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Tycho / on Sun, Feb 10 2013 at 11:01 pm

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The couple in question isn’t actually Brenna and I; it’s another Webcomics Power Couple, to the extent that such couples exist.  She could wholly legitimize the 140 character format with just a few precision tweetz, such is her valor, but Twitter is a piece of technology and as such is her enemy.


With the February 20th reveal of the Playstation 4 Orbitz, rumors have begun to swirl afresh for its ancient foe Durango Unchained.  I had forgotten the tenor and rasp of this grueling phase, where people argue over technical specifications they don’t actually understand; “apophenia” is the word of the day, every day, until both systems have been out for six years.  I can’t stress that enough.  The Playstation 3 was the better system “on paper,” at least, on some parts of “the paper,” but it’s fairly clear now that this theoretical power granted it no fiat in the marketplace.  This generation, ultimately, was decided by services.

The thing to do at this precise moment is to talk about how the new Xbox is going to kill used games, even though the next Playstation is investigating the same waters, and the WiiU’s pronounced foray into digital goods has the same effect.  The “consumer” at this phase of the hardware game is the publisher, not the enthusiast gamer, and the pitch must take that into account.  This “feature” is what Publishers claim to desire.

(This is the confusing part, at least for me; there are two conversations being had simultaneously by the same mouth.  The first is that used games are gutting the industry.  The other, in tones so soft you must strain to hear, is that trade-ins actually underpin “triple a” development.  It’s weird.)

Simultaneously, this is what journalists and enthusiast gamers have said about consoles: they need to emulate Steam.  That’s what this is, it couldn’t be more Steamlike.  People aren’t returning their Steam Games to Steam; they aren’t sharing their games.  They aren’t trading them in for credit, either.  They are purchasing the ability to use software under a constellation of very specific conditions.

Personally, I love using Steam; it is, functionally speaking, the heart of the PC as a living platform.  I would love to have that on my consoles.  I love that all my shit is on two computers simultaneously, and when a game supports cloud saves, I writhe in deference to a nonexistent God.  But there are people for whom the reality and inherent value of a physical good is as vital as the product.  I’m not trying to say that these people are animists, though some certainly must be: the notion of Ownership over some amorphous concept of “Usage Rights” has a kind of bedrock nobility that I recognize even if I don’t share it.  By contrast, I loathe physicality altogether.  I would get a digital body if I could, so I might not be the best person to ask.

This conversation is audible to all interested parties - never forget how many Internets there are.  Their ability to generate forum decibels aside, I don’t know how many people feel strongly about the issue - but you ignore them at your peril, because as we have stated in these hallowed halls it is precisely this cadre that catalyzes a hardware launch.  So, what don’t we know?

Will next generation platforms attempt to own a “used digital” ecosystem, like Amazon?  Would they attempt to account for the loss of perceived value up front, with a price cut?  How do their competitors respond, and how do publishers respond to the responses?  It isn’t until you ask the next question that you see the board - what Chuck D called the game behind the game.

(CW)TB out.

nonsense perseveres

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