Nov 1, 2013
Delays, delays, and more delays. It seems what seems to be defining the next-gen is delays; and it hasn’t even started.
This comes from the news that Ubisoft have chosen to delay Watch Dogs till 2014, to ensure that quality is as high as possible. Of course, this could be to distance it from GTA V and Assassin’s Creed IV, it’s other free-roam title for the launch of the next-generation. This also comes after news that current-gen editions of Assassin’s Creed IV is seeing an earlier release date, which is unheard of within the industry. Ubisoft look set to gain gamers hearts soon with their tried-and-tested franchise, perhaps hoping fans will opt for the next-gen upgrade in the future.
Can we really claim that the next-gen is starting in November? With so few truthfully next-gen titles, it can be said that it won’t begin until 2014. Only the consoles are here.
That being said, what incentive does this give the public to upgrade to the next-gen? Before, with these titles bundled with your PS4 or Xbox One, it gave the public a great reason to get started on the new consoles. But now, not so much. Even Watch Dogs is a cross platform title. There is little to no reason for gamers to upgrade on launch days, due to the severe lack of new titles on offer, that can’t already be purchased on their current consoles. Why drop over £500 on a console and a new game, when you can play the same game for around £40? Better yet, the small fee to upgrade your title to the next-gen may convince some to purchase both, but this does not involve saving your progress. So essentially, you would have to painstakingly go through the entire game again in a month or two. What’s the point?
The industry has never really had a cross-platform transitional period such as this, with exceptions from major franchises like FIFA or Need for Speed. This is a new, unpredictable scenario for the industry.
Will gamers just hold back and wait till next year? Perhaps so. There is no doubt that these delays have had an impact on many gamers decisions, who may be regretting their pre-orders. In America, Target cancelled outright a number of bundled pre-orders consisting of a PS4 and Watch Dogs. How patient and determined must a gamer be to have this happen to them, and still go out and find another console when there are reported shortages? In light of this, Target have issued a statement saying:
“We sincerely apologise to guests who were inconvenienced and are working directly with them to ensure they receive the console they selected by their original order date. There was no impact to Sony PlayStation 4 pre-orders that were sold independently or bundled with other game titles.”
So what is there to play that’s supposedly a true next-gen game? Well there’s Killzone: Shadow Fall, which does look promising. But the franchise has always failed to truly capture the popularity it may well deserve. There’s Dead Rising 3; but how long does it take until mindless zombie punching gets boring? There’s also InFamous: Second Son, which admittedly looks very cool, from the minds of Sucker Punch studios who developed the underrated Sly franchise; but how much of a step up from previous iterations it is, is questionable.
This is the first generation of consoles where the general public are not truly blown away by the visuals; it is simply not impressive enough to win people over with pretty graphics and physics. The reason behind this is that engines and the like are now so expensive to develop, it simply does not make sense to create a new one for every iteration. And now that cross-platform titles are being released, the next-gen editions simply look like prettier editions of what you can already buy. You can see in the image below, that it is not entirely the consoles or developers fault: diminishing returns means that even by multiplying by 100 does not produce the same effect as by 10 a decade or so ago.
With the delay of Driveclub, this gives the Xbox One the upper hand, as releasing Forza Motorsport could convince a number of motoring enthusiasts to opt for their console, instead of the unproven Driveclub. It was also set to be one of the first free games for PS4, as free-to-play games are gaining traction and popularity in the mainstream, and is set to be a demanded next-gen trend. But this does seem to damage it’s reputation somewhat. Forza already has its pedigree. And this is half the problem; sequels drive sales. Nobody is excited for the new titles, such as Knack, but only sequels. One of the exceptions? Watch Dogs. And we won’t be able to play that for some time now. Despite it deriving success from the colossal franchise of Assassin’s Creed. The other news was that The Crew has also been delayed, which didn’t exactly set the internet alight as the news of Watch Dogs had. Perhaps this is another hint that original IPs do not generate the excitement that sequels can.
But with this news, it does show that quality gaming can capture audiences’ attentions. Watch Dogs already looks like a killer IP, and it hasn’t had to prove itself with a long back catalogue. Perhaps then, there is a future for the next-generation, and the good news is that Ubisoft is dedicated to making this experience as top notch as humanly possible. Even if this means putting their beloved new franchise in the firing line for criticism. They have lost 32% shares, which is set to be around $54 million by the time March 2014 gets here.
At least to some extent, it shows creativity and innovation in mainstream business, which is not otherwise seen by games like Call of Duty or FIFA who are merely releasing a new iteration of their title. It will sell no doubt, despite the quality or new features.
Despite saying all this, I think it’s safe to say that launch titles have always been poor across a multitude of platforms. Look at the launch of the GameCube: it was the first Nintendo console to not include a Mario title at launch (even if Luigi’s Mansion was a fun game). Looking back at the launch of the PS3: highlights include Call of Duty 3, Need for Speed Carbon, NHL, NBA, and Ridge Racer. In there though, are Motorstorm and Resistance: Fall of Man, titles which I thoroughly enjoyed upon launch. But I dare you to go back and play them now; they’re pretty dated. Even the Xbox 360 had Need for Speed: Most Wanted, Call of Duty 2, and Ridge Racer 6. There seems to be a pattern here; sequels. And there is no doubt that this generation has been one of the most revolutionary ones yet. Maybe there is hope for next-gen consoles yet, as every generation seems to have suffered a poor selection of games at launch, and each and every one has taken off. The test this generation, will be the impact of social and casual gaming on mobile devices such as tablets.
Instead of games, maybe it is features that will win over the public; such as social gaming, or motion detection on the Kinect 2.0. And for avid gamers; well I’m sure that delays will not hinder their choices, as they will inevitably make the leap at some point. By the end of the next generation, these delays will surely be a bump in the road, as the games will have evolved so much. Considering the fact that Oblivion and Skyrim were released on the same consoles is fairly mind blowing. Compare Resistance: Fall of Man to The Last of Us as PS3 exclusives. You would think they had skipped several generations.
It’s possible that this will not damage next-gen sales in general, but moreso Sony. They were on top, decimating the Xbox One which had largely negative press around the reveal. And now, it seems fairly equal again. The public at large has forgotten about the debacle, and Sony promised a free game at launch in the form of Driveclub. And now, it’s not there. That’s one exclusive gone. And will a free-to-play racing game be as relevant when it’s released further down the line with more competition? Maybe not. Knack looks like a fun game, but is not enough to draw in the public (although as a self-professed platformer lover, it’s looks great to me). In saying that, Microsoft exclusive Ryse: Son of Rome hasn’t exactly had the best reviews, so perhaps Sony will be okay. But their advantage has almost surely been lost. Both parties will definitely have lost sales ahead of a busy holiday period where kids and adults alike will place the next console on their list. Well, maybe not now.
But I think it is certain that this news and the publicity it has generated, will mute the launch-day excitement somewhat. Just be safe in knowing, that delayed games deliver (ignore Duke Nukem: Forever, please). Although many fans will be annoyed their library may be a little bare on launch day, a quality game in a few months is worth the wait. It speaks volumes that companies such as ubisoft are now putting quality ahead of profit, which is surely good news for the lifespan of the next generation consoles.
I will still be aching to pick up my new console of choice, but for the average gamer? They may be tempted to ponder the matter, and wait until new titles are released next year. Whichever way you choose, it is still an exciting time to be a gamer, and I for one am very excited to get to grips with all things next-gen.