Saints & Sinners: Last Call (June 22)
In the video game industry, the fans are bombarded by two separate yet equally important groups: Saints, who bring with them only the purest form of joy, and Sinners, beings dedicated solely to evoking misery. These are their stories.
Friends, readers, and trolls, we have reached the end of the road. As of the end of this editorial, Saints & Sinners is nothing more than a beautiful soul laid to rest by its own creator. In its wake will come something fresh, new, and, if you ask politely enough, interesting, but I’m not going to make any crazy promises that I can’t back up. For now, let’s sit back, relax, and enjoy the last few moments of a column heading far off into the horizon.
Having just returned from a vacation, I’ve had a lot of time to think. Thinking, for me, can often end up being a terrible thing as it often sends me into bouts of unsolicited malcontent; this most recent bout was no different.
E3 2012 left a bad taste in my mouth not for a dearth of content or surprises but instead for the reaction to said dearth of content and surprises; rational thought seems to have been thrown out of the window in favor of quick, ill-conceived analysis. One of my goals as the writer behind Saints & Sinners was to avoid being absolute in my praise and criticism, an aim that I’d like to think was successful but was, in all likelihood, an idea thrown out the window often in favor of being cute and garnering a reaction out of Got Game’s readers. Today, though, I’d like to reset my path and take aim at what I believe to be the ultimate Sin of both the industry and of my own personal thought: sensationalism.
Though the conference ended with a literal bang in the form of virtual fireworks, Nintendo’s E3 presentation ended with a whimper. The Wii U, a console set to be launched later this year, was expected to blow open the doors of the Los Angeles Convention Center with a slew of content that could be found on no other platform. Instead, fans of the iconic publisher and general observers of the industry were treated to an hour-long lecture that amounted to little more than a new Mario game, a new Pikmin game, and a tech demo designed to showcase the potential of the system’s tablet-based controller. Needless to say, a mutual feeling of disappointment exuded both from the crowded convention and the mass of individuals observing it from the comfort of their homes.
Only a day earlier, Sony had taken the stage at the very same convention and committed a sin of their own: ignoring their newest platform, the PlayStation Vita. While fans were delighted by a massive unveiling of first-party titles that proved to be as unique as they were gorgeous, they were also disheartened to see such a potent piece of technology hit the proverbial back burner in favor of a console that has been around a few years short of a decade. Once again, disappointment hung heavy in the California air as what seemed like such a charming device was relegated to a mere afterthought by its own creators.
Naturally, social networks were flooded with the sentiments of upset analysts and fans that had just seen their hopes and dreams for E3 go up in flames. However, disappointment wasn’t the most prominent emotion expressed; it was anger. As any observer of history can tell you, anger isn’t a feeling that often leads to the most rational though and is instead one that often lends itself to misguided, reactionary tantrums. To say that misguided, reactionary tantrums ruled the day would be as much of an understatement as if one were to say that the United States is in a little bit of debt.
In the span of a handful of hours, I saw hundreds upon hundreds of Tweets and status updates writing off the PlayStation Vita as a flop and the Wii U as dead on arrival. Neither of these are true, obviously, but if one were to believe the internet to be the gospel of our times then they might buy into this ill-fated path of logic. They have, and they will continue to do so until the urge to spew sensationalist ideas dies out like the thousands of digital fads that came before it.
Now distanced from the events that took place in Los Angeles, let’s analyse both the PlayStation Vita and Wii U from a standpoint of logic and reason.
Sony’s latest handheld device is, according to a majority of comment sections around the internet, doomed to suffer the same fate as the one that came before it. Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but the PlayStation Portable proved to be a fairly fruitful device in terms of success. As of 2010, a year that came a good two years before this current one in which the Vita launched, the PSP sold 62 million units worldwide. For a device that was allegedly a flop, that sure seems like the numbers that would indicate success.
Then again, it could be argued that the PlayStation Portable wasn’t a great platform for software and was instead just a great platform for piracy. That’s fair enough; personally, I didn’t even like the PSP and opted not to purchase one after my brother moved away with the only one in the household. However, it wasn’t the barren wasteland of the industry that it was often made out to be. Within its UMD-based confines resided a plethora of exclusive, first-party titles and even some daringly-creative entities out of lesser-known studios. I wouldn’t blame one for not knowing of these games, though, because it was sometimes worth wondering whether or not Sony knew about them. E3 after E3 passed by with little time allotted to the portable market, and, as the public showcase for many consumers, that proved to be the greatest mark of condemnation for the device as a whole.
That all sounds familiar, but I’m going to step away from the PlayStation Portable and focus on the PlayStation Vita as a device with its own unique set of strengths and weaknesses. As a whole, the criticism for the Vita largely centers around its lack of software after five months on the market. All disparaging remarks on that front seem dissonant with a software library that includes a surprisingly-apt game in the Uncharted franchise and one title, Gravity Rush, that serves as the same kind of new intellectual property that followers of the industry cry for on a regular basis. The library doesn’t end there; MLB The Show 12 and Rayman Origins, two ports of exceptional console-based experiences, help to bolster a lineup that, in comparison to the positioning of the Nintendo 3DS at this point in time last year, seems awfully rich in content.
While we’re on the topic, let’s think about the Nintendo 3DS. I seem to recall similar complaints being lobbed at it after its launch last year, a showing that could generously be referred to as pitiful and more reasonably referred to as an utter train wreck, until Nintendo launched two titles in the Mario franchise that made more widespread ownership of the console a thing. In a world of sensationalist logic, things like that can change on a dime regularly; one day, the Nintendo 3DS is a dark mark on a once-great publisher. The next day? It is a success story that consumers can’t wait to cling on to.
Something tells me that the PlayStation Vita could very well end up in the same boat. Later this year, the PlayStation Vita is set to receive fully-featured ports of PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale and Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time alongside an exclusive entry in the Assassin’s Creed franchise that critics are already heralding as a must for owners of the handheld. I could be wrong, but, at the same time, I could be right. However, it would be wise to abstain speaking in such absolutes as those relying on sensationalism to fuel their verbal output. As my mother would tell me, a watched pot never boils; let’s watch the situation develop instead of condemning it before the pot is even on the boiler.
The backlash expressed in the direction of Sony and its handling of the PlayStation Vita seems mild in comparison to that which Nintendo received in response to its E3 press conference. Many, including myself, expected to be blown away by the Wii U and its lineup of games coming this holiday season. I left the experience not blown away but miffed that the event was curtailed by the debut of what appeared to be a mini-game collection doomed to wind up collecting dust on my shelf before the end of this calendar year. That disappointment came and went for me, but it pervaded long afterwards in the annals of the world wide web.
Apparently, the Wii U is going to be a flop. This I would expect from such bottom-of-the-barrel locales as 4Chan and Reddit, but not from my more reasonable friends on Facebook and Twitter; I expected wrong. Almost universally, the system was panned for sporting a launch lineup unfit for a next-generation console. That’s weird, though, because every game shown at the press conference was billed as one belonging to the system’s launch window. If that’s the case, then New Super Mario Bros. U, Pikmin 3, Rayman Legends, and ZombiU are all destined to wind up in stores within the first six months of the platform’s life. Somehow, that doesn’t seem all that weak in comparison to what we have received in the past.
Sensationalism has painted a picture of new hardware that is both unfair and unreasonable. Every console (and I do mean every console that has launched within the past decade has done so with a paltry lineup of content available to early adopters. In earlier times, that was greeted as an expected con to the pro of being able to proudly hoist up the newest system on the market. Now, it is greeted as the end of days.
Remember the PlayStation 2? The console that ended up going down as one of the best of all time featured a launch so lacking that SSX, an extreme-sports game, was regarded as the best available title. I’m not saying that to downplay SSX, a good game in its own right; I’m saying that to illustrate how dissonant our complaints about launch lineups are with the history behind them. The same issue holds true for this generation’s most popular console, the Xbox 360. When it launched, it did so with little more than the promise of high-definition graphics to accompany it. Nobody still plays Kameo or Perfect Dark Zero anymore, but they absolutely still play the device whose launch they highlighted.
I think to call the Wii U a failure before it even comes out of the gate is silly and another sign to sit back and think as opposed to opting for sensationalist logic. Sure, it may only be launching with a new Pikmin game (which looks great), but when compared to the lineups of past new hardware it seems fairly appealing to me.
Again, a watched pot never boils. Nobody, not even those who are paid to cover the industry, knows how the Wii U is going to turn out, but, instead of wasting out energy condemning it and pointing out where it can do nothing but fail, why don’t we just let it happen and analyse it from a fair and reasonable standpoint that operates within the realm of logic; that certainly sounds more appealing to me than going to Twitter and Facebook with my unique opinion about how and why Nintendo is doomed to fail.
Unfortunately, I feel that I have let down you, my readers who have somehow managed to reach the conclusion of this wall of text, in that I have, at various points in the life of this column, succumb to sensationalism. I’ve called out Resident Evil 6 as a failure and bashed Smart Glass as a doomed solution to a problem that nobody has, and though I tried to do so without speaking in absolutes I still believe that I’ve had a few missteps in my cause.
Next week, a new column emerges in the stead of Saints & Sinners. It is an editorial that I’m personally excited for and can only that you share that feeling when it appears on this website next Friday.
With that, I’d like to thank all you for taking part in my dissent into madness. If you take anything from my work, let it be that you should speak your opinion loudly, but you should never do so from an arrogant standpoint that presumes everything you say to be truth. As I’ve said, and will continue to say: a watched pot never boils.
Judgement has been passed