Well modern hardware simply isnít reliable. I think this generation of consoles has shown that, prior to the current generation most people I know had a console, and it tended to last the lifetime of that generation, if not longer (everything from my SMS to GameCube/PS2 work fine)
This generation the majority of people I know are on at least their 2nd, and often 3rd replacement system, some under warranty, some outright purchased replacements. This doesnít bode well for the next generation, unless they make some serious attempts to improve reliability I definitely wonít be paying launch prices for anything.
The problem is, the systems are becoming more complex. I donít want to have to update the firmware all the time to play games, have hardware so locked down that even if something simple does go wrong, like the drive, it canít be replaced without returning it to MS / Sony etc. The wireless pads by nature also have a limited lifespan, the Sony ones donít even have an obvious way to replace the battery, at least Microsoft battery packs CAN take AA batteries for once off the shelf replacements arenít available (should you be lucky enough that your console lasts that long) When a system needs updates just to play new blu-ray discs, or locks you out of half your games almost entirely because of a leap year bug then you have to be blind not to think there is *something* wrong.
All factors combined make this an absolutely awful generation in terms of hardware, and that ends of translating across to arcades too. In all honest, I wouldnít even say the games were much better, improvements are all peripheral while more often than not the core games are worse than their previous iterations due to the constant dumbing down of things, worsened by an over dependence on additional DLC (devaluing the games and making some games seem more like a subscription, or worse in the case of pre-order stuff), planned obsolescence whereby servers for old games are removed (you can no longer host your own) etc. Overall this leads to a lack of feeling of ownership, a lack of feeling you can rely on something to be the same next time you pick it up, the push for an entirely digital marketplace only serves to advance this. On phones that can work, because people see them as throwaway devices anyway, but consoles and handhelds? the main defining differences is theyíre meant to last for years.
Obsessions over things like Achivements and gamer points have also destroyed what was always one of the most fun things about games, the cheats. How many games have real cheats in them now? If an unintended cheat of exploit comes along it just ends up being patched out. To a point maybe it matters less, you have infinite lives by default in pretty much everything, playing most modern games is exactly like playing with the game-aid cheats on. That said, things like the debug mode in Sonic just wouldnít be allowed anymore, but back in the day there was something fun about creating 200 angry monsters with a cheat code. When my PS3 died, and took my saves with it, I had no way to simply skip to the position I was in and no desire to really play through what had been so far nothing but a linear, go through the paces game script. For online games it makes sense, you donít want cheaters, but most of these games arenít really online, just people are valuing their achievements so much the thought of anybody cheating their way to them is akin to them robbing a bank. In reality the achievements you get are mostly just worthless crap, anybody can complete pretty much any game made today, so in most cases youíve really achieved nothing unless you actually need a reminder that you did complete a game, and really looked in every pointless corner for objects which have no actual meaning and only furthering to highlight how static, painted on, superficial and linear most stuff in the game is as you do so.
Back to hardware and design choices, MemCards on the previous generation were pretty bad (and severely overpriced), but they even managed to make that worse by locking save games to your machine, and internal HDD, so when things go wrong the damage is even worse. Now theyíre talking about putting all the saves in Ďthe cloudí which again is only going to last as long as the servers are running, then, byebye save games. What would be wrong with just requiring you to have a generic USB stick? The recent Sony hacks arenít exactly going to give people confidence in online storage of anything important.
Nintendoís HD system announcement does baffle me, because itís almost as if theyíve not seen all these problems. The Wii, at the very least, has earned a reputation as the only reliable system of the generation, a cheap family system which can always be depended on, the negatives generally seen as the peripheral costs and reliance on novelty features. Despite this theyíre going to be pushing probably the most expensive controllers in a system which will be of higher spec, and more expensive than the current offerings, with a timing which reminds me greatly of Sega releasing the Dreamcast, which was better than the other popular machines at the time (PSX, N64) but was then quickly blown away by the PS2, Xbox, GameCube etc.
Now, you could just say I was suffering from being a cynical bastard, the latest South Park did make me laugh, but really the negatives of this generation in terms of both hardware and games far outweigh any positives so it doesnít surprise me that the arcades coming out at the moment are equally cheap throw-away junk based on the latest consoles, or cheap PC components. The entire games industry is IMHO broken at present and their actions are becoming less and less in the interests of the consumer, and more and more about control over a tight service with both the hardware and software being developed to support this goal.
Quality, innovation, challenge, replayability, dependability, and giving personal experience are far more important than blaming lackluster sales on a 2nd hand market, and being determined to kill it anyway possible, and treating anybody who dares buy used title like a thief as far as online play is concerned.
Of course you canít blame the individual developers of the games for the majority of things here, this isnít an attack on them at all. Most of the choices of Ďwhat must beí are made at a far higher level and going against the grain is either impossible, or far too risky due to public response. Duke Nuken Forever was released recently, and sure, itís not a great game, but itís being ripped to shreds in reviews, yet most of the REAL flaws of the game are shared by practically every other FPS out there today, just the superficial coating isnít quite as convincing. Linear story, check, painted on static scenary, check, lack of real choice, check, invisible walls, check, lack of consequences for your actions, checkÖthe list goes on. If you try and do something new, something revolutionary, you hit similar problems. Public reception these days seems to have little to do with quality, simply that if you break the mold or donít have the sparkle, youíre seen as doing something wrong. The end result, the majority of games are stale in addition to the unreliable hardware.
The next generation will be interesting, as little faith as I have in things, people canít surely be happy to continue down this path. At what point do games strip away all gameplay, and just become scripted movies using the game engines and a couple of button choices? At that point you donít even really need a games console, you can do a game like that with a DVD player for the fraction of the cost! At what point are the current mass number of gamers actually going to realise theyíre not having fun anymore doing exactly the same thing over and over again in endless sequels, and want something a bit more meaty? That having to replace their system every year because it broke isnít exactly fun? That the games they want to play canít be played anymore, or they have to buy them again on the current system? Are current trends sustainable?
I know some people seem to want to attack me as Ďmentally illí for posting such comments, and thoughts, but that seems to be the scenes current way of dismissing anything they donít like, and itís about as mature as the rest of the playground behavior they engage in, but Iíll just continue to say things how I see them. Those that actually take the time to read and think about what Iíve said will see that plenty of valid points are being made.