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On November 15, 2013 Sony's Playstation 4 was released to much fanfare. Xbox One was released a week later, on November 22nd, and with that the eighth generation of consoles began...
Of course, there are some other consoles that are technically considered part of this wave of hardware. Nintendo's off doing its own thing with the Wii U, released November 2012, and the 3DS which came to store shelves March 2011. There's also the Vita, which is compatible with both the PS4 and PS3, which was released Februrary 2012. PC's off in its own little world with the Steam and Origin platforms offering titles both current and past. And smartphones and tablets offer yet another way to play. Hell, even PS3 and 360 still have mighty install bases that most likely won't start dwindling for another year or two. All I'm saying is that there's quite a robust offering of hardware, and software to play on it. But then, I started wondering, are we reaching the end of clear cut generational lines in regards to consoles?
I mean, think about it this way. Last generation saw the fledgling online services from the giants of the industry turn from a niche attraction into something that the systems are all but neutered without. Digital distribution has become commonplace for gamers, bolstered by sales and interactivity with friends. Steam, Xbox Live, Playstation Network, and even Nintendo's still curiously outdated system. Eight years ago at the advent of the seventh generation, I don't think anyone could've seen what was coming in that vein. People expected to buy Pacman and Galaga on Arcade and then promptly forget that the online components of retail even existed. Instead we were inundated with a deluge of high quality titles, HD remakes, rereleases, remasters, redeads, the whole enchilada.
You might be wondering what the world that tangent I went off into has anything to do with generational lines. Well, PC has never truly had generational lines, in that you can play a wide selection of titles from a large portion of its history, and much more with tweaks. I mean, just take a look at Steam. To bring up one example, you can buy the entire Tomb Raider series on the service, from Lara Croft's hilariously polygonal boobs all the way to today's reboot. This right here is why it's not really a generational thing. Of course, there's other aspects, such as upgrading the hardware that makes it so that there's not really moving from point A to point B when you upgrade, more of an incremental project. But then again, you have the platform of Steam to transfer your games over to the new equipment, from Windows XP all the way to 8 and beyond. And, here's what intrigues me; Microsoft and Sony are porting their services from console to console in new and unprecedented ways.
Sure, there's no news on transferring forward games yet, but they're charting new waters with online accounts that transcend the consoles they originally appeared on...and wait, what's that? They're already doing that?
Microsoft and Sony already have plans in place to get extremely cheap copies of games on the new iterations of their systems if you bought the copies on the older consoles. My friend Senshuro bought a copy of COD Ghosts for 360, and for a pittance he's able to upgrade to the Xbone copy too at his leisure. Nintendo is doing much the same, with porting over games to the new console and charging a small fee to get the spiffy new Wii U versions. Granted so far none of these titles are truly on only /either/ one console or the other, but it could very easily be done, especially with the possibilities to verify that you own the prior copies of the games. So when you start on your PS4, long after the PS3 becomes discontinued, you could probably play Uncharted 1-3 on PS4 just as easily as you could on the older console. So, when you make the generational leap, you don't have to worry overmuch about backwards compatibility and leaving your older games behind as they get rereleases on the newer consoles.
Even setting aside the possibilites for verifying your games, gaming companies are getting more and more attuned to the possibilities of discounted and frequent rereleases of software. I mean for Haruhi's sake the Tomb Raider reboot is already getting an update for the new consoles. This could happen with virtually any title: Halo, Last Of Us, Skyward Sword, whatever the developers see the potential for cash flow in. Plus, consoles are becoming more and more PC-like in their architecture so now it's easier than ever to emulate an older title on the newfangled home video gaming systems.
So, to be quite honest, it doesn't really feel like you're truly leaving all that much behind when you upgrade. The market is coalescing more and more into one big blob of hardware that keeps churning out experiences both old and new, and the only thing you're really doing is buying the newer technology to run the most recent games. Basically, pretty much more simplified PCs, united under the banners of your respective services. So, while it may still be called a "generation", it's becoming anything but in where you can play games from every conceivable year of the media on one of the digital components. The handhelds stir in with last gen, the new consoles lack much of the straight up sense of plunging into something new and unknown like the past. The lines are blurring for the experiences between generations, and we can now focus less on the new and exciting hardware and more on the new and exciting software. "Generations" are extending, drawing out, and becoming increasingly irrelevant in the reporting of games as anything else other than a hype tool used for marketing. Bring on the death of the generation, lay back, and enjoy the ride on the next waves of titles to come out one right after another for years to come.~Stranger