When I was two weeks into New Horizons and didn’t yet have a vaulting pole while everyone else seemed to be growing turnips and creating whole islands full of tarantulas, I had to turn to the Internet to figure out why I couldn’t even cross streams of water.
There’s something comforting about console gaming. Although the systems have gotten better and formats have changed, the machines themselves work pretty much the same way with every generation—you buy the games (either as a physical disk or cartridge, or through a digital marketplace), install them, update them, and play. You have an actual box, dedicated controllers, and probably a library of games you actually own and can use forever even without an Internet connection, if you wish. And with each succeeding generation, you also get more power; the recently announced next iterations of the Sony PlayStation and Xbox promise 8K resolution and historically high frame rates.
The media has been predicting the death of video game consoles since about 2012. And it’s true that cloud-based mobile gaming—high-octane content live-streamed to our devices in an instant through services like Google Stadia—is coming on up. Our music and our movies long ago became tied to streaming services like Spotify and Netflix, decimating our CD and DVD shelves. So why not expect the same to happen to our video games, especially when you can already buy and play games on your phone for $1 while console games cost $60?
The prognosis for cloud gaming is indeed good: Zion Market Research reports that the cloud gaming market is expected to grow around 27 percent through 2026, to an expected annual revenue of almost $7 billion. In the meantime, 83 percent of computer and video games were sold in digital form in 2018, compared to 17 percent in a physical form. As a result, the death of the next console generation was predicted by industry-watchers long before we had any news that Xbox Series X was coming.
But does the rise of cloud gaming automatically mean the death of consoles? Okay, yes, it’s likely—eventually. Microsoft is testing its xCloud service and Sony is investing in PSNow—moves that show that the big gaming companies are already planning for a digital future. Even today’s physical games are now enhanced with DLC and subscription services, allowing for continuing revenue streams that manifest digitally.
But instead of one technology destroying another, it’s very possible that this is a case in which a rising tide lifts all boats—at least, for a little while longer. After all, the gaming audience seems large and diverse, with a Pew Research study finding recently that 6 in 10 Americans enjoy video game time across all age ranges. In fact, adventure, shooter, RPG, sports, racing, and sim game players made up less than half of people who play video games, yet many of these are what Limelight Networks called dedicated gamers—and these gamers are the ones that buoy console sales.
Cloud gaming is seriously convenient in many ways, from eliminating the need for updates to seamless streaming on multiple devices. But there are drawbacks as well, including data caps and a dependence on Internet providers. In this moment, though, cloud gaming can’t always match the power, versatility or party aspect that a console offers—although it probably won’t be long until that is the case.
Given that, it may be too early to declare the demise of console systems. There’s just something solid and safe about them. Plus, having more options for new gaming experiences available for play is good and healthy. There just might be room for everyone, using different platforms for different situations. Bring on the next console generation—let’s enjoy it while it lasts!
C2E2 2019 was a much more exhausting experience than ever before – but more fun, more social, and more For The Kids (#ftk). Here are some of my favorite moments from the weekend, with some of the cool people I spent it with. And the cool things I saw.
The new PS4 game Vane, from Japanese developer Friend and Foe AB, is an atmospheric and artistic third-person journey you might want to download, if you’re into enigmatic adventures that remind you of Team Ico’s The Last Guardian.
When I agreed to do this review, I hadn’t heard anything about this indie release from Causal Bit Games. But, as a woman who has been playing games since before those pixelated side-scroller NES days, I loved the title immediately. Back in the ’90s, working in the industry at a time when game companies could not figure out what girls wanted (good games with strong heroines, full stop), I waded through plenty of princess-y games that didn’t quite satisfy my need for action. So this game, designed for a real-life young girl who wanted to be in the world of Ghouls ‘n Ghosts, comes a touch late for me. But it’s still a fun game, and maybe more suited for my old-school style than that of my more modern gamer son’s (he spent some time grousing about the need for a tutorial).
Battle Princess Madelyn is a side-scrolling platformer that follows a young heroine-in-training as she sets out to rescue her family from an evil wizard, with help from her ghost dog. The game is now available for PC and Xbox One; it’s being released today in North America for the Nintendo Switch and Playstation 4. It’ll be available in Europe and Australia for the Switch on January 7, 2019; A PS4 date for 2019 has yet to be announced.
If you like that retro NES-style vibe, you’re going to love the art of Battle Princess Madelyn. It really does feel like an old side-scrolling platformer, in terms of look and feel and evocative music. The controls are responsive and mostly easy to use. There’s a nice variety of places to go, adventures to tackle, and creatures to encounter. The 2D art is visually arresting and the environments are diverse and imaginative. Despite the undead, monsters, and other not truly scary obstacles, it’s got a family-friendly vibe. And the familiarity of the simple and straightforward gameplay, for us old-schoolers, is comforting. Two modes, Arcade and Story, allow for plenty of replayability.
On occasion I found it difficult to master talking to people. The game could use a bit more user-friendly direction-providing. I wasn’t always sure what my main quest was. I did a lot of aimless wandering (which, okay, to be honest, is not different from what I did back in the ’80s).
While part of me loves the formulaic qualities of those old platformers, I mean, they had their faults, too. I remember spending a lot of time back in the day trying to figure out what I was supposed to do, and also getting frustrated by knowing WHAT to do, without actually being able to pull it off. Battle Princess Madelyn, in this respect, may aim a bit too close to its 8-bit predecessors. I spent a lot of my Battle Princess Madelyn time stuck in various places, trying to figure out where to go next. If I weren’t writing a review, I probably would have quit – which would have been the wrong thing to do. The game gets better, and less frustrating, as you go on.
The Final Word
I’m fully behind the backstory of this game, as a former little girl wishing to be transported into the world of video games. And as someone who played many of these platformers back in the day, I can tell you this experience feels authentically like that, including all the parts where I threw down my controller and went to clear my head before trying again. But it’s worth getting through, because there’s enough of wonder and interest that you’ll be rewarded for continuing to play in Battle Princess Madelyn’s whimsically ghastly world. Just expect to die a lot, in many different ways.
Get more information on Battle Princess Madelyn here.