|It's like that movie, Kill All Monsters, where the big guys from
the Godzilla films get together and have a big old monster hoedown, except these are full
grown companies. Of course, all that was at stake in Kill All Monsters was a fictional
humanity, and here the reward is fiscal reality. With so many new consoles coming out, I
find myself asked more and more often: Which one should I buy? Well, the answer, of
course, is, "All of them." That's unsatisfactory for most people, but it's about
the best a simple Console Editor can do.
First, look at the ways the different companies are selling to you. Sony is not making another videogame system. The PlayStation 2 is a "computer entertainment system." Microsoft, on the other hand, is marketing the X-Box as a straightforward gaming system with some extra capabilities. The Sega Dreamcast is a gaming system, but it's also the "world's first online gaming console." Indrema will begin as a gaming system, but rapidly grow into a computer entertainment system, a sort of next-generation set-top box, and Nuon is billing the DVD players enhanced with their chips as the opposite of Sony these are DVD players first, gaming systems second. Who knows exactly what Nintendo is planning, but I'd lay money down that they'll wait until everything else is out and make their move, and it will probably look a lot like a videogame system.
What does this mean? Well, it means that we've got a conundrum on our hands. Sure, nobody can afford all of the systems, but which one is it going to be? Odds are none of them will completely satisfy the gamer of tomorrow. All of the systems will provide gaming enjoyment, and I'm sure there will be plenty of kids who will be happy to only own a Dreamcast or a PlayStation 2, but for the adult, and semi-adult, gaming market only a combination will produce satisfactory results. The black and white thinking of yesterday's "Nintendo Power!" or "Sony Rules!" mentality will not help you out in the future. No one system that currently exists is going to go under. Sega has shown that it can come back, Sony is already firmly entrenched, and Nintendo has as hardcore a fanbase as any of them. The Nuon chips are not only useful for gaming, but also provide extra DVD features that are attractive to movie buffs at a nominal price increase, so there is a good chance you'll have one of these whether you want it or not. Microsoft has the muscle and know-how to pull off the X-Box, and what we've seen so far indicates that it is completely viable as a console system. Indrema is something of a wild card, but given the volatility of the market and the innovations it offer, it's a very real possibility.
What we all should just get used to is the fact that we're going to own two or three systems, and many of them will have redundant capabilities. Do we want to watch a DVD on the PlayStation 2, X-Box, or the Nuon enhanced DVD player? The light at the end of this tunnel is that so much competition is bound to drive prices down and force companies to deliver quality products. Without affordable and desirable hardware and software, a company will be drowned out in the flood of options. Another glimmer of hope comes from the fact that developers are now porting games to many different systems, and this practice will only become more common. So all of the excellent third party games will most likely eventually exist on all of the platforms. What has happened with Tony Hawk's Pro Skater and Ready 2 Rumble is a good example of this.
Really, we're awash in a sea of options, and options are good. It doesn't need to be one or the other, but both and all. If the Internet revolution has taught us anything, it is that we can, as a society, sustain an interest in a wide variety of platforms and content. We can take up the social cause of the 90s in the console arena celebrate diversity and just play the damn games.