The lights are on
Both Sony and Microsoft have made it clear that, naming
semantics aside, the impending dawn of next-gen gaming won't be the end of current-gen
gaming. A lot of consumers were relieved to hear it, but I'll be counting down
the days to when I can roll my current-gen systems up in an old carpet and
chuck them off a bridge (in compliance with EPA guidelines, naturally). Like a
decrepit king who has abdicated the throne to a younger, more competent
successor, our current-gen consoles should be quietly and quickly snuffed out
for the larger good of the kingdom.
I understand all of the reasons behind supporting older
systems with multi-gen titles. It makes smart business sense for developers and
publishers not to hinge the success of a title on a new system, knowing full
well that not every gamer wants or can afford to upgrade to new hardware. The
great thing about being a gamer and not an accountant is I don't have to worry
about any of that – I just want the best games possible for my new system.
Leading up to launch, the console makers, publishers, and
developers have all been tantalizing gamers with news of how awesomely powerful
the new systems are. Both next-gen consoles have roughly 16 times more RAM than
our current systems, with exponentially more powerful processors pulsating at
their cores. I've never been accused of being a tech expert, but even my simple
layman's brain can spot the problem here; just how cool can next-gen games be
if they can still run on our current, puny systems? Sure, they may have better
graphics, but whenever I hear a developer assuage fans by saying the core
gameplay of their title is going to be the same no matter what platform you
play it on, I can't help but roll my eyes.
The same core gameplay is exactly what I don't want from
next-gen titles, and if I can still get all the latest and greatest games on
the system I already own, why should I buy a new one? It's not surprising that
Dead Rising 3 and Killzone: Shadow Fall are the most impressive launch titles
of their respective systems, precisely because they can't be done on
current-gen consoles – and the developers were smart enough not to attempt
doing so. Coincidentally, they're also the games early adopters point to the
most as the reasons they'll be standing in line on launch morning.
It makes sense that many of the launch titles for Xbox One
and PlayStation 4 are multi-gen games. Most were designed to be current-gen
games, and went into development years before Sony and Microsoft finalized
their next-gen hardware. Bumping up texture resolution and smoothing out frame
rates are easy improvements for a next-gen port, and truth be told, I would happily
buy GTA V again on a next-gen system for those very reasons. However, that kind
of cross-gen development is a one-way street; you can't design a game from the
ground up to take full advantage of next-gen systems, then downgrade some
textures and expect it to run on older hardware. That's why I cringe whenever I
see a new game announcement that's billed as a next-gen experience, but also
coming to current systems as well. As excited as I am for games like Titanfall
and Watch Dogs, I can't help but wonder what awesome ideas are being left on
the cutting-room floor to ensure current-gen owners aren't left in the lurch.
Some developers task other studios with figuring out a way
to squeeze their game onto older and weaker platforms, and while you might
consider that an acceptable compromise, I wouldn't call it a happy one. The Wii
port of Modern Warfare didn't hinder the 360 or PS3 versions of the game, or
Infinity Ward's work on Modern Warfare 2, but it
was still terrible. If that's what current-gen owners want, then so be it –
just don't hold back next-gen development to make it happen.
I admire Sony and Microsoft's pledge to continue supporting
their previous platforms, but let's not pretend we live in a fantasy world
where your old tech purchase lasts forever. Game consoles will always be a step
behind the continually evolving landscape of PC gaming; we don't need to hamstring
our next-gen systems right out of the gate with games designed to also
accommodate hardware that's almost a decade old at this point. Instead of dragging out the
transition, let's give our current-gen systems the quick and painless deaths they
deserve, and truly move on to the next generation of gaming.
Email the author Jeff Marchiafava, or follow on Google+, Twitter, and Game Informer.