I’ve opened a few new video game consoles on Christmas Day. Not since I became an adult, though. The Sega Genesis, Nintendo 64, and Sega Dreamcast were the few I remember being gifted to me on December 25. Every console following that, I bought myself.
A friend and I were talking last night about what it used to mean to receive a new game system on that morning, that day. The excitement we felt when we identified that wrapped-up box. Could it be? Tearing the paper away to reveal a device that we’d wind up spending way too much time with. Hooking everything up. Plugging in the controllers. Being able to PLAY a game, for hours, immediately. Instant gratification.
That isn’t the world we live in now. There are Xbox Lives and PlayStation Networks, and current-generation consoles that require hefty “Day One” updates. Games are rushed out before they’re finished, requiring sizable patches before you can begin playing them. And those updates and patches require that their respective networks operate properly — so far today, for both Xbox Live and PSN, that hasn’t quite been the case.
The time from “unwrapped” to “playing” has gone from somewhere around 5-10 minutes to 1-2 hours, possibly more. Today, quite a few have opened up a PlayStation 4 for the first time, only to find themselves unable to do anything on the PlayStation Network. That is $400 of machine, effectively gimped by its inability to contact a server that could be thousands of miles away.
It’s a problem you never ran into with your Super Nintendo.
I get it. These consoles are way more capable than their ancestors. There are more bells and whistles. The ability to stream a game to a portable. A feature that lets you “snap” your TV into a window so you can watch football while you play Destiny. There are way more tricks this time around.
But, somehow, on Christmas morning, it feels like there’s a lot less magic. And that is such a sad, sad thing.