Between the pair of peripherals released in 2010, the handheld releases in 2011 and the console release in 2012, it’s been a long time since new hardware hasn’t been on our minds. This inevitably leads to the discussion of potential. It’s not about what this hardware can do now, it’s about what it might be able to do in the future.
What exactly is meant when we talk about potential? My guess is that when we learn about hardware, especially the more gimmicky hardware we’ve been seeing lately, we have certain images in our minds of how it might work and what we might see on it. Maybe potential is just our hope that this image is realized. But unfortunately Kinect will never work like Minority Report, and the Wii or Move will never be more precise than a controller. That isn’t potential, that’s a pipe dream.
Handhelds are an entirely different issue. All a handheld needs to do to garner excitement and to have potential is to come as close as possible to current or recent console capabilities. If handhelds are catching up with consoles in power, then we can see the future of handhelds by looking at what was recently on consoles, and we call this potential.
To me, potential is nonsense. It’s an excuse for a bad launch. Hardware only gets cheaper, so buying a console early with the hopes that it’ll get better makes no sense, especially given how common hardware iterations are these days. Why are we so fixated on what hardware might be capable of doing in the future? Why did 3.6 million people buy a 3DS in March instead of waiting until June when the games they actually want start coming out? Why did I get so excited about controlling Link’s sword with my Wiimote in 2006 when anything close to the functionality I imagined wouldn’t be around for another five years?
The fact of the matter is, every hardware launch we’ve seen in the last year hasn’t panned out yet. Kinect still doesn’t support a single great game and probably never will, Move only exists as an unwanted alternative to using a controller and the 3DS is still waiting for the eShop and the games that got people excited back at E3. And yet, millions of people own them. It’s fine to discuss what hardware might be capable of doing, but to make a purchase based on something that doesn’t yet exist just seems ridiculous.