tooth and nail.  Truly, though, the gamers will decide whether Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo should go back to just making games.

All facets of media are moving towards digital distribution.  It seems, for now, that OnLive will probably give more in the way of PC games than console games.  However, whether it’s OnLive or another similar system, it’s bound to happen.  Personally, I say bring it on.  Just don’t expect to see me part with my Sega Master System any time soon.