As we round the corner into E3, a lot of gamers are looking at the twilight of this current console generation and rubbing their hands with glee over transitioning to the next.
Some have already done that with the purchase of the Wii U (we’ll ignore the classification by technology and stick with chronology here), but others are still waiting on the release of the PS4 and the new Xbox, and an interesting thing is happening. It’s happening on the internet—which means that it should in no way be taken as a viable representation of actual market attitudes—but there’s a lot of talk these days about people owning multiple consoles.
One side of the argument actually makes a lot of sense. The thinking is that any consumer that goes out and buys a PS4 and a new Xbox and a Wii U (and possibly upgrades their PC with the latest graphics card, motherboard and more RAM) won’t miss out on any games. If a new Halo, Killzone, Legend of Zelda or World of Starcraft game comes out, a multi-console owner doesn’t miss out on any exclusive, regardless of platform. The other side of this argument—the one that makes less sense and smacks a bit of elitism—is that this solution is one the “true gamers” will utilize and that those who don’t follow this approach are not True Gamers.
There are two big issues with an argument that says True Gamers will go out and buy all the consoles. The first and most obvious problem with this point of view is that it assumes True Gamers all have their own salary with a reasonable discretionary income that they can spend as they please. You don’t have to be rich to be a True Gamer, but in order to buy multiple consoles that cost a few hundred dollars each, plus games and peripherals, it quickly becomes an expensive hobby. Games are not like books or movies where, with a little persistence, it’s possible to enjoy the product for less than $10. Gaming requires a bigger investment, especially if you’re the type who needs to play a big game on day one and are therefore spending $60 on each new purchase. Games are a luxury, not a necessity, and for most people, commitments like food, rent, car or mortgage payments or even just clothes and toys for the kids is going to take priority over buying multiple consoles. Sometimes people just don’t have that kind of money to throw around, but that doesn’t somehow mean they are less of a True Gamer than the person that does. And then there is the next point.
Even if you have the money to buy and play all three consoles, do you have the time?
At CGM, we are all gamers, and we devote a good chunk of time to gaming for fun and for work. But even with dedicated time to gaming, it’s hard to actually maintain “platform agnosticism” simply because there isn’t time. Phil Brown, for example, is our Nintendo Nerd, and there’s usually more than enough happening there to keep him occupied, while I bounce around primarily on PS3 and Vita platforms. Editor in Chief Brendan Frye, on the other hand, has every console and every portable and a monstrous gaming rig. He is forced to “dabble,” rarely finishing any game unless he’s reviewing it as he has his finger dipped into a 360, PS3, PC, Vita or even iOS game simultaneously. These are people who play games as part of their profession and even they’re stretched for time. There’s also the little matter of relationships. Unless being a True Gamer means that you are not only wealthy, but single, very few people are actually going to find the time to play all those exclusives coming out and still manage to balance a relationship or—even more importantly—a family. If you’re being a True Gamer at the cost of neglecting a child, spouse or significant other, than perhaps the cost of being a True Gamer is too high. In one sense, I got extremely lucky and managed to get the brass ring on carousel, being happily married to a gamer—an RPG addict—but even with her patience and understanding, there are times when you have to put the controller down and do something else. That’s hard enough with all the games available on one console but if you throw in the exclusives of ALL of them… then being a True Gamer means doing nothing but.
For some, that may be not only possible financially and time-wise, but even preferable. For most of us, however, owning all three consoles to play all the games, while nice, is not vital. But choosing to not own every console doesn’t somehow make that person less of a gamer, any more than someone who can’t play a perfect game of Pac-Man or finish Skyrim in 10 hours is less of a gamer. There’s more to being a gamer than that.