Nov 28, 2013
The generation we are now emerging from has been the longest yet. The Xbox 360 launched in November 2005, and we have experienced a lot over the 8 years since. But what seems to have happened of late is a lack of innovation in many games and franchises; so will the next generation of consoles manage to boost us out of this idea slump?
The next-generation is expected to boost the console market around 20-30%. Considering the fact that many people have been introduced into gaming via the Wii and mobile gaming, they may be convinced to take the leap into console gaming in the near future.
Although there are many debates and fan-wars over which console to purchase, the fact of the matter is that they are more similar than different, especially in contrast to generations past. This is the most equal console war we have ever seen. And in such a turbulent time of disarray in the gaming industry, that is probably good for the console sector in general. It will ensure that as many people as possible engage with their console; and it also increases competition between the consoles in order to create innovative ideas and concepts.
If you want a killer game, a gritty, gray scale FPS seems the way to go. With games such as Killzone and Medal of Honor taking everything that made them unique to fit the public’s favourite criteria, mostly influenced by Call of Duty, there is very little in the way of differentiation in the market.
Perhaps then, this is why the mobile markets are flourishing. We hadn’t seen the likes of any of these kinds of games before the smartphone became a dominant device in every pocket. Whereas consoles, well, they’ve been pretty consistent since the beginning of the PS2 days. They’ve gotten much better, true; but there’s very little in the way of mind-blowing innovation. And with games that do prove to innovate, they just don’t prove as popular, or encourage others to show some forward-thinking due to lackluster sales.
The market is diverging at an alarmingly unpredictable rate. There are consumers at the bleeding edge of technology, with high-end PCs, all the way down to Android micro-consoles that cost pennies in comparison. The console sits in the middle, unable to capture either market.
When you consider the fact that the PS3 and 360 are pieces of technology that have been around for 8 years, it’s pretty insane. Considering many people change their phones every two years, and a laptop or computer lasting that length of time would be nothing short of a miracle, that is some seriously old hardware.
Back on the PS2, the game Black broke out, and managed to redefine the criteria of the FPS. But it didn’t really do that well. People were used to titles such as Timesplitters or WW2 shooters. But now, everything that made Black great, has been implemented into current-gen titles. Although this proves little has changed, it shows just how long it has taken for these features to trickle into the mainstream.
With this generation, we’ve seen a few new toys. The Kinect made it’s way into many homes, but nothing really came of it. A few novelty games. The Wii remote had huge success, but again, only proved to appeal to a casual audience, with precise motion control seeing a peak in titles such as Red Steel, which wasn’t the best use. They couldn’t even make a decent lightsaber game. It’s like the console was made for that.
But with the next generation, this could all change. Sony are working on a VR headset, the Oculus Rift is making waves on the PC front, and Kinect seems to have found a lease of life in being bundled with the Xbox One. We have barely even begun this new generation, and there is so much promise. Compare this to the launch of the 360 and PS3, the most we had was the fairly limited Sixaxis with Lair, which was one of the biggest gaming let-downs of all time.
When you apply the same criteria to a different industry, it can become clear that our expectations are too high. With music and movies, there are always clear influences. So why can’t games take influence from others? When this becomes a problem, is when games go on and on without any thought as to improving the series, or developers clone another in order to hit the big time. Of course, can you blame them? If that’s what the public likes, then why would you offer anything else? If it’s a good game, can you complain that they make some money off of it?
Of course, there’s always a time and a place when innovation becomes right. We all remember the bulky PDA/mobile phone hybrids from Nokia before the iPhone became huge. But then Apple got it just right. There was 3D gaming before the 3DS, and there were mass online games before World of Warcraft. It just so happens that some companies develop a product at the right time, best suited to the public’s tastes.
So will we see more of the same? Or will living room gaming revolutionise the way we experience video games? Maybe not yet, but there is potential, as the new consoles are dramatically more powerful. Despite launch titles consisting of upgraded franchises and sequels, with very little support for any new games, it doesn’t bode well. With Naughty Dog’s recent announcement of a new Uncharted, it seems even the most prestigious of companeis are relying on the popularity of old IP’s. Despite this, they no doubt have something else in the pipeline, whether this is another game in the world of The Last of Us, or a rumoured Crash Bandicoot reboot (please), but my money is on something new entirely.
At the end of the day, the last few generations of consoles have been saturated with AAA titles, and to come up with a new, unique, genius idea would be quite the feat. However, as the AAA title popularity has begun to die down, due to the fact the last few years have been home to little other than sequels, perhaps this time period will allow developers to make best use of the new next-gen hardware; and create mind-blowing IPs beyond our wildest dreams. It will take a few years for developers to truly get to grips with the new technology, but once they do, I’m sure we will begin to see revolutionary gaming experiences. And that’s got to be worth waiting for. Especially with new input controls and hardware on the horizon.
And with Sony and Microsoft embracing the Indie market, as well as Steam Greenlight allowing droves of new developers onto the platform, perhaps we will see a lot in the way of change via downloadable Indie titles. And their influence could easily seep into the mainstream. Journey was a huge hit for Sony, and pretty much defined Sony as an Indie-friendly company; so replicating this success with innovative new titles will be on the cards in the future.
The amount of hype around the beginning of next-gen seems promising, and perhaps casual gamers will begin to see that console gaming is the way to go. There is no doubt that the hardware is up to the task; now all we need are developers to get innovating.