Memory? What Memory?

A lot has been said by various people more qualified than me about the short attention spans of much of the gaming community, as it certainly seems to account for how certain companies can sell the same people the same game year after year for £40 a pop. That’s one thing, but what’s of more concern to me, especially in light of certain criticisms of the Xbox 360 launch and its place in the upcoming generation of consoles, is the complete lack of memory that people seem to have for the PR rubbish that’s thrown around at this time in a gaming generation.

This phenomenon first became apparent to me in the run-up to the launch of Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories on the PSP. Right up until the launch of the game there was next to no screenshots or previews and on forums across the Internet this led to mass outcrys that the game must be delayed and would never make it out in a week from then. That would seem logical, after all.

It would seem logical, but there was the fact that the exact same thing happened with GTA3, Vice City, and San Andreas. GTA3 had little hype, and the others revealed little except some official screenshots and Internet reviews a couple of days either side of release. Rockstar PR can just sit back and see it populate the front pages of every letters page and forum while preparing their money bags and people fall for it every time.

More recently, and perhaps more relevantly, I’ve been looking at the brewing and inevitable Xbox 360 vs PlayStation 3 debate. First of all there’s the number of people critical of the games at launch and that it doesn’t bode well for the system – the PS2 basically had Ridge Racer V, Tekken Tag Tournament, and Fantavision. None of those looked any better than anything on the Dreamcast at the time, and I didn’t see anything that I’d even consider buying a PS2 for until Zone of the Enders which came out a year after launch. While the 360 doesn’t have its Halo yet, PGR3, COD2, and Perfect Dark Zero are far more worthy than what the PS2 had.

Now there’s Sony’s rhetoric around the PS3. They’ve said it can output a 1080p signal on two TVs (that’s just not going to happen), run games at 120fps (no TVs can even display that rate), and most seem to think that it’s going to be significantly more powerful than the 360. How does it do this when, looking at a specs comparison, the CPUs are the same speed, it has less memory, a smaller CPU cache, and the GPU is only 50MHz faster (that’s less than a Nintendo DS). I’m not naive enough to think, and indeed I know that 3.2GHz for one CPU type does not equal 3.2GHz for another, but the difference won’t be night and day.

The PS3 is supposed to be out in Japan in the Spring, so we’re talking four or five months away from now. How come, then, have they only shown us tech demos? Killzone was a prerendered concept and MGS4, though real-time, wasn’t a game. It probably will look that good, but it’s not coming for a couple of years yet and they have implement little things like AI. I’m sure they’ll manage it, but it’s not going to look as impressive as it does now in two years when we’re playing second or third generation 360 games.

So how does this relate to memory spans of the gaming community? I seem to remember the hype for the PlayStation 2 which promised it would be the entertainment hub of your home, that it would blow away all existing gaming systems graphically, that it could render Toy Story and the Final Fantasy VIII ballroom scene in real-time, etc. Then it came out and the entertainment hub-ness was limited to poor DVD playback, the initial games had nothing on the Dreamcast (by later in life the Xbox was ahead graphically anyway), and I haven’t seen anything close to CGI quality. In fact the only things on the PS2 that are close to what they promised are, surprise surprise, the prerendered tech demos.

I’m not here to be a fanboy and say that Sony is teh d00m3d or anything like that, but we have to be aware of things like this that are going on all the time. The companies certainly know about it and are more than willing to exploit it, so we need to be cynical about some of this stuff and not bend over and take it. I’m not going to and I hope that more other people will choose not to as well.

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