I gotta hand it to Microsoft, when they first vaulted into the Video Game Market (back here in 2002) I wrote them off as a trojan horse for PC Gaming, at the time nothing annoyed me more than the self-righteous computer gaming evangelists who would spit on your copy of Goldeneye 64 and sing the praises of keyboard controls, it nauseated me every time.
So when XBox debuted in 2002 I took a pass and opted instead for a Nintendo Gamecube, a compact little box of a machine with very few bells and whistles but with the guarantee of Mario, Zelda and even now Sonic!
I had a great time with it - for two years until new releases seemed to dry up, the PS2 started eating into its space on the rental shelves and big chains like Kmart and BigW started dropping it altogether.
Eventually I had kids and a lot less time for games, eventually my children started taking notice of the games machines and wanted to see them in action, so began my refamiliarisation with the consoles, while I enjoyed playing through some of those N64 classics again, something was missing when it came to the Cube, I have some great titles for that machine, Wind Waker, Super Mario Sunshine, Metroid Prime, Smash Bros, Soul Calibur II but when I played them again it was like I'd lost the passion for it.
My actual GameCube game collection
My wife, who never understood my Nintendo obsession, one afternoon in 2008 mused that we should get a PlayStation 2. I had been steadfastly against it in the past, I remember arguing that they only ever have a handful of quality games.
I was speaking from experience, during the 5th generation I bought a chipped PlayStation for the sole purpose of playing Tekken 3 imported straight from Japan (it was either than or sink even more money into that blasted machine at the arcade!) I played some nice games, PS had the best fighters, SoulBlade was sublime, Metal Gear Solid was an incredible game, and Driver was the start of something special but ultimately (in my view) the N64 had much more going for it, in hindsight mostly due to the greatness of Rare, a developer whose absence was keenly felt on the GameCube.
My wife wanted the PS2 to play Singstar, a non-game video game, Singstar, Buzz, Eyetoy all probably contributed more to the PS2's sales numbers than anybody acknowledges. To be sure - the singing games were fun and my snap decision to purchase the PS2 turned out to be a good one.
I got only one actual hardcore game for the system
Tekken 5! Still stuck in the past I guess, but that was all about to change...
That December, December 2008, I bought my wife a new Singstar title, to reciprocate she insisted on getting me a game, not knowing what the hell was good on PS2 (yes I was that out of touch with the games industry) I randomly picked a game thinking alound "I think I've heard of this, not sure, but I think it's supposed to be good!
That game, incase you were wondering, was Grand Theft Auto San Andreas!!
For a random, uninformed punt - it was about as good a one as I could've ever made!
Beleive the hype...
GTA was a phenomenon that had completely passed me by, I'd obviously heard enough about it to recognise it as a quality game, but I had no idea what kind of game, with the attention to detail and the realism, that I was getting myself into.
Cut to a year later and I still haven't finished San Andreas (it's a big game, and I can only play these MA15 games at night when the kids are in bed!) I have every GTA PS2 release bar GTAIII and GTA Chinatown Wars for the DS, along with a slew of other games for the PS2. The machine singlehandedly revived my interest in gaming, where the GameCube almost killed it.
But something was still missing. By this point I was well aware that the console arms race had moved on and the PS2 was increasingly becoming a haven for shovelware and kids titles, but the new generation of systems is an even harder choice than the last one.
Although most great games in the sixth generation saw a release across all platforms and all three systems (PS2, GCN, XBox) were very comparable in their processing power, the new generation presents 3 very different systems with very different strengths and weaknesses. If I wanted to move onto the next gen, I had to make some hard choices.
I'd read countless blogs in the past year about the XBox 360 being a precarious device prone to hardware failure on the scale of a second hand PC, frankly it put me off the machine for quite a time, that and Microsoft's reputation, until I actually got to play one, it was a much more impressive console than I imagined.
The PS3 is a technical marvel but with it's reputation for being difficult to program and having a poor online function I wasn't sure it was the way to go - and not being compatible with the PS2 is a big black mark in my opinion.
The Wii seems to be pitched at the same people who buy a leapster, all simple games, kids games and worse - mini-games, after I learned the hard way with the GameCube - Mario and Zelda alone - aren't enough to carry a system.
So the choice for me was between the 360 and the PS3 and then Microsoft went and made my decision for me, with the Arcade SKU dropping to a low $A198 in several major chains across the country during the boxing day sales, I gotta take back my original assessment of Microsoft, I now don't think they were looking to replicate the PC experience so much as supplant it by delivering a machine that takes all of the PC's advantages (online play, Hard Drive, Hi Res Graphics, more FPS than you can poke a stick at) and trump it by putting it on your TV for an affordable price with good controls (sorry dudes keyboards are for typing!).
Kudos XBox and for that matter Sony, you got this fanboy to finally grow up :D