One of the big inspirations behind ‘Random Digital Musings’ emerged from my frustration in not being able to pre-order a PlayStation 3…. even though I saw “system shortage” the tidal wave coming. (In the past I’ve been rewarded for my foresight by pre-ordering — thus getting access to the system where others who acted late were denied.) But as I’ve been following this long, strange march towards the launch of the PlayStation 3, the same question keeps coming up in the minds of gaming enthusiasts — is there any game (or even a combination of games) that makes the sacrifice of $600 (particularly in this upcoming season of incredible options) really worth it?
To answer this question, I went straight to the source — PS3 pre-ordering customers. Now, while I didn’t make it out to the PS3 pre-order race on Tuesday at EB Games/GameStop, strangely enough, most of the folks that were on line for the Wii pre-order on Friday were greeting each other again — having met already on Tuesday standing in the line for the PS3.
“Hey – you back again?”
“Yeah, man — I gotta pick up the Wii also.”
“Yeah, me too. I might end up using the $50 to reserve the Wii for a PlayStation 3 game, but at least I want to be able to buy the system if I change my mind.”
I leaned in and observed several conversations like that. Actually over the past year and a half since the PlayStation 3 was announced, I’ve observed several other similar conversations while standing in game stores pretending to be reading the backs of game cases.
“You guys taking PS3 pre-orders?”
“No, not yet. But you can pre-order the games, though.”
A few times (when the mood was friendly enough), I’d ease my way into the conversation. And this is where I made observation number one.
“So, you’re excited about the PlayStation 3?
“Yeah, man. The PS3 — I gotta have it.”
“Wow, $600 is a lot of money.”
“Yeah, I know — but I saved up and it’s worth it, man.”
“So, what games are you looking forward to playing?”
“………Metal Gear Solid for sure.”
“That doesn’t come out until the middle of next year.”
“Yeah, but I’ll definitely pick that up.”
“OK, so what about the games at launch — what are you gonna get with the system?”
“….not sure yet, but whatever I get, I know it will be great!”
OK, so that wasn’t a verbatim conversation. But since January of this year, I’ve been doing my own little ‘survey’ and strangely enough, this is how most of the conversations have gone. This is almost exactly how the conversation went with the folks on the Nintendo Wii line, no less. (After all, the Wii folks are supposed to be the Sony-hating, revolution-seeking gamers, but strangely there seemed to be a lot of overlap.) The funny thing was that the Wii folks didn’t really know what games they wanted either. I asked just about everyone waiting in front of me what game they were looking forward to. I got a few utterances of ‘Wii Sports’. One guy said Zelda. But the rest seemed to be looking at me for ideas. Most hadn’t heard about the Wii-mote features in Madden and nobody had heard of the Rayman game. One guy wanted to get Red Steel. In short, the general game buying public — even the fanatic folks that had been on line TWICE during a weekday for two separate system launch pre-orders — doesn’t really know specifically what they want to play. Perhaps I should just take my hat off to Sony and Nintendo? Perhaps with the combination of their hype machine along with all of the gaming press and sites like 1up and GameSpot (and this one, to a certain degree) pumping up fans to no end, people were sold on the concepts and forgot to consider the fact that without games the systems are somewhat pointless.
Perhaps the game buying public is just not that bright? Perhaps they’re wooed by anything that’s new and shiny? Perhaps all they had to hear were the words, “New PlayStation” and they came running? (Far be it from me to criticize another gamer for their choices — I own a Jaguar and a total of four games….. but it was a nostalgia purchase. 🙂 )
Whatever the reason, most folks who are buying the system don’t really have a group of games in mind. Their actions seem to indicate that they have an experience in mind. They see the PlayStation 3 as a step above their current PlayStation or GameCube gaming experience. And after they’ve spent $660 for the PlayStation 3 and one game, let’s hope that they’re correct.
Another thing that I noticed over the past year was that although most people are sold on the fact that Sony is bringing a next generation High Definition gaming experience, many don’t have televisions to compliment that experience. (At least not the folks that I’ve spoken to.) I’m sure that the number of High Def TVs is on the rise and gaining strength everyday, but strangely enough the hardest of the hardcore folks — the ones that were waking up at 4am to be in line first — didn’t have high def TVs.
But enough stabbing at the game-buying public. It’s no secret that I have it out for the masses who vote for mediocrity every year when they fork out $60 bucks to play basically the same game of John Madden Football — for what will probably be a casual five month experience (Sept – Jan).
The real question that remains is, based on what we know about the launch line-up thus far, is there a single game that warrants spending $60? Well, let’s evaluate. Based on the most recent data available at the time of this post, here are the game that will be launch titles:
- Resistance Fall of Man
- Rainbow Six: Vegas
- Call of Duty 3
- Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
- Full Auto 2
- Madden NFL ’07
- NBA 2K7 (2K Sports)
- Tiger Woods PGA ’07
- NBA ’07 (Sony First Party)
- Ridge Racer 7
- Untold Legends: Dark Kingdom
- Genji – Days of the Blade
NOTE: This is by no means an official list. But these are the titles that you can probably bet the farm will be sitting on the shelves within the first two weeks of the system’s launch.
So, is there anything tasty on the menu? Perhaps there is for some. But as the owner of a PS2 and an Xbox 360, I don’t see many new experiences.
Let’s start with the sports franchises. From what I’ve seen of the game footage from E3 and the Tokyo Gaming Show, there’s nothing really innovative or tantalizing here. 2K Sports and EA alike have yet to really tap into the Xbox 360’s potential — and that system is supposed to be more developer-friendly. Considering this, I don’t see them bringing an experience that is drastically different from the Xbox 360 sports games I already have. However, I will be curious to see what the visuals look like — especially when compared with the Xbox 360 for the same title. (Is the graphical difference noticeable? Will it be better? Will it be worse??) Sports games are easy to do comparisons with and should therefore provide the most telling info regarding each system’s potential and what we can expect going forward. But as for making a “right now” purchase? Unless I see something truly extra-ordinary in the next few weeks, I’ll pass this year on the sports titles.
What about Rainbow Six? Of the games listed and the developers represented by each, I trust UbiSoft the most. I’m sure that it will be a compelling experience. But I’ve never had the patience for first-person tactical shooters and I’m not very much in the “try it out” mood. I’d pass on Rainbow Six as a launch game, but, this is one of those potential impulse purchases down the line. You know — the ones you’d buy if you had some extra cash and were hungry for a new game.
Oblivion and Full Auto 2 represent experiences that can already be enjoyed on the Xbox 360. Again, just from a technological standpoint, I’d love to see the side by side comparisons. But neither is worthy of my $60 out of the gate.
Genji, based on what I keep hearing from gaming journalists who’ve played preview versions, is shaping up to be a game that’s “better than most people expected”. ‘Better than expected’ is not glaring compliment. For those who aren’t aware, Genji is very similar to the Onimusha series. Onimusha is basically an action/adventure game set in Feudal Japan with swordplay, dragons and other mythical beasts. Unless you really like Onimusha, there’s not a big reason to get excited at Genji. Again, not really worth the $60 plunge.
Untold Legends? See Genji. (Although it is worth mentioning that Untold Legends should have four player cooperative play. This could be fun. Still not buying it as a launch game.)
What’s a PlayStation launch without a Ridge Racer game. I bought the original RR with my PlayStation and Ridge Racer 4 with my PS2. So this is a no-brainer, right? Well, honestly, I’m kinda tired of Ridge Racer. RR used to be the kind of game that would show off your system. And I’m sure this one will make your system look incredible. But for $60, I’m not sure that there’s anything truly revolutionary or that much better than the Ridge Racer that launched for the Xbox 360 (Ridge Racer 5). For some, maybe. For me, not likely as a new title (possibly at a cheaper price on the used or heavily discounted market.)
Call of Duty 3 is the game that I actually did pre-order for the PS3, but only to put my $5 down on something in hopes that they’d give me consideration when the pre-ordering time came. (They didn’t.) This is definitely a no-brainer if you like first person shooters at all. Call of Duty 2 basically sold me on the power of the Xbox 360. For PS3 gamers who haven’t yet experienced Call of Duty, this should be incredible. And even though I’ve already played 2, I might pick this up. But when I consider the fact that Resistance Fall of Man is also a launch title and I like to have some variety in my launch experiences, I’d probably pass on COD3. Again, file this one under “I’ll buy either on an impulse down the road, used or heavily discounted” — but not with a launch title when Resistance Fall of Man is coming out.
And that appropriately brings me to Resistance, as it’s the only game I haven’t mentioned. Resistance is without question the game that Sony is going to use to showcase the system. Resistance Fall of Man is a 1st person shooter set in a fictional World War II backdrop with aliens invading Earth. It is being developed by the folks that made the Ratchet and Clank series, which I really enjoyed. And while most people are pointing to the fact that Resistance is a huge departure from the cartoony style of Ratchet and Clank, I believe in the developer (Insomniac). Ted Price (one of the founders) has been interviewed about the game several times and the footage I’ve seen so far coupled with his experience leads me to think this is going to be a solid game.
(And craftily I’ve managed not to answer the question.) Well, let me say this — while Resistance would be the game I’d buy with the system if I bought any game at all, I’m not so sure that given the lack of solid titles out of the gate that I’d buy a PS3 and Resistance this year. It would hurt like hell not be a part of the launch. But I think I have to sit this one out.
Why? Simple — opportunity costs. I could spend the money and look at the PS3 and be really proud that I was able to secure one. However, there are so many other things that you can buy with that money this holiday season that might garner you a better experience. Unless you were a child and you truly only had this opportunity to get a PS3 (and there was no more money on the horizon in sight) there’s absolutely no reason in my eyes to be first for a PS3 other than sheer nostalgia. If you want a good gaming experience, there are so many places to find that this holiday season.
– The Wii will be fun an interesting — even if only for a little while until the next group of games arrive in the spring. Wii Sports, the Wii channel, Zelda and ExciteTruck each represent an opportunity to “try something else fun and different.”
– In addition to the Wii games, on launch day the Wii is going to have several downloadable titles as part of their library of classic downloadable games. If they replenish those games often enough in the months after December, that might be enough to hold me off until I see something I really want to play on the PS3.
– As great as Resistance Fall of Man might be, I’d bet the farm that Gears of War on the Xbox 360 will be a much better game. Cliffy B has been working in first person shooters all his life. Microsoft’s pumped a ton of money into this game. I think it’s going to justify buying an Xbox 360 for a lot of folks.
– More than Gears of War, you could pump that $600 into a bunch of used Xbox 360 games. For someone that doesn’t yet have a next-gen system, a 360 with Dead Rising, Fight Night 3, a used copy of Madden NFL 06, a used copy of NFL 2K6, Gears of War and an Xbox Live account will be well worth your while. Also, Microsoft has a rich library of Xbox Live downloadable games and demos to keep you busy.
For me, the answer to the $600 question is simple. Nothing. Right now, there’s no reason to pull the trigger. Don’t get me wrong — down the line as Sony’s library of games expands to include Heavenly Sword, Assassin’s Creed (which will also be on the Xbox 360), Metal Gear Solid 4, Tekken 6, Virtua Fighter 5 and many many others, there’ll be no reason to wait. And if money is truly no issue — go ahead — pull the trigger. The library is going to be there down the road. But as for right now….why risk it? There’s not any one gaming experience (save Resistance) that you’ll be sitting at home on Thanksgiving or on Christmas Day thinking, “Gee, I wonder what it’s like for kids who are playing X?” There just isn’t anything unique — yet. And perhaps by the time that there is, the PS3 may be trailing so much in system hype and the “cool factor” that Sony will drop the price in time for E3 in May of 2007??
I don’t want to be a hypocrite — I’ve got $50 “invested” towards the purchase of a PS3 at a local chain (not EB Games/GameStop) who hooked me up on Xbox 360 day. And should I get a system, I’m leaning heavily towards selling that system during the last two weeks before Christmas. It will be a true test of will to resist opening the box, but when systems are going for as much as $2000 – $3500, how can you go wrong? Well, I don’t even have the system yet. We’ll see.
If you think you have the answer to the $600 question, drop me a line. I’d like to know if I’m off base here. My thinking is that there are going to be a lot of folks with shiny black boxes that get very little gaming time.
PlayStation 3 image courtesy of Sony Computer Entertainment (www.playstation.com)
Resistance Fall of Man image courtesy of The 1up Network (www.1up.com)
Wii packaging image courtesy of Nintendo of America (www.nintendo.com)