Opinion – Kill Current-Gen
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.