The lines are drawn and the stage is set for yet another arms race between Sony and Microsoft. The PlayStation 4 has been clobbering the Xbox One since both consoles launched three years ago, but now both companies are rewriting the rules. Console generations are a thing of the past, and if you are willing to drop $300 – $400 with far more frequency than before, you’ll get to enjoy a boost in power, smoother VR, and higher screen resolutions.

It makes sense when aimed at a generation that has become obsessed with numbers. Specs on hardware, software performance measured in screen resolutions and frame rates, and a nice little numeral at the end of your console’s name just to signify that this is indeed proper evolution, tied with a “Pro” or a “Neo” as a little bow.

That’s what console gaming is about to become if Sony and Microsoft’s plans succeed. Of course, you could just buy a gaming quality PC that would last much longer for the same price, one that offers far more customization and backwards compatibility that extends decades beyond what these new models are pitching.

As always, someone is going to refuse to play ball with the others, and as always, it’s going to be Nintendo. Unlike Sony and Microsoft, which are pitching their latest creations as more powerful machines, Nintendo has never been one to prioritize numerical strength of a console over what truly matters when it comes to video games, and that’s having fun.

“Fun,” an emotional response to an experience, something that no processor can calculate

pokemon-red

A black and white game about catching monsters tripled the sale of the most powerful console games of its age. Computing power isn’t the defining point of video games.

Those critical of Nintendo claim that it doesn’t come up with new ideas and that it relies solely on a few core franchises to stay afloat. Where these critics come up short is that they can only see Nintendo’s franchises through superficial lenses that run name deep. They claim Nintendo can’t come up with new ideas, but that doesn’t account for the fact that, before the New series, no Super Mario game plays the same as the one before it or after it. The series remains popular to this day not because of its title or because of its main character, but because Nintendo has been able to tweak the formula just perfectly to where it is familiar for fans and yet entirely different at the same time… over and over and over again.

It wasn’t a computer that allowed for that change. It was the imaginations of its developers

You can’t blame these critics, though. After all, we’ve had a decade of AAA sequels be defined by jumps like the one made between Halo 4 to Halo 5. Bigger, flashier, better performance, but, ultimately, the same exact experience all over again. The same goes from Just Cause 2 into Just Cause 3Fallout 3 into Fallout 4, Arkham City into Arkham Knight, each an every Battlefield and Call of Duty game that hits the market on an annual basis. None of these sequels retool themselves in a meaningful way to make a unique experience, and instead they rely on processing power to make their worlds bigger, flashier, and better.

It’s somewhat telling that this AAA gaming market is shaping the future of this next big leap in tech. The PlayStation 4 Pro and Xbox One Project Scorpio are offering better graphics and better screen resolutions, but how exactly does that help improve gameplay? Both companies have admitted that you’ll be getting the same game if you don’t upgrade, just not as pretty, so there is no difference in the experience itself where it really matters.

Which just leaves us with the one original promise that these new consoles provide: VR. This is already a contentious point in gaming circles with gamers crowding around it and others decrying it. I don’t think it’s hard to pick which side I’m on. Not only does VR cripple me with motion sickness every time I play it, but, as mentioned before, I am not in support of replacing imagination with technology. These VR games are more immersive than ever before? Sure, if you enjoy having weights attached to your head. If you constantly need to keep a part of your brain in the real world to avoid collisions with walls, furniture, and children.

Yeah, that sounds real immersive! Game design, story, art, music, combat mechanics, jumping physics, and your own imagination. All of these are far more important for immersion than what VR technology can provide. The world has been doing this since the NES launched in 1983!

nintendo-nes-console

Created some of the best and most immersive games of all time. Didn’t require goggles to do it.

Gaming has come to a crossroads, one that will have a huge impact on its shape and determine its future. On one side, you have Sony and Microsoft looking to turn it into a microcosm of the smartphone and PC scene, dominated by HD gaming boxes that plug into your TV or VR headset and display polygon counts like you’ve never seen before. And then you have Nintendo, which is looking to do things the way it has always done things: creating a unique dedicated gaming platform that will be fun, accessible, under-powered, and dominated by original controllers and ideas.

In this case, it will most likely be playable as a dedicated handheld device and a television console at the same time, which is really cool!

Personally, I’m 31 years old and have three decades of gaming history behind me. I’m a member of the first generation that played games before we could spell our own names or even pee properly on a toilet. Gaming is in my blood and has always been dictated by the generational console model Nintendo laid out with the NES, even when I jumped ship to the PlayStation and Xbox 360. This new model that Microsoft and Sony are providing does not speak to me at all. I don’t care about the numbers powering the games, just the games themselves.

Plus, 90 percent of my gaming is done on a PS Vita or Nintendo 3DS these days, and boxing me into a confined space and slapping a constrictive headset on me is about as far removed from my ideal gaming method as it gets.

And let’s not forget that Japan is struggling to keep up with HD gaming as well. Square Enix, Capcom, Atlus, and the whole gang will find far more success on the under-powered NX than the increasingly risky PlayStation 4 Pro and Xbox One Project Scorpio, especially if the console becomes a hit in Japan, which it will.

super-smash-bros

We’ll save you!

Make no mistake, Microsoft and Sony are going to be pushing this specs race into a new age of gaming, and in another three years, you’ll have the option to pick up a PlayStation 4 Hyper Pro Edition or Xbox One Project Sagittarius for another $400! Both will probably be very successful, too.

This isn’t a call dictating that gaming shouldn’t be taken in this direction, though. If Sony and Microsoft see a market for cranking out these incrementally improved devices, then they need to fill it. This is a call for someone to create a space for gamers who are not on board with the future of console gaming being defined by two companies trying to one-up each other by making the exact same games run incrementally smoother on their platform, with no other solutions than to throw resources into the numbers.

A space for those not on board with the future of console gaming becoming indistinguishable from PC gaming.

Nintendo does not have all the answers, of course. Its recent track record shows plenty of cause for worry when it comes to reading the market or delivering a simple explanation of its console. If it wants to get this right, it needs to provide a way to move gaming forward on a separate path from its competitors. Something other than a generic HD gaming box, one not defined by performance or numbers, but rather, by what’s the most important puzzle piece of them all.

The games themselves.