Those who cannot remember the past, the saying goes, are condemned to repeat it. Or become the games industry. Important clause there that no-one ever quotes, but it's there, we swear.
It must be. Because for all the evolution and progress, there are certain monumental gaming screw-ups that keep happening. No matter how face-crunching a beating the previous perpetrator took as a result, there's always another company waiting to prove that a balls-up can strike in the same place twice.
Six absolute howlers are detailed overleaf, so come along and ready your best pointing finger and accusationally-toned laughter. Time flows like a river... and history repeats...*
Thinking that casual waggle is the future
Made by: Microsoft
Should have learned from: Nintendo, Sony
The original mistake: It’s small, it’s white, and it remains a pun factory for the terminally humourless. Remember Nintendo’s bright gleaming, motion-controlled future of 2006? Remember the reasons we got excited about it? (don’t pretend you didn’t) FPS. RTS. Deep, hitherto-unseen interaction with 3D environments. 1:1 sword fighting. But instead, the potential was wasted on turgid epileptic fit simulators and a thousand and one things involving bats.
Between an overly focused grab at the casual market and the failings of imprecise control inputs, all hardcore goodwill was swiftly lost and Nintendo’s long-held fanbase of serious gamers turned away from the Wii remote in droves. Despite Sony’s later comments about the wonder of the Sixaxis, it turned out we all preferred rumble after all.
The new mistake: The 360 is getting Kinect, a motion capture motion controller that once again promises a whole new era of interaction. And how did MS show it off at E3 2010, as the eyes of the world’s hardcore fell upon its wares? An overly focused grab at the casual market with bugger all to appeal to its own long-held fanbase, who are now turning away from Kinect in droves. And given the confirmed £129:99 price tag, it's ironically going to need that big-spending hardcore audience more than ever.
And Kudo Tsunoda’s recent Sony-aping comment that rumble about rumble being an outdated immersion tool did not help one little bit.
Ignoring that big black bulky consoles are ugly as hell
Made by: Microsoft
Should have learned from: Microsoft, 3DO
The original mistake(s): Powerful the original Xbox was, but an attractive piece of kit it was not. Looking for all the world like an obese VCR, it in no way helped MS’ then woefully uncool computer-spod image as it tried to break into the hip new world of modern gaming. The 3DO’s best-known model was a similar aesthetic affront, with all the svelte consumer-baiting charm of a ‘roid-raging N64. The looks themselves didn’t hurt either of these machines, but they did ensure that our TV set ups became a great deal less sexy.
The new mistake: Who at MS thought that the ‘slimline’ 360 should look like it had just been pulled out of a car wreck? Yes, it’s slightly smaller, but all those angular chunks make it look like a cubist sculpture chiselled out of a solid block of ugly.
Thinking that handheld gaming is about raw horsepower
Made by: Sony
Should have learned from: Sega
The original mistake: Going up against Nintendo’s monochrome Game Boy in 1990, Sega decided that the best retaliatory move was to launch a more powerful, full-colour handheld. But alas, handheld gaming culture works very differently from home gaming. Convenience and battery life are king, and the GG’s horsepower meant that the average gaming session lasted around 14 seconds unless you were plugged into a wall.
The new mistake: Going up against Nintendo’s quirkier, less powerful DS in 2004, Sony decided that the best retaliatory move was to get as near as damnit to bringing full-scale PS2 games to your pocket. And you know where this going. Less-than-ideal battery life thanks to the unsuitable installation of a disc drive and higher-than-needed technical specs, and colossal games like GTA that just weren’t suited to the pick-up-and-play philosophy of handheld gaming. And once again, a massive handheld win for Ninty.
The PSP is a good little machine in its own right, and has some corking games, but despite decent hardware sales it couldn’t make anything like the cultural impact of the DS. And that wasn’t helped by Sony’s other mistake of…