3 min read

What Makes A Good Game Platform?

I think there are too many people fixated on the PlayStation 3 only because of its hardware capabilities. A great console does not a fun game make.

Today I realized that a lot of people I've been talking to about the difference in the PlayStation 3 and the Nintendo Wii are elitist. That's right, I'm saying elitist and I'm damn proud to shout that from the mountaintops. Let's examine the reasoning....

In my conversations with these people, their statement is usually the same: "The Wii is two Gamecubes duct taped together". Whereas the PS3 is a triumph of modern engineering. The Xbox 360 is somewhere in between.

However I recall a situation not too unlike our current one. In 1977 the Bally Astrocade and Atari 2600 were released. The Astrocade had much more capabilities than the Atari. Better graphics, better sound. Even the Intellivision, released two years later, couldn't compare. The only unit that had any competitive edge was the Colecovision, and that would be released in 1972, five years later, nearly a full cycle afterwards. But man, I wanted one. 

My parents got me the Bally, and it was good. My father had been a mathematician and computer programmer since the days of punch card machines, so he knew what he was talking about when he gave me the choice between an Atari and a Bally (recommending the Bally instead). It even had BASIC and four games built into the unit itself. It's games were nearly exactly like their arcade counterparts, something not seen later until the Colecovision and afterwards the Neo Geo (yes, Gradius for the Nintendo looked exactly the same but did not sound exactly the same).

However the Bally was doomed to failure due to a variety of reasons, practically all of which stemmed from corporate mismanagement. Go ahead and do the research, I'm pretty sure I'm on the level. Regardless, the Atari was the recognized champion of the first generation of home video game systems.

I enjoyed the Atari. But seriously, if you looked and listened to it, it was awful compared to the Bally. The rubber came off the joysticks all the time, later in its lifecycle it was flooded with poorly designed and / or buggy titles, and this contributed greatly to the crash of 1983.

But none of that mattered at first. What mattered was that it was the system widely available and it was what was in people's homes. People dug it, and they bought it. The moral of this story is you should make games for systems that people actually own.

Now there IS a difference between then and now. Yes, the Wii is a lesser system for hardware, and it has sold more than the 360 and PS3. But most of the games sold for it are first party. For some reason there is a disconnect between third party developers and Nintendo. I had high hopes for The Conduit as I have worked a bit with High Voltage (they did "The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy" for us at Midway) and they're a good developer. But unfortunately the sales of it seem to be feeding into the "don't go near the Wii if you're not Big Red". 

I'm sure Nintendo would like to turn this around, but it looks like the only way to do this is to release Final Fantasy and Metal Gear on the Wii and have them rock again. 

Despite this issue, it doesn't change my point. Sure the PS3 is more of a powerhouse, but we're at a stage where most players don't care about 1080p. They care about a fun game with good mechanics. Graphics programmers scoff, but there's a reason why Mario is the biggest selling franchise in history. It's not the best looking game. It's fun.

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