When the console contest is like the race for the presidency 

Comeback Kids

I thought the script seemed a little familiar.

No, it wasn't another instance of accidentally channel-surfing into an episode of CSI: Miami and recognizing yet another ripped-from-the-headlines special.

And no, tonight's TV feast featured the best political team on television going on about Hillary Clinton's amazing comeback in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Wins in Texas and Ohio, my CNN pals were gabbling at me, had her right back on the road to the White House.

As Wolf Blitzer was hitting me with delegate counts, I was being hit by something else.

Hillary is the PlayStation 3.

Before you choke on whomever's milkshake you're currently drinking, flash back with me to last fall, before the Iowa primary, when Hillary's self-polished star was still riding high. Her path to the White House was, we were told, a four-lane superhighway at 3 a.m. on a Sunday night.

But after a Super Tuesday split and Barack Obama's 11-primary winning streak went by, Clinton's chances at the nomination were reportedly in shambles. As the Ohio and Texas primaries loomed, conventional wisdom said she'd be dead without a sweep. Two wins later, she's the comeback kid.

Now let's jump industries and flash back even further, to the fall of 2006.

When the PlayStation 3 arrived, the arrogance with which Sony rolled its big, black beast onto the gaming stage might have impressed even the Clintons. Here, ladies and gentlemen, was the presumptive winner of the next-gen presidency. No need to even break open the box, folks, no need to debate with your dollars — 360 who?

But as is so often the case, a funny thing happened on the way to unchallenged victory. The PS3, with its superdelegate-sized price tag, got its ass handed to it in retail's version of Super Tuesday — the holiday shopping season.

Soon, like Hillary, the PS3 started to look more like a punchline/punching bag than a genuine contender. Sony had blown it, everyone agreed, and was in for a precipitous fall.

But wait! Scroll through any of the major gaming media outlets, and you're sure to stumble on 300 variations on 2008's prevailing storyline, in which a neat script for Sony's comeback is painstakingly detailed.

Blu-Ray's utter decimation of HD-DVD! PlayStation Home's version of home improvement! Big huge games! Universal health care!

Oops — scratch that last one.

If there's one thing this country loves, it's a predictable script, especially when that script involves an arrogant front-runner who crashes and burns, then rises from the ashes to victory. Just another redemption song.

Of course, most of this is utter bullshit.

Anyone who follows the gaming industry knows it takes time for new consoles to gain popularity. They're never at their best out of the gate. And anyone who follows the political landscape knows — except the media, who follow the political landscape, apparently — that a presidential nomination isn't decided before the people, y'know, vote.

To say Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are both perfectly viable candidates is like saying the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 are perfectly viable gaming systems — they are. It's a more honest script, but also a hell of a lot less dramatic. (And no, I have no plans to stretch this tortured political metaphor any further. In other words, no matter how many racks of barbeque ribs he serves up to the media, John McCain is not the Nintendo Wii. In fact, he may very well prove be the anti-Wii.)

Unlike the Democratic primary, I don't have a vested interest in gaming's next-gen race beyond the thrill of the political theater — the who's up, who's down, who's dealing with the Red Ring of Death.

Frankly, I'm a lot happier when competition between the consoles gives us what the invisible hand is supposed to: more great games than we have time to play.

But just like the avalanche of "Hillary's back from the dead!" storylines have me wondering exactly when Barack Obama, who keeps quietly winning primaries and caucuses, went from front-runner to also-ran, the "It's the year of the PS3!" stories have me wondering when the Xbox 360, which still gets the lion's share of my gaming time, suddenly became invisible.


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