Last week's rumor-go-round on the next generation continues, as talk focuses on the Wii U and Sony's next console. In addition, EA is officially crowed the Worst Company in America by Consumerist readers. But does it really deserve the title?
Whose U Is it?
This week, the next-gen rumor mill decided to grind up the Wii U a bit. Various anonymous sources, ostensibly from developers who have been working with Wii U dev kits, have been referenced as saying that the Wii U is either less powerful or no more powerful than this generation's HD consoles. The details have been a bit fuzzy, with statements saying that the Wii U doesn't produce graphics as well and doesn't have as many shaders as the Xbox 360 or PS3.
In response, Gearbox Software has been standing up for the Wii U. The director of Aliens: Colonial Marines noted that the Wii U has more RAM and a better processor than current-generation consoles, and Gearbox's president Randy Pitchford has said that the Wii U will be a nice surprise to gamers and will be a good bridge to the next generation.
Nintendo itself has been coy about the Wii U's specs, though that's nothing new. Unlike the carnival of numbers we generally get from Sony, Nintendo has a tendency to emphasize play experience over things like horsepower, RAM, and pixel counts. As things are shaping up, it doesn't appear that the Wii U will be significantly more powerful than this generation's HD consoles by at least some definitions of power. Will it innovate in the areas that count, however? Will it have enough RAM to unfetter developers from existing small-room console game design? Will it be able to do amazing things with the Wii U tablet controller that will capture the public's attention like the Wiimote and nunchuck did? Perhaps we'll have some answers to these questions at E3.
Speaking of Sony's Carnival of Numbers...
Anonymous sources may be a bit fuzzy about the capabilities (or lack thereof) of the Wii U, but they're becoming very specific about the specs of the fourth PlayStation, code named "Orbis." They suggest that the Orbis will have a customized processor based on AMD's A8-3850 APU and Radeon HD 7670 (for graphics). This would help bring the console's processing and graphics power closer to that of PCs, though it still wouldn't rival the most powerful gaming rigs. By building on existing technology, Sony may be making the PlayStation 4 easier for thrid-party developers to work with, and could be keeping the cost of the device under control as well.
Just How Evil Is EA?
This week, Electronic Arts won The Consumerist's poll for the Worst Company in America. Now, many of the other companies in contention for the title have no doubt done worse things in terms of consumer relations, but EA's win shows how frustrated gamers are getting with game company policies that make it more frustrating to be a paying customer than a pirate.
How much of the vote was driven by fan rage over Mass Effect 3's ending? We'll never know, but BioWare's answer to the controversy can hardly be considered high on the evil-o-meter. A free downloadable epilogue that expands on the game's ending events? This hardly reeks of a conspiracy to sell players a true ending later on, as certain Internet elements were postulating. Angry Mass Effect fans should probably concede that BioWare simply made an unpopular creative choice in Mass Effect 3 rather than being manipulated by the greed of its corporate owner.
Unfortunately, EA's response to the Consumerist vote showed no measure of humility whatsoever. I hope that's just PR bluster, because at the very least EA should take a close look at its notoriously terrible customer and technical support department. It could also step back from the excessive DLC it has been loading onto many of its major titles, a move that has been a source of increasing annoyance from fans. EA has some excellent properties under its wing, and it wouldn't take much to improve its reputation with gamers. The question is whether the company values its reputation with consumers in the long term over the short-term pursuit of the almighty dollar, and right now it's pretty obvious which side consumers believe EA is on.
Date: April 6, 2012
*The views expressed within this article are solely the opinion of the author and do not express the views held by Cheat Code Central.*