The joy of (new) box: PS4 and Xbox One’s celebrated launches

Thursday, 12 December 2013 13:05 GMT By Brenna Hillier

The arrival of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One has re-ignited Brenna’s love of gaming – and everyone else’s, too, it seems.

This is, in general, a launch heralded by pleasure and appreciation for the new tech; by emails signed off with “have you got a new console yet HOW GOOD IS THIS GAME”; by demands for console network IDs; and by a ceasefire in the ongoing battle to see who can be the grumpiest bastard in video games.

There are certain fashions or trends among video game media which are sacrosanct, and the primary one is cynicism. It’s all very well to sit at home and play video games for two days straight on the weekend; to pump out several thousand masterly words on your latest gaming crush; and to lay down fat wads of money on every bit of hardware that comes along, justifying the expense as “work” to exasperated family members – but as soon as one is among one’s peers, it is not done to show enthusiasm for the product.

In the wake of the launch of the PS4 and Xbox One, though, this culture of cool has gone out the window. The good ship HMS Cynicism has been hastily rechristened the SS Optimism, although we couldn’t get the bottle to smash safely so we drank it instead, and then woke up and kept playing despite the headache and sudden craving for Lucozade. My largely games media populated Twitter feed for days after all three launches was an unceasing torrent of excitement, happiness, and positivity, marred only by the occasional complaint from someone who hadn’t been able to pick up a shiny new box yet.

It’s not all flowers and sunshine, of course; it’s probably the Sony fangirl in me that makes me notice more complaints coming out of the Microsoft camp, but certainly not everybody loves absolutely everything about their shiny new boxes. The Dual Shock 4 is fantastic but holds a tiny amount of charge, and Sony has once again elected to include a charging cable just long enough to ensure you pull the console off the shelf. Xbox One installations randomly decide to slow down to a continental drift crawl unless you switch off the Internet. PS4 Share is producing massive amounts of spam from people who don’t understand how to set their Facebook permissions. Xbox One refuses to render unto Caesar Caesar’s notifications, which he’s not at all happy about. Neither console has quite enough software just yet.

But these are just niggles, things that will iron themselves out in firmware updates, hardware revisions, third-party add-ons, and the inevitable passage of time – unless Sony or Microsoft throws caution to the wind and manages to fluff an entire generation. (Ha ha! What are the chances of that happening? Probably not very high; Sony has already shown itself swift and reactive, killing a PS4 hardware failure scandal off with praiseworthy efficiency and excellent customer service). This is, in general, a launch heralded by pleasure and appreciation for the new tech; by emails signed off with “have you got a new console yet HOW GOOD IS THIS GAME”; by demands for console network IDs; and by a ceasefire in the ongoing battle to see who can be the grumpiest bastard in video games. Even Pat’s crawled blinking out of his cave and discovered he wants to smash everybody to pieces in Resogun.

I haven’t been in this industry long enough to say whether this happens at every generational transition, because this last cycle was the most protracted to date, but the PS4 and Xbox One’s reception is very different from that of the Wii U, Vita and 3DS. Even just sales-wise, DFC Intelligence reckons the PS4 has beaten out the Xbox One to nab not just the most successful hardware launch this generation but the biggest console launch ever – but that’s not to undersell the fact that the Xbox One has done profoundly well, either.

I can say that this is a really good time to be doing the job that I do. Online media is, in general, a difficult career to remain optimistic in. It’s the nature of humanity to complain rather than celebrate, so most aspects of this business, from crafting headlines to moderating comments, wear you down rather than bear you up. At the end of eight hours of thinking and writing about video games and the culture around them, frequently in the most negative terms, it’s often hard to summon the energy to go spend any time actually playing – especially when all the cool kids are competing to see who can do the best sneer.

That’s all changed for me over the past few weeks. When I get out of my chair at the end of the day I’m impatient to get in front of the telly; I’m even having a very polite war with my housemate over the living room. I’m reluctant to wander very far away from my two gorgeous new magic thinky boxes, but then again, I’m excited and happy to see my colleagues and friends so we can enthuse together over how much fun this industry really is.

Thanks, Microsoft and Sony; it’s been a long time coming, but it was worth the wait. Video games.

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