Next Generation Consoles & Hype
Author :        Date : 19-Oct-05

DW has been quite lucky over the years with new consoles, next gen hype, and the like. Although we enjoy the hype of up and coming systems, we have always made the right decisions when it comes to buying. At times we look back and try to determine what drives our gaming purchases. Decisions usually involve money, and to us the purchase of a new system is like an investment. Perhaps when “you” are the one paying for a game system it makes you more likely to do some research rather then falling for hype. The biggest lesson we learned is “Patience”, and to pay attention to things that occurred in the past. Take a journey into the Dark Watcher’s gaming past, and feel free to imagine the swirly “TV-like” flashback effect.

We don’t recall seeing any commercial advertisements for video game consoles back when we were a wee little Watcher. Perhaps because that tiny black and white television with the hangar antenna could only receive two channels. Needless to say we did not come from wealth, and knew nothing of games or computers. One day the “old man” stops in our room with some odd device with a bunch of cords and wires. He knew we had a knack for tinkering with gadgets, and had apparently found it tossed away in the trash. It turns out to be one of the many PONG machines released in those days. We got it working (not sure why it was trashed), and could now use another channel on the tiny television. Channel “3″ and PONG began an unquenchable gaming desire.

Atari hit the market in full force, but when you?re young and broke you need a wish and a prayer. We were forced to get our gaming fix by visiting cousins who were better off financially. A trip to a shopping mall, and a convincing salesperson, answered our prayers. The parents came home with a ColecoVision gaming system with an Atari 2600 adapter. They were wise enough to restrict us from total gaming immersion. The system was kept locked away in their room, and game time was minimal. It was enough to maintain the habit. The ColecoVision would soon die as a result of spilled orange juice (Don’t you just want to kill younger cousins sometimes?), and the video game industry would soon crash.

The Nintendo Entertainment System would breathe life into a dead video game market. We recall spending much more time with the very same cousin who had owned Atari simply because he graduated to NES. If PONG started a gaming desire, then NES made it a full blown addiction. We recall pinching every penny we could just to own one. It was worth it.
Of course by then our friends and family would come to own other systems. There was that cool Sega Master System and that. We would then get hooked on Sega Genesis and then the hype for SuperNES began. So many fabulous systems and so little pay…

We worked odd jobs, and later invested in SuperNES. We kept our Sega needs at bay by visiting a friend, and swapping systems. Sometimes it is good to have friends and family who are well off enough to always buy the latest and greatest. We got to try out newer systems without having to buy them, and could later take the older systems off there hands when they were engrossed in their “Next-Gen” machine. Perhaps this is why we never became a so called “Fan-boy”. We got to enjoy them all.

When money is a factor you start to learn patience. We would always wait for the price drops, and wait and see how the system turned out game wise. We had joined the military, and were ready to put our first real paycheck into a worthwhile investment. Our SuperNES was still getting great titles, but we could no longer keep our Sega needs so far away from home. We decided to finally invest in a Sega Genesis of our own. What we came home with was a boxed set containing the Genesis Model 2 and Sega CD combo. CD gaming was actually pretty impressive to us. We didn’t particularly like the grainy FMV games, but arcade ports like Final Fight and RPGs like Lunar made it worthwhile. Soon other CD gaming based systems would hit the market. Hype began to surround amazing technical wonders like 3DO and Philips CD-i. Intuition and a lack of funds told us to hold off. Up to this point we had never purchased a system that was “fresh on the market”. We chose to instead invest in more Sega and Nintendo games. It was a wise decision… (Though somehow we missed out on NEC TurboDuo)

Oh how we enjoyed the “16-bit” gaming wars, but news of a 32-bit age began surfacing. Sega had put out another 32-bit add-on called Sega 32X. Oddly enough, we would be deployed to Japan, and would later learn about Sega Saturn and a machine called Sony Playstation. We felt as if we were in the video game mecca. We jumped on any gaming kiosk we could, and became very impressed with the Playstation. We returned to the US with 32X clearly forgotten, and with a need to delve further into Saturn and PSX. We were impressed by both, but the cheaper Playstation (and Final Fantasy 7 hype) eventually won the day. This turned out to be a lucky decision. In later years a friend would give us his Saturn since he was far too busy enjoying Playstation 2.

Ah yes…then comes the 64-bit age. You would think people would grow weary of these “Bit Wars”. We were never really impressed with Atari Jaguar and followed the Nintendo 64 hype through it’s many naming codename conventions. After many delays the N64 was finally released. We did not give into the hype, and patiently waited. The choice to stay cartridge turned us against the system. We would walk the shelves and check the prices of 3rd Party game releases. Why pay $60 to $70 on a game we could get on PSX for $40? Of course we were impressed by many N64 titles, but it was not enough to make us buy. We also hated the controller. Who would have thought we would avoid a Nintendo product. We would later purchase the system for $30.

Another Next-Gen age! Be amazed by the power of 128-bit! Sega hit the market with the Sega Dreamcast and we were impressed. Hype told us to buy, but history told us to wait. We learned that competition makes video games cheaper and worthwhile. We also became wary of Sega after the many times they dropped support on game consoles in the past. We waited till competition would arrive in the form of Playstation 2. We were lucky enough at the time to work in the same building as Sega of America (location in San Francisco). We recall spending many lunch ours enjoying Dreamcast games on Kiosks they had available in the lobby. It was enough to tide us over. The Playstation 2 was finally released, and it was the first time we had purchased a system “fresh on the market”. Perhaps we gave into the hype, but we told ourselves that we needed a DVD Player (we did), and if anything we could play our older Playstation games on it. Sony and Sega went to war. Sony won the war, and we picked up a Dreamcast for $50.

Sony was king of the hill for a little while, but Nintendo and Microsoft were set to try and steal the throne. We had already spent enough money investing in PS2. So purchasing a new game system at the time was out of the question. Microsoft was the new kid on the block (in consoles anyway), and Nintendo was fighting to regain 3rd Party developer support (and their original place as king of consoles). We waited to see what they had to offer game wise, and ignored all the flashy tech specs. Microsoft did not make the type of games that interested us. We did like a few of Nintendo’s character license titles, but there were not many games we were interested in at the time. Our patience paid off when a fellow military member gave up his Nintendo GameCube for $50. We would then buy a Microsoft Xbox in 2004 for $150.

So what will we do in this new generation war? History has taught us many things. Microsoft believes that Sony won the previous war because they had launched first. The head start will give them time to gather the developers needed to put out good games, but history tells us that being first did not help Dreamcast or TurboGrafx-16. Patience has shown us that competition brings about great games and prices, and that it is best to wait and see how well a system does on the market (We never did buy a 3DO, CD-i, 32X, and Jaguar after all). Experience has taught us that hype and specs do nothing for console investments, but it is the games that matter. Money (or the lack of it) has taught us to wait for the best deal. We will wait for all 3 systems to be released, and then judge which will be purchased first. Until then we will enjoy the games we have now…

This story goes out to all the crazy fan boys who are driven by hype, and to those who have enjoyed video games and will for many years to come

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