I suppose we can start at the beginning. My primary interest in games grew during the SNES years, where I had a couple particularly uneventful summers during elementary school, and games fit that void nicely. I previously had an NES along with an old Radio Shack Color Computer, but they weren't used to any large degree. However, with the SNES, I just so happened to borrow some of the best games ever from a friend, namely Final Fantasy VI and Chrono Trigger. With those and classics like Super Metroid and Super Mario World, gaming became a hobby for me. Soon a Game Gear suitably entertained during car rides and other downtimes such as waiting for violin lessons. I eventually received a Saturn with the three-game pack a few Christmases later (actually wanting an N64), and came to appreciate the joyous highs of Sega magic with games like Daytona USA, NiGHTS and Dragon Force. The Saturn would soon be dying, and games were clearanced everywhere. Now with disposable income by means of a entry-level grocery job, this is where I started collecting, often hunting around hole-in-the-wall stores to cheaply bolster my collection. Along the way, I picked up a PlayStation with Final Fantasy VIII and continued my rpg journey. An N64 soon followed, providing a few classic games.
Then of course we have the rise and fall of the Dreamcast, still certainly the most exciting, depressing, and interesting period from my gaming history. As the little engine that could, Sega poured all of its last assets and efforts into the console, as this was essentially make-or-break for Sega as we know it. The arcade sector dried up, past mistakes with the SegaCD/32x/Saturn incurred deep losses and they needed the Dreamcast to perform well to have realistic hopes to remain as a company. It was released first in that generation and started well, bolstered by a fantastic 9/9/99 launch. Sales were strong for a while, but never through the roof, as the shadow of the PS2 hung overhead before eventually engulfing the little white box when it was released. To me, this seemed like the beginning of the end, as a big part of the soul dissipated from the industry. I eventually picked up a PS2, Gamecube and Xbox in the first couple years of college but many of their games went unplayed as I merely lost interest. Around this time, I also became more interested in PC games. I always bought occasional titles I saw in bargain bins and got some use out of them, but this increased as I became interested in Final Fantasy XI and later, World of Warcraft. Certainly, the infinite timesinks of these games also inhibited my interest in spending money on other games that I may not enjoy or even play.
In my departure from console gaming, its faults became more and more clear and they just never regained enough pull for me to return, although the industry occasionally put up a fight. Going into this current generation, I told myself that I would buy a system for either a new NiGHTS game or Shenmue 3. The original NiGHTS is likely still my best example of pure fun and magic in all of gaming and Shenmue 2, despite all of its faults, was a directorial and cinematic masterpiece which just begs for a proper conclusion. Well, Shenmue 3 never happened (and likely never will). As for NiGHTS, the creator and main programmer of the game once said "I know a lot of people love it and want us to make a sequel, but for us it's a really important game. Like the way Spielberg likes E.T. so much he won't remake it, I don't want to make another Nights." Well, Spielberg remade E.T. in 2002 and the new-look Sega developed NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams. At this time, I genuinely wanted to keep to my word and purchase a Wii, despite my multiple reservations with the system. However, there was a major problem. The Wii was nowhere to be found. You see, for the first good year/year-and-a-half, no retailers had any Wii stock available. How is it possible that Nintendo was unable to manufacture enough to meet demand a year-and-a-half after release?
Well, Nintendo continued to assert that its production capabilities were not able to keep up with the mind-blowing demand. However, it seems much more likely that the press rumors were true, which claimed Nintendo intentionally kept stock low to ensure each unit created was a guaranteed immediate sale, as that looked best for financial reports as well as artificially inflating demand and frenzy in the consumer public. Nintendo has always been a very shrewd company in terms of profits. They generally make money on their consoles while other companies create more advanced systems and take losses to recoup on the software side. They have also been known to strongarm developers in the past and do almost anything to lower their costs at the expensive of others. And as a business strategy, it absolutely works. Even their failures make money. But I got tired of this nonsense, as it only hurts the consumer. After not being able to easily find a Wii well after release, I reneged on my promise.
My issues with the Wii go much further than the stock "difficulties" they had. To start, the system is technically poor in many respects. Nintendo has given up the technical rat race after the Gamecube, so to say, and has instead focused on features/gimmicks that expand ease of use and demographic penetration at the expense of precision and skill. To start, the system seems little more capable than a Gamecube, which was released five years earlier. As well, both only allow up to 480p output via component connection (well, component functionality was removed from later Gamecube versions to cut costs). Subjectively, the visuals and audio of the games may be even worse than the Gamecube, as it is certainly of less focus on average. However, my main detraction about the system is that the wireless control system is just poor for any sort of precise gaming. If you build a game around it and just require waggles or vague movements to accomplish your goals, that's fine. But the system feels very imprecise for more traditional games, almost requiring use of the "classic controller" or Gamecube controller, in which case you wonder why they even bothered at all. There's a reason why no one would seriously play motion Soul Calibur or Virtua Tennis with the Bass Fishing controller. On the positive, they finally do have an working online system after shunning the idea in the past (ie: claiming no one desired online play while it was already thriving on other systems, likely because it wasn't yet as profitable). However, the system only offers a fairly weak wifi implementation and the online play in general has not received enough attention to really foster any sort of community. In another technical oddity, the Wii by default is unable to play DVDs despite having what is essentially a DVD drive. Nintendo claimed that system is not capable to play DVDs, an interesting assertion proven wrong by homebrew developers who have reenabled such functionality.
My issues with the other consoles are certainly different, but still quite numerous. To be honest, I hadn't even thought about the PS3 until recently, when it's finally starting to get interesting exclusives. Previously, the games simply haven't been remotely interesting to me. Certainly the console is very powerful and complete with a strong Blu-ray player, but Sony hasn't been able to really take advantage of its strengths or even hold onto all of its features. The system launched at "599 US Dollars," which is a price never seen before for a mainstream console (to my knowledge, correct me if I'm wrong [ed. note: 3DO retailed for $700 at launch in 1993]). In addition, each console lost approximately $250 at launch for Sony, which is quite honestly, a shocking loss and can certainly be constrasted to Nintendo's default profits off the Wii hardware. Primary costs were inflated by the then-new Blu-ray technology, which has since stabilized, but it would appear that current pricecuts are being leveraged by removing features, such as PS2 emulation, SACD playback, the ability to boot other OSs, and reduced USB ports. While the PS3 is still an unquestionably strong home entertainment machine that still receives useful firmware updates, it used to be an even stronger centerpiece in previous iterations.
For me, the 360 has always been the most tempting throughout its lifespan. It's had a well-developed online system the entire time (of which I still had a paid account for some time via Xbox), and is easily the most popular current system among my online playing peers. In fact, before the well-publisized ban waves, I was strongly considering buying one just to mod and play some games online with friends, most of which I would have no interest in otherwise. In the meantime, I would have purchased a few games as well as well as several Xbox Live Arcade titles, so in this sense, they're actually losing my money by taking stronger anti-piracy measures (pirated online multiplayer did seem too good to last however). Also, while the online system is quite full-featured, it now almost feels like almost every part of the 360 is meant to advertise or otherwise misleadingly persuade people to waste their money, and then you really start wondering why you'd be even be paying for the service. 1 vs 100? Yep. Interstitial ads between basic Xbox functionality? Check. Gameroom? Why not. "Xbox points" obviously designed to create a disconnect from real money so people spend more on microtransactions for silly overpriced virtual items? Absolutely.
The accessories are just as bad. Only designated 360 controllers can be used on the 360. Each 360 controller has a special security chip (that apparently hasn't been cracked as of yet) which shows itself as a 360 controller rather than a regular USB HID device. Thus only licensed developers can create controllers for the system and you'd need to sacrifice a 360 controller just to make any sort of converter to use. Contrasting this to the other systems, things look pretty bad. On the Wii, you need to purchase expensive Remote/Nunchuk sets if you plan on using multiplayer motion controls, but at least you can use Gamecube controllers for most material. The PS3 no longer has the old PlayStation controller compatibility, but it allows almost full USB HID input, meaning most PC controllers and converters should work with the system. The storage situation is also embarassing. At the time of writing, the 360 has two current models, the first being a $200 "arcade" model with only 256 megs of storage. The other is a $300 "elite" bundle, with a 120 gb harddrive, a headset, and two games. Now, from the eyes of an educated consumer, both are really bad. The arcade model has near-unusable storage, meaning you'll almost certainly have to upgrade immediately if you plan to download any content or even just save a lot. And of course, you'll have poor load times as you can't install games to a harddrive along with an inability to play any original Xbox games. The elite bundle isn't much better unless you were going to get the games anyway. The harddrive is worth maybe $20 at most in an open market and equivalent headsets are maybe $5-10. Of course, we aren't given any other significant storage options. The PlayStation 3 allows easy hookup and use of consumer internal or external harddrives. For the 360, you need to either buy the official drives and massively overpay or now, attach external devices via the USB ports. However, the 360 USB partitions are limited to 16 gigs each. So if you attach say, a $70 1tb drive, you'll only have access to 16 gigs since the full functionality would hurt their harddrive sales. Things like this are just extremely discouraging and it feels like they're collectively giving us the middle finger, teasing us with choices when they're all made intentionally poor so our only options is to waste money on them.
Two other major 360 issues for me are system reliability and backwards compatibility. The system reliability issues are well documented, with terrible yields in which huge percentage of released consoles are susceptible to the red rings of death overheating issue, which essentially bricks the system. This and the E74 errors have been widespread since release and only time will tell if they've ever actually fixed, prevented the issue in new models. I'd almost say that it would seem like the issues continue so they can push more units. However, that's likely not the case as they may still be losing money per new console sold, unless they make significant money somewhere through the refurbished systems. But personally, seeing as how I've had issues on my original Xbox (my first system had significant problems) and as I know many people with 360 issues, including one that just died last night, it's that much harder to pull the trigger on a poorly made box of electronics.
The backwards compatibility list for the 360 seems more and more like a launch gimmick rather than something they've actually seen as a feature. As my Xbox has had significant issues in the past, backwards compatibility for that system would be especially important for me. Honestly, my Xbox issues may have played a significant part in my complete tapering of console play. If I wanted an unreliable system that froze constantly, I'd fill my computer with hilarious pop-up viruses. With proper working BC, I could box up my unreliable system, have less things hooked up and sucking power from the wall, and even be free to mod and play with my old system as I wished. However, the BC list is extremely limited and hasn't been updated since 2007, seemingly only created in the first place with then-popular games working and fudging in whatever else they could with minimal effort. The sad thing is, many people in the emulation community would fill out the entire list for free given the chance to work on it. Perhaps this is the most disheartening to me. But as it stands, they have made really no efforts to further the list as XBLA games have taken off in the past years, as working backwards compatibility could possibly infringe on their future sales. As such, many of my most played Xbox games would be unplayable on the 360 and thus it's mostly useless.
Well, I think this is plenty full explanation, so there you have it. This is why I don't own any current gen consoles. Partly because I have more outside interests, partly because I prefer PC, partly because I think the soul of the industry died a bit with Sega, partly because I'm just not as interested in the games they're trying to feed me, and partly because I'm a smarter consumer and can see how they're explicitly trying to rip me off. Call me picky, call me jaded, say what you'd like, I welcome comments or even arguments.