One of the greatest paradoxes of the gaming world is its obsession with the new, and 'up to date'.
From a commercial perspective, this makes complete sense: game companies primarily benefit from sales of their latest wares, so this 'new is good' message is incessantly pushed, not just through relentless advertising and sequels, but also by the industry's dedicated press, who to this day remain in the most part completely corrupt. Brown envelopes are a core element of a game magazine's budget, usually hiding under the moniker of 'advertising'.
Creatively speaking, this approach has doomed the art of game-making. The market is now swamped with utterly disposable products, while one of the most important traits of a game - its durability - is seldom addressed.
Back in the early 1990s, the videogame fanzines were the underground alternative to the corrupt "prozines," who only served at the behest of their advertisers in the industry. They were perfectly fine with this arrangement, since, hey, we're gettin' paid to play video games! For such a low price they sold themselves out. And we zine editors were the arch-enemy. I still hold out hope that the internet would inspire a similar rebel spirit, but that doesn't seem to have happened. If anything, the corporatist grip of the game industry is even tighter today. Magazines and websites are little more than fanboys - tools of marketing.
And always, the endless rush for greater horsepower and more features and additional features that nobody asked for. Why does the Xbox 360 exist? It exists so Microsoft can achieve their ancient dream of a set-top box that as a convergence of digital media in the living room. Why does the Playstation 3 exist? Because Sony wanted to push the Blu-Ray format, and now 3D television. This has nothing to do with videogames, and to our surprise, the general public has rejected these overpriced, overpowered dinosaurs.
There's no reason why Playstation 2 couldn't continue to thrive. Heck, there's no reason Sega Dreamcast had to die; but the game industry demanded otherwise, and that was that. And they have slowly stripped the soul out of video games, turning everything into empty product, a Virtual Hollywood. Yuck. To hell with all of 'em. And to hell with the prozines for being such willing puppets.
This is why I hold out such hope for Nintendo, despite all the ways they don't seem to get it. Sometimes I think they lucked out with the Wii. They tapped into a vast audience that is hungry for traditional video games, and I don't think they really understood the impact they would have. Wii Sports just swept over us like a storm, like a fad that just won't die. Here we are in the year 2010, and Sony has just released their own Wii Sports knockoff. Imagine that. Of course, the Sony and Microsoft clones are just that, clones. It's more like something conjured by the marketing department after focus-group testing. The technology may be competent, but the inspiration, the quality, is nonexistant.
Nintendo is now the standard-bearer for Arcade Games, whether they like it or not. Their "superstar" designers certainly don't like it; they'd rather play "movie director" like the rest of this stupid industry. But the market has spoken, and the public has voted with their wallets. Look to the Wii Series. Look to Super Mario DS and Super Mario 5 on the Wii. Look to Pokemon Black & White. Those games are selling like gangbusters for a reason. See what's not selling? Disposable industry "product." Nintendo would be mad fools to follow the industry's march into oblivion.
It was never chisled into stone that the videogame would last forever, maintaining an endless high. It may finally fall out of favor and disappear, just as pinball machines have disappeared, just as vinyl records have disappeared. The Era of the Video Game may one day be seen as a cultural curiosity, a period stretching from the mid-Seventies to the turn of the century. The question is who, if anyone, will be able to arrest the seemingly permanent decline of this industry. The path of the industry is the path to extinction.