I’m going to forgo the disclaimer on the rant today because I don’t plan to get controversial this time.

Tonight I just want to iterate a possible trend that consumers need to be on the lookout for. A couple of days ago EA proclaimed that they would be supporting current-gen (I suppose at this point we should be calling them last-gen) consoles “for many years to come.”

I’m a little worried about this statement and what it could mean if the tactic is employed by the big publishers. There’s no need to jump to conclusions. This could just mean that a steady stream of smaller budget games for PS3 and Xbox 360 will continue to arrive. They could be games that just didn’t get done in time for the next generation, or even the inevitable chunk of kids games that keep coming late in a generation. Whatever they are it is totally understandable and profitable for a publisher to release games for platforms that already have a huge install base.

That’s all well and good, but what concerns me and probably some other people is the possibility that the transition period between generations will drag on. Such an outcome could have numerous negative effects on the industry as well as upcoming games. What would it mean if later games like Dead Space 4 and Battlefield 5 were cross-generational? The much touted Titanfall already is if didn’t know.

In the PS2 era we had a fairly limited number of cross-gen titles and the transition period was brief. That may not happen this time. With video game production costs somewhere out in the stratosphere lately there exists the possibility that cross-gen versions of the big huge franchises will continue past a single iteration of the game. The scalable nature of numerous engines such as those behind Call of Duty, Battlefield, and Metal Gear Solid could make the desire for massive sales across two generations irresistable. The net effect would be that AAA games which people rely on as gameplay pathfinders for a new generation will be held back by the last generation for too long.

If that happens interest in the next generation consoles may slow faster than is healthy. Sure the PS4 and Xbox One have made a big splash, but a lot of that is because the last generation dragged on for an unprecedented length of time. If gamers can still get their favorite games without upgrading their hardware then only the hardcore will be the ones to adopt new consoles. If that happens we could see a stark drop off in sales after the holiday season.

doggie

In truth this is already a risk because so far both PS4 and Xbox One have yet to receive any big, huge game announcements for 2014 release dates after their somewhat meager launches. If the rest of the multiplats in 2014 are cross-generational then hardware could become much less interesting very early.

Another danger is in the realm of innovation and advancement. It could get pretty stale. If we are seeing last-gen gameplay staples still holding firm in 2015 then the traditionally most experimental phase of a new generation will be over. At that point gaming could easily become stuck in a gameplay rut. We are already seeing reviewers finally get the clue about things like FPS mechanics becoming old fashioned, so without experimentation and success scores will only lower and interest will stagnate.

I think developers and publishers have to walk a fine line here. Of course they need to make enough money to stay afloat and that entails supporting large user bases, but squandering the initial excitement around a new generation would be a long term problem I would hate to see plaguing an otherwise highly successful 8th generation.

People are already worried this generation will only be a minor upgrade; customers don’t need that worry proved true.

 

 

 

David D. Nelson
David D. Nelson is a polymath with a BA in English working as an independent writing and editing professional. He enjoys gaming, literature, and a good hat.

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2 Comments

  1. Couldn’t agree more. Just bought an XB1 and am quite disappointed that the majority of games available for purchase today are also available on the old consoles. Even as I look into 2014, I’m excited about 1 or 2 titles that have been announced, but that’s it. Hopefully what we are seeing is more a result of longer and more expensive development cycles on games. Games such as the new installments of Assassin’s Creed, Battlefield, and COD have no doubt been in the works for quite some time. I wouldn’t expect a year or more of development to be scrapped simply because the target console is now “last gen”. I’d expect them to do what they’ve done with many of these titles that straddle the line between consoles – release it for the intended console and release it again on the new one with some better looking textures, etc. However if Battlefield 5 rolled around and I could still purchase it for my 360, I’d be seriously disappointed. I don’t mean for that to sound snobbish, but if developers are still developing with the limitations of older consoles in mind, they are not pushing the limits of the newest generation. I’m all for a transition period and allowing the next generation of consoles to gain some traction while not leaving everyone behind just because they haven’t upgraded, but eventually you’ve got to leave the past in the past and take advantage of what these new boxes can do.

    1. I think overtime we’ll start to see bigger differences in cross-gen games. MGSV: Ground Zeroes for example. I’m thinking there will be some big graphical differences between the two versions, just because of the engine being used. Guess we’ll have to wait and see though.

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