The rumour going around earlier this week wasn’t really anything new. The console that locks out used games is an anticonsumer bogeyman going back years and though the technology to do it exists, it’s yet to come true, for whatever reason. Still, a report this week repeated the same year old rumour about the next Xbox and the reaction from many was angry, indignant, and justified. “Fuck that. I’m not buying.”
To me, it also sounded a little relieved.
By no means do I view blatantly anticonsumer practices such as used-game blocking, requiring a persistent online connection, or not even being backward compatible, as good things. I can’t conceive of a console doing all three, or any feature it could have that makes them a worthwhile tradeoff. But it’s significant to me that these are the rumours we’re always reading about and reacting to, and not the potential good things that will make the new hardware an enjoyable experience.
Deep down, I think a lot of people just don’t want to buy another console.
I know I don’t. (I buy all of my hardware. It’s not something I want an employer to own or control.) And when you get a total nonstarter like used-games blocking, much less three of them, you get to affirmatively opt out of this for reasons other than you can’t or don’t want to spend that kind of money.
Any reason for not spending your money is legitimate. It’s your money. But what’s easier to refuse, a $US400 (or more) machine that offers the next edition of your favourite game series, and delivers it with even more mindblowing visuals and a cool controller, or a $US400 machine that does its damndest to alienate its most loyal segment?
When the next console is rumoured to be a horrible, money-grubbing lifestyle obligation frowning at us from the entertainment centre, we don’t have to admit we’re not buying the next machine because we just don’t have the money, or because we’re still buried under a mounding Pile of Shame. And let’s be real about why it’s a shame: It’s money spent on something unused. With a bogeyman of a rumoured console, it’ll get the blame for that, too. All those games we own? Useless. All those digital downloads? Nontransferrable.
So, yes, any feature that shuts this next piece of hardware off from everything you’ve known and enjoyed so far makes it a nonstarter, and deservedly so. And if you weren’t inclined to buy a new console anyway, or feel that the current one is providing you plenty of value and enjoyment already (hands up? Good God, how is the next console going to possibly monopolize my attention even more?) then these rumours let you actively remove yourself from the conversation on principle.
You’re doing what? You expect what? You can fuck off, mister. That sounds a lot better than shrugging and saying, “This is really awesome, but I can’t buy it right now.”
However, “This is really awesome, but I can’t buy it right now,” is a perfectly good reason, too. I don’t think we say it often enough, in a lifestyle and demographic that treats nearly every cent like disposable income. (My hand’s up, too. I’m as guilty of it as anyone.) But being a hardcore video gamer is more than spending a lot of money on games and hardware the day they release. We should know the most about what’s coming, and have the highest standards for what gets our dollar.
When Sony has its big gala on Feb. 20, I doubt Kaz Hirai is going to get up on the stage and say “The PS4 is going to block all used games, make all of your old ones useless, and require you to connect to PSN to do anything. Five-hundred-ninety-nine dollars!” I think they learned their lesson from 2006. Sony will try their asses off to make you want the thing. And whenever Microsoft pipes up about Durango, it’s gonna try as hard, too.
Make them work for it. And if you just don’t want to buy their next console, it’s not like you stop being a gamer. If you’re still enjoying what’s already out there then continue and be happy. I am sure the next PlayStation or Xbox will be on a shelf should you decide it has earned your money.