Sage, The Broken Gamer: Not Pro Enough

I think this generation of gaming has finally broken me. 

And no, even though I lead with that image of Sony's new PlayStation Pro console, it's not the mere existence of that which finally did the job.  Rather, when they launched it I started asking myself questions about my initial purchase of the PS4 base model and it sent me spiraling down a path of realization that caused me to come to some unsettling conclusions.  (And I mean, let's place this in context--this is all #FirstWorldProblems BS, these are just thoughts I'm having as a gamer--they aren't seriously affecting every day life for me.)

I spent the majority of last generation waiting for a reason to jump back into gaming.  I bought a PlayStation 3 more out of habit than there being a major killer app that I just had to have.  It felt more like there was something "missing" if I didn't own the current console on the market, and so three years into the system's lifespan, I just bought it anyway.   Gradually, I found a handful of games that I really enjoyed,  but more often than not, my time as a PS3 owner was marked by enjoying the various apps it could run instead.  To be perfectly fair, this felt like a valid use of my money, and I probably never would've noticed...if all my college buddies hadn't found themselves consistently engrossed in title after title.   There were times I left their apartment in the early hours of the morning and nothing would have happened other than Call of Duty or Mortal Kombat matches.

I couldn't ascribe my disinterest in Gen 7 to anything specific, but as Gen 8 was announced I decided that maybe I just hadn't jumped in early enough.  So I made a plan to start playing games this generation as soon as possible.   I would get a PS4 on launch day or soon afterwards and build my collection gradually.   And that's when I ran into my first problem with the PS4.

1. Delays - Fun fact: If you take out the annual franchises like COD or Assassin's Creed and the sports stuff like FIFA, NBA, and Madden, 90% of the AAA titles that have been released for PS4 have seen delays.  I'm making that number up, but delays have been a major issue for this generation from the very start.

I initially planned to jump into this generation with Ubisoft's open-world pseudo-cyberpunk action title Watch_Dogs...but when the game was delayed with no confirmation of a new release date, I had no other potential games I even wanted, so I put buying the system off and actually picked up a Wii U instead, opting to purchase a PS4 at the start of 2014.

But, the first eight months of my owning a PS4 was plagued with a severe lack of games.  inFamous: Second Son didn't hit until late March, meaning I spent the first three months barely cutting my PS4 on.  Of course, by September the problem had sorted itself out with titles like Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor, Sleeping Dogs: Definitive Edition, and Dragon Age: Inquisition all coming back to back and starting what I hoped would be a consistent, steady stream of games.

Only....not so much, really.  I'd initially wanted to pick up Batman: Arkham Knight rather than Sleeping Dogs, only to find that delayed into June 2015.  The Witcher 3 was going to be my big title for the start of the year with its February release (I even finished my tiny backlog in time for it), but it was kicked back into May.   And Uncharted 4, which I'd wanted to close 2015 out, was pushed firmly into March, and eventually May of this year.   Speaking of this year, my big holiday titles Horizon: Zero Dawn and Mass Effect: Andromeda both ended up being forced into February and March of next year, respectively.  The problem isn't endemic to Sony, either.  We couldn't even escape January of this year without Microsoft informing us that Scalebound wouldn't make 2016 at all.

Ultimately, we're three years into this generation and we're all playing games that should've released months ago.   We used to mock The Last Guardian and Final Fantasy Versus XIII XV because they'd been announced ages ago and we'd seen no notable progress (let alone proper release dates) but here we are mid-way into the eighth console generation and six to eight month delays have become the norm.  The only major title I can think of that was announced for a certain date and hit that date was Street Fighter V, and when it was released the first response fans seemed to have was "this should've spent some more time in the oven".  We've become so comfortable with delays now that we don't even get mad anymore, we anticipate them.   Hell, even Sony's become aware enough of them that all the new titles they showed trailers for at this past E3 had no dates on them.   Days Gone, God of War, Spider-Man PS4--they could all be 2018 titles for all we know. 

Having said all that, there's another problem with PS4 even more frustrating....

2. We Give You Less, Pay Us More - When I was a kid, PS1 games cost $39.99.  By the PS2 era, your average title was $49.99.  So naturally, as annoying as it was to see, the PS3's titles were all $59.99.   And somewhere in the middle of last gen, we all went back and forth on whether or not publishers would have the balls to launch their titles this generation for $69.99.  Turns out, they wouldn't!  ...They'd just make you pay through the nose for DLC and season passes.  

Last gen I honestly couldn't see what the fuss was about when it came to downloadable content.  If you enjoyed the game, why wouldn't you want that game's lifespan extended at the cost of another $10-20?   What I forgot was, I normally invest into RPGs where the baseline for a game's completion is usually 30-60 hours and the DLC was always going to be something equally huge and expansive, like Kingdoms of Amalur's Legend of Dead Kel and Teeth of Naros expansion packs.  There's an entire world of difference between that, and what normally gets passed off as DLC.

That's the original DLC plan for Destiny, one of the games I was excited for at the start of this gen, but I didn't mention it in the delay paragraph.  (Even though it DEFINITELY saw two major delays, as the game was originally planned for a 2013 release only to be pushed first to March, then September of 2014.)   Mostly because when I finally got it, I was...less than impressed.

Based on its initial trailer, I was lead to believe Destiny would be this wild romp through the solar system to save humanity from the threats that had nearly hunted them into extinction.  It felt like a legitimate open-world RPG that just happened to be an FPS in its battle system and the MMO elements just came from you being able to work with friends.  But by the time I bought it, nearly all the elements that had made me want the game in the first place had vanished--there was no story, and travel between planets was limited.  Worse still, the game was embarrassingly content-starved, while Bungie had the nerve to promise more content through expansions and DLC.  It took me barely 20 hours to beat the game and that was with a lot of dicking around and playing solo (the game's easier with friends)--I didn't even feel like I got my money's worth with the first go-around and they were asking me to pay even more money.

And that's the issue here.  Games are consistently being released utterly starved for content with promises of paid or even free content "later".   It'd be considerably less insulting if you got what you felt like was a full game, but NOPE.    It's understandable on one level--piracy, used games, and stagnant prices gave publishers two options: take less profit or see how far they can push things for more, and obviously they were always going to take the second option.  I traded Destiny in two weeks after I got it in time to pick up Shadows of Mordor and never looked back, and when I saw The Division I realized most likely the exact same process would happen and saved my hard-earned cash.

All of this brings me to what really broke me...

I keep my ear pretty close to the ground when it comes to gaming news, so I'd heard about a ton of series being revived for this new era of gaming and was pretty ecstatic about it.   And when S-E first announced this game, I couldn't believe it.   Star Ocean has always been one of my favorite franchises (a close second to Suikoden), so despite the 4th game not being terribly good--I figured it was easy enough for them to look at the three they had gotten right and pay attention to the feedback on the fourth and nail it.

....So when I heard the game was not only NOT up to the standards of SO2 (or even 3), but actively BAD?  Something in me snapped.   I can take or leave Final Fantasy.  Kingdom Hearts was never a series I invested in.   Even FF7 Remake is mostly only hype because its a thing that I can't believe they're doing, I loved a ton of RPGs on the PS1 way more than that game.  (When they remake Lunar: SSSC and Tales of Destiny I'll be acting like that Giant Bomb dude when they announced Shenmue 3.)  Star Ocean 5 was this gen's make or break moment, and it was a mediocre mess of backtracking and lacking production values.

So yes, I look at the PS4 Pro and get mad.  But not because it exists--last week's Playstation Meeting basically made the Pro look like the equivalent of when you bought HDMI cords for your PS3.  No, the problem is that...I really could've waited.

I bought my PS4 quick enough into the system's lifespan (January 2014) to still be considered an Early Adopter.   And after three years of owning the thing, they come out with a superior version and I look back at all the titles I've bought--and even the titles I wanted to buy--and realize that only a tiny handful were so good that they just needed to be bought right when they came out.

36 months of the system's existence and outside of Dragon Age (which is flawed) and The Witcher 3 I can't think of another title that I just HAD to have:  Watch_Dogs was fun once I overlooked the flaws but the real excitement with that game came with realizing what a sequel could do with the foundation it had.  Uncharted 4 is decent but they took out more of the stuff that I loved (the shooting), and added more of the junk I hated (the platforming).   inFamous: Second Son was beautiful but suffered from being far too short and nowhere near detailed enough.   And while I enjoyed my time with Shadows of Mordor I could've just as easily picked the game up months down the line for much cheaper, and apparently gotten a Pro mode upgrade if I'd waited it out.

Is this where we're at?  Where we have to make excuses for delays and threadbare games made to nickel-and-dime gamers until we've dropped $100, and after all that I'm STILL supposed to be excited for a revision of a console that I barely feel like I've gotten my money's worth from in the first place?

To begin with, if you're a core gamer you probably already bought a PS4 so you're already in for $400.  The Pro is priced the same, so now you're down $800 total.  And yeah, it doesn't really work that way but I'm talking about just pure investment into the hobby.  If you want to be all in on the PlayStation future with VR and taking advantage of 4K and all that you'll have invested nearly $2000 into hardware alone, and that's before you get to the running total that is PS+ and the fact that even that just went up another $10.  And that's my problem.   They keep asking for more and more money.

Everyone's so concerned about the all-mobile future, where most games are freemium and developers rely on sales from "whales" in order to pay for the development of their games.  We act like that's the worst possible future, when we haven't noticed that publishers for console games have decided we're all whales.  Gaming continues to become more expensive as they bleed us dry, and that's unacceptable to me as I become more cost-conscious. 


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