Digital Woes: An Inner Monologue Where I Talk Myself Out of Spending Money

A little while back, I decided it was time to drop some of my video game console load. I realized I hadn’t played my Xbox360 in months, and that was a pretty good sign that I didn’t need it. I started whittling down my game collection, replacing multi-platform games on Steam or PS3 where applicable. Because of the vast platform overlap, it was easy to make a fairly clean split: Japanese developed games would be purchased on the PS3, and Western developed games would go to the PC. Aside from a few exclusives, I really wasn’t losing anything by getting rid of the Xbox. I sold off everything, save for my collection of Cave games and the other danmaku shooters I had purchased. I couldn’t bear to part with them, and I kept them in the event that I may actually buy another Xbox, something I’ve actually been considering lately. I had an older model, complete with the expensive WiFi adapter to go with it, and if I ever bought another one, I want the more hassle-free experience of the newer slim model. Built in WiFi, 250GB of hard drive space, and a much lower failure rate sounds pretty good.

The thing is, if I ever venture back down that path, I want to do it differently. I won’t be buying a lot of games for it because I have a capable gaming PC. If I pick up a another Xbox 360, it feels like my best option is go to entirely digital. No more disc based games around to take up space. I want a clutter-free experience with it. I want the satisfaction of turning it on, and having all my games at my disposal. I really do love the idea of that, but of course a few problems stand in my way of going for it.

First of all, the big deal is a matter of pricing. Digital distribution of console games doesn’t exactly lend itself to Steam-style sales. I really wish they did, as it would push me to go all digital a lot sooner. Even a more scalable pricing structure would be greatly appreciated. I got really excited a little while back when Microsoft did a big sale of 360 Games on Demand titles, which was eliminated immediately once I saw all the titles on sale were basically launch fodder that was still more expensive than a physical copy would cost me. It was fairly disarming. I don’t need a copy of Kameo or Perfect Dark Zero. If Microsoft wants to push their Games on Demand titles better, they need to alter the pricing structure, and be more willing to run sales in a similar fashion to their XBLA offerings.

Second of all, I guess I just have a lot less faith in furthered support of these games. The same could be said for any other platform besides Steam, but even Sony is pushing the Cross-buy idea a lot more. Buy a PS3 game and get the Vita version with it? That’s cool, I can do that. That sounds like an awesome idea. I can download PS1 games on PSN and have them play on just about anything. That actually gives me a lot of confidence. It’s reassuring at least to know that these platforms are being preserved and made functional on new hardware. Only being in their second console generation, I don’t really have that sort of confidence in Microsoft to keep that level of support. They also don’t have a handheld division, so I guess I don’t expect them to really try and push their games to another platform like that. I still really like dedicated handhelds, and they are actually platforms I’m far more willing to jump into digital distribution with.

Finally, another thing stopping me from wanting to buy another Xbox is Microsoft’s handling of their platform. It’s frustrating to me to pay for their platform and still have the dashboard covered in ads. Not only that, but I do get a little worried when they start trying to cater their ads to me. I don’t give a shit about Call of Duty or any games like that. I grew out of the idea of getting called a faggot on Xbox Live by 13 year-old kids. Microsoft is making a big push towards their system being an all-in-one multimedia device, something I don’t really need. The new dashboard layout is slow and cumbersome, their Netflix application is a broken, glitchy mess. This is actually a big reason I quit playing the console in the first place.

You know, the more I write, the more I actually think that maybe I won’t buy another Xbox. As I write this, I’m quickly remembering why I lost interest in the platform to begin with. I’ve said before that I’m not actually that big on multiplayer gaming that isn’t local. No, Sony’s XMB user interface isn’t the most social or inviting, but as someone who primarily plays single player games, I don’t mind it at all. I have enough social networks, and most of the time I don’t really care what other people are playing. I don’t care about trophies or achievements, but it seems like Xbox users make it out to be a much bigger thing. Trophies seem far more understated in comparison. I just want to play games, and I guess I just want to be left alone while doing it.

I don’t think it’s a bad console. Quite the opposite, actually. I think for online focused multiplayer and Western third party support, it’s excellent. Unfortunately, as I’ve said, these are things that I guess just don’t interest me all that much. I had some amazing experiences while I owned the console, but many of those games also exist on PC. Of course with all exclusive titles, I have to choose my battles. I like the Halo games, but they aren’t enough to hinge and entire experience on. I guess with that in mind, another Xbox is no longer in my future.

I want to go fully digital on a home console, but finding a place where I feel completely comfortable doing that is proving more and more difficult. I can keep doing it on a PC with no regrets, but for some reason I still find it hard to do elsewhere. Digital space versus physical space is less of a concern now, especially for a platform I might not buy a lot of games for. Not only that, but in my current living situation, bandwidth constraints are less of an issue for digital downloads. Not everyone is so lucky in that regard. I’m realizing I made the right decision in getting rid of the Xbox to begin with.

The current generation is nearing an end. It’s been long and (mostly) fruitful, so I guess it really is a mistake to go all digital in an existing platform that isn’t going to be relevant that much longer. It’s far more enticing to wait and see. Investing in a digital future sounds better than investing in a stagnant, digital present.


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