Close
Are you sure? Are you sure you want to report this comment? I understand, report it. Cancel

Xbox One, PS4 and the elusive dream of "good enough"

Xbox One, PS4 and the elusive dream of "good enough"

Fri 01 Nov 2013 8:00am GMT / 4:00am EDT / 1:00am PDT
HardwarePublishing

Excitement builds for new hardware, but their greatest competition may come from an unlikely source - the past

PlayStation 4 and Xbox One have yet to hit retail shelves, but over the past few months, lots of people have had a chance to spend significant amount of time with games for both systems. With the hardware locked down and in full production and launch window titles nearing, if not already past, their gold master dates, the new consoles may remain an exciting enigma to consumers but they've already been reasonably well explored by plenty of people. Like many, I've had some hands-on time with both consoles - both at trade shows and in private meetings. It'll probably be some time before one of the new consoles finds itself plugged into my TV, since there's no launch in my territory until 2014 - a fact which I originally found quite annoying, but the more time I spend with the newcomers, the less the delay bothers me.

"Microsoft greeted the launch of the 360 by loading a shotgun and dragging the original Xbox around the back of the woodshed"

Why? It's not that PS4 or Xbox One are bad consoles - far from it. Rather, it's that I've found myself increasingly feeling that I'm not actually done with the previous generation yet. There are plenty of games I haven't played, or haven't completed, and a handful more still on the way - especially for the PS3, a late bloomer which had a rocky start but has blossomed into a genuinely fantastic platform over the years. Meanwhile, the stack of games I need to play on the handheld platforms has grown to genuinely embarrassing levels - I've not touched anything in Vita's increasingly impressive portfolio, while the 3DS' recent releases alone (Pokemon X/Y and Monster Hunter 4) promise tons of entertainment. I'm keenly aware of about half a dozen Wii must-plays that I never-played, and Wii U - a peculiar device bridging the generations rather than a "next-gen" system in the horsepower sense - is looking increasingly appealing as well.

I'm hardly alone in that feeling. Plenty of core gamers are increasingly vocal in their interest in Wii U this Christmas - not, perhaps, enough to drive Nintendo's sales figures just yet (the sluggish demand for the system is still eating into the firm's profits, although the 3DS more than balances the picture) but enough to suggest that there's pent-up demand that will be unleashed when a bit more first-party software turns up. Others are pointing out that the real "winner" of the season in hardware terms is likely to be the PS3, and it's likely that the Xbox 360 won't have a shabby Christmas either (although how Microsoft will behave towards the 360 is hard to gauge; it greeted the launch of the 360 itself by loading a shotgun and dragging the original Xbox around the back of the woodshed, but then again, the original Xbox wasn't an enormously successful device anyway).

This isn't unfamiliar territory, of course. Sony's consoles in particular have enjoyed very impressive long-tail sales over the past two generations - PSone sold remarkably through the early years of PS2, and PS2 itself did fantastically well almost the whole way through PS3's lifespan, with production of the system only ending earlier this year. It's to be expected that the previous generation of hardware should continue to sell even after the launch of a new generation, not least because its enormous software library and low entry cost opens it up to an entirely new audience. Moreover, the platform holders welcome this fact - old game consoles are sold at fantastic margins, helping to fund the next generation and smoothing over any bumps in the profitability of the new systems.

However, there are a few unique factors about the current generation transition that are important to consider. The first is the longevity of the previous generation. The PlayStation 3 will have celebrated its seventh birthday before the PS4 turns up - the Xbox 360 will be a venerable eight years old. These systems are remarkably long in the tooth and might reasonably be expected to decline fairly quickly after the new systems hit the market. One might also reasonably expect that there would be a huge pent-up demand for new hardware to replace such ageing systems. By the end of the PS1 and PS2 eras, both systems were seriously showing their age - some excellent games turned up late in the day (think Metal Gear Solid on the PS1 and Shadow of the Colossus on the PS2, for example) but by and large the gaming audience was chafing at the technical limitations of these systems and keen to upgrade.

"You can trace a clear line from late-stage PS3/360 titles to early PS4/Xbox One titles, and it's a curve that doesn't rise all that sharply"

That motivation exists this time as well - but in spite of just how old the PS3 and Xbox 360 are, few would argue that they've dated quite as badly as the PS1 or even the PS2 had by the point of their replacement with newer hardware. In fact, games like The Last of Us, Assassin's Creed 4 or Beyond: Two Souls continue to seriously wow audiences with their visuals, while many other developers are learning to sidestep the graphics arms race entirely by focusing on beautiful, innovative and eye-catching art styles rather than technical prowess. Even with the PS3 entering its eighth year and the 360 about to embark on its ninth, few people feel like these systems have been exhausted of their potential. Nobody - or at least, nobody apart from a very technically aware minority - feels like these are consoles that have been left behind by gaming, too lacking in power to deliver really fantastic experiences.

Playing games on PS4 and Xbox One actually confirms that feeling, rather than confounding it. Launch titles are rarely amazing examples of the potential of a system - those we remember clearly, like Halo or Super Mario 64, are remembered precisely because launch titles of that quality are so rare. All the same, it's hard to escape the feeling that PS4 and Xbox One games are simply shinier, slightly sharper updates to previous generation games, with better draw distance and more objects on screen. Of course, technically speaking, that's a major upgrade in and of itself. There's no question that these games are doing things which the old hardware couldn't have managed. From the epic battles of Ryse or the sheer detail of Titanfall to the vast numbers of objects being thrown around by Knack - these are genuinely new things and it's undeniable that there is a wow factor to many of the launch titles at certain moments. All the same, you can trace a clear line from late-stage PS3/360 titles to early PS4/XB1 titles, and it's a curve that doesn't rise all that sharply.

The consequence is that having played next-gen games, it's perfectly possible to go back to last-gen titles and enjoy them. That's a bigger deal than it sounds. After a while playing PS2 games, it was pretty tough to play most PS1 games without feeling like they'd really dated badly. The transition from PS2 to PS3 was less dramatic, but nonetheless, my huge pile of to-play PS2 games ended up never being played to completion (I think Persona 4 may be the only exception here) largely because going back to the now very dated PS2 catalogue didn't appeal so much after playing PS3 and 360 games. This time, though, the curve is even shallower. After playing many of the launch titles for the new consoles, I have no problem going back to PS3 and 360 games. They still look and play just great; I'd be happy, in fact, to stick with this level of hardware for another year or two, if I had to.

I don't believe that this is down to a flaw with the new consoles or their approach. Rather, I think it's because we've seriously started to hit a plateau stage in the progression of 3D graphical quality - a stage which was probably inevitable from the moment we started making 3D games. Ever since the first graphics cards appeared for PCs, I recall people asking at regular intervals, "is this good enough? Do we ever need a more powerful system?" - and the answer was always an eye-rolling and resounding "no, it's not good enough". The ideal of photo-realism is always there to be aimed for, after all - until the point where our hardware can genuinely replicate the real world (and indeed all sorts of unreal worlds) to the point where our eyes can't tell the difference, it'll be impossible to say that there's no room for improvement.

"After the initial excitement for next-gen, the process of convincing people that it's worth making the leap may be much harder"

There is, however, a serious diminishing returns curve involved in all of this. The progression of 3D graphics technology continues to be absolutely astounding, but it's undeniable that it's focused on smaller and smaller things as time goes by. That's understandable and necessary - the road to better visuals is paved with small innovations - but it does mean that from the standpoint of the average consumer, the actual difference between hardware generations is being diminished. On the PS3 and 360, and indeed on high-end PCs around the era of Half-Life 2 (systems that are now considered effectively obsolete), we hit a point where the hardware allowed developers to create environments that "felt" right to gamers. Advancing beyond that, you seriously diminish your returns. The most beautiful environments in Crytek's extraordinary game engines running on top-end PCs may, objectively, be enormously more advanced and impressive than those achieved in The Last of Us or other benchmark games on the ageing console hardware, but from the perspective of user experience, it barely matters - both can create believable environments that are of sufficient fidelity to be recognisable and "realistic", and for many if not most consumers, that's "good enough" as long as it's married to a worthwhile game experience.

This is the single biggest challenge the new consoles are going to face - not tablets and smartphones, not the Android-powered microconsoles that are still struggling to explain their raison d'Ítre to the world at large, not the unquestioned resurgence of the PC as a gaming platform. No, the real challenge comes from their older siblings - consoles that are still "good enough" for many, and may well continue being "good enough" for several years to come. If software development jumps en masse to the new platforms, of course, then gamers will eventually have to jump as well - but I suspect that after the initial excitement for next-gen, the process of convincing people that it's worth making the leap may be much harder than the platform holders expect. PS4 and Xbox One both look like great systems, but greatness alone may not be enough to overcome the sheer inertia of the older hardware - the first generation of consoles for which "good enough" really does seem to have been a fair moniker.

34 Comments

Jo„o Namorado
Project Manager

51 16 0.3
Nice article, Rob.

I've been commenting with friends for some time that this new generation might be the console equivalent of Blu-Ray.

While everyone could see the improvement of DVD over VHS, not many people can tell the difference between Blu-Ray and DVD. And especially, they don't care about the difference if that means having to buy new hardware and having to spend more money on the discs.

On the console side, everyone could see the improvement from PS2 to PS3 and from Xbox to Xbox 360. But from PS3 to PS4 or from 360 to the One, it's more a matter of detail, as mentioned in the article. The good thing is: the visual quality of games on the new consoles is bound to improve dramatically over the next few years, making this argument mute. I'm looking forward to that.

However, before the Xbox One and the PS4 were shown to the public I was hoping to see differentiation, not just a power improvement. Some sort of Nintendo approach, that worked perfectly for the Wii. I was hoping for something like VR headsets or some other fresh gaming experience that would make the new consoles definitely "new". Those things may still come though, the Kinect and Move only showed up later in the 360/PS3 life cycles.

Posted:8 months ago

#1

Richard Browne
EVP Gaming and Interactive

90 87 1.0
I think you can just look at the launch line ups to point to how this generation might splutter into existance Nearly everything is launching with a near identical version releasing on current gen before or simultaneously. Both machines have possibly the worst console launch titles ever in that regard - Ryse and Knack are system sellers??? Early adoption will be strong as ever, followed by Wii-U drop off in the New Year. Maybe not quite as drastic but I think Sony and Microsoft face tough challenges as long as their current platforms are pumping out perfectly adequate versions of the same games - which as a Publisher you'd be insane to abandon doing any time soon.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Richard Browne on 1st November 2013 11:31am

Posted:8 months ago

#2

Daniel Hughes
Studying PhD Literary Modernism

436 496 1.1
Good article Rob. Personally, I'm not interested yet. Destiny, Watch Dogs and Titanfall will all be available to me without spending hundreds of pounds upgrading, and I think I'd buy a Wii U before an Xbox One and PS4 because it's already had a year to iron out kinks and see a few excellent exclusives release. I'll make my mind up on Xbox One/PS4 later next year, I think.

Posted:8 months ago

#3

Thomas Dolby
Project Manager / Lead Programmer

328 277 0.8
I definitely feel that there's truth to this message. I currently have more games that I want to play than the amount of minutes I have free in an evening. I'm so engaged in trying to "catch up" with all the titles I want to play that I don't really focus on many new games. I'm certainly trying to buy less new games until I've gotten through the older ones waiting to be installed on my Steam account, it's certainly not a hard thing to do with the price and quality of all the slightly older games out there.

Posted:8 months ago

#4

Sandy Lobban
Founder and Creative Director

310 195 0.6
I wouldnt think of next gen as the next visual revolution. Its not that and wont be that. I would think of it as more of an ipad upgrade, hopefully with a much better OS and user interface experience. For example and Im sure you agree, the non background updates on the PS3 makes me want to throw it out the window. I'm expecting the clunky'ness and load times to be gone and to be presented with a much better marketplace and delivery channel for indie devs, with lower price points. If its not that then it will suffer at the hands of Steam and Steam boxes.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Sandy Lobban on 1st November 2013 2:15pm

Posted:8 months ago

#5

Bruce Everiss
Marketing Consultant

1,692 594 0.4
The problem is the cost/benefit ratio.
Cost is several hundred pounds. What are the benefits? Are they really worth that much money? To tens of millions of people?
For a long time the 360/PS3 will be far better buys because of their huge catalogue of games, whilst the new devices will have very little to play on them. WiiU/Vita syndrome.

Posted:8 months ago

#6

Robin Clarke
Producer

295 678 2.3
"Even with the PS3 entering its eighth year and the 360 about to embark on its ninth, few people feel like these systems have been exhausted of their potential."

I'm not sure about that! The last few years of this console generation have clearly shown diminishing returns. Even the 'swansong' last round of high-profile, high-budget titles have offered only very slightly shinier graphics achieved through lavish production values and dwindling interactivity.

Choppy framerates, murky visuals and multi-minute loading pauses come as a major culture shock to those who've played most cross-platform releases on PC.

All that's happened this time around is that it's practical to port up last-gen games as most developer's tech isn't tightly bound to single proprietary platforms any more. Games natively designed for the specs of the new machines will make the gap much more pronounced.

And no, graphics tech is nowhere near a plateau yet. Rude metrics like numbers of colours, pixels and polygons are not as relevant now, but these are just the basics - analogous to working out photo chemistry and building a camera. GTAV still has about the same level of simulation complexity as GTA:SA underneath the prettier lighting - it's solving these hard problems where the new hardware, with ample RAM and storage and the dreaded Cloud, will show its worth.

Early adopters are being a bit rash, same as ever. But put next year's Battlefield iteration, with 64+ players, persistent worlds and pin-sharp visuals and responsiveness next to the last gen version and "good enough" will go out the window pretty fast.

Posted:8 months ago

#7

Mike Wells
Writer

61 28 0.5
Having been a lifelong (it's life, not mine) Xbox 'enthusiast' (but also an owner of every generation of PlayStation and a few other boxes besides), I was left extremely underwhelmed when I walked away from the XboxOneTour this week. FIFA, Forza and Battlefield could have been playing on the current generation for all I could tell. Kinect stuff that my room isn't big enough for doesn't interest me either. It was hard to see why I should go out and buy a ONE any time soon and I think most consumers, happy playing GTA, Ghosts, and all the other 'both-gens' releases will feel the same. I was looking forward to the coming console refresh; I don't care about games on phones and tablets, nor going back to wrestling with settings and drivers on a PC. But now I've seen what's on offer, this early-adopter's response is: 'meh'.

Posted:8 months ago

#8

Donald Dalley
Freelance writer

49 28 0.6
"One might also reasonably expect that there would be a huge pent-up demand for new hardware to replace such ageing systems."

Depends on the games. For example, there will be no good racing sims on the PS4 for a while (the jury will always be out on FORZA ever being a realistic simulation); whether it will be Project CARS or a Gran Turismo first, players will have to wait. With progressive tesselation, GT6 looks amazing even when compared to the XBO's copycat game! We're good on the older console.

With this in mind, unless there are some must-have features or functions in the PS4 that I am not aware of now, I and many others will wait until next year to buy one.

Posted:8 months ago

#9

Gregory Hommel
writer

91 53 0.6
Yes sir! Bravo! Well said. This new generation was forced upon us. Each company scared the other would release a new iteration, because that is what these consoles are. Well, the Xbox One is technically a new format but I digress. Sony saw how successful Microsoft was at releasing a console that was only slightly improved, they knew Microsoft was going to do it again, so they compromised their technology and released first. Simple but that is how I will always remember this generation.

Posted:8 months ago

#10

Pete Thompson
Owner / Admin

160 78 0.5
Well as a long time gamer (I'm in my 40's) I for one am looking forward to next gen.. I was able to have another hands on today with both Xbox ONE & PS4 consoles at the Gadget Show Live @ Christmas in Earls Court London this morning prior to public admittance and both consoles do offer gamer's a lot more over current gen.. For example Xbox ONE's Forza 5 is stunning, and a huge improvement in looks and play-ability over Forza 4 / Forza Horizon, while the PS4's Killzone ShadowFall also offers vastly better graphics and play-ability over 2011's Killzone 3...

I find it hard to believe that "core" gamers are looking to move to Wii-U over Xbox ONE or PS4 as that's a pretty much a sub-sideways step in tech from current gen for start, let alone next gen, and then there's the lack of Wii-U versions of core games (No Wii-U versions of BF4, GTAV, WRC 2013, F1 2013, Final Exam, XCOM ENemy Unknown, Need For Speed Rivals to name but a few), and it's been well reported (on here as well as other sites) that a lot of publishers are not supporting Wii-U as well as they will be supporting the likes of the PC,X360 PS3, XO, PS4, PSV & the DS range etc.. Surely if core gamer's where disgruntled they'd look to go back to PC..??

I personally only know one person who has a WIi-U, and she has it for Zumba & her kids to use.. whereas I know a hell of a lot of "gamer's" who are moving to XO or PS4 within the next month and also in the run up to Xmas and of course beyond..

If you were to see the amount of people of varying ages from young children to oap's (I kid you not, there was a 65yr old guy playing GT 6 on the PS4 stand and an elderly woman properly getting into Zoo Tycoon and interacting with the monkies (via Kinect) on XO, both very entertaining and enjoyable to watch) at events such as today's / this weekends Gadget Show Live @ Xmas you'd see that gamer's and non gamer's alike are excited for this months new console tech to be released..

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Pete Thompson on 1st November 2013 6:42pm

Posted:8 months ago

#11

Klaus Preisinger
Freelance Writing

1,029 908 0.9
Popular Comment
I cannot help but look at this launch and realize how strange it is.

So much was announced that wasn't games, most of which seems absent now. Many of the games we did get excited about are either delayed, or weren't release games to begin with. On top of that, many articles are about what the new consoles cannot do (e.g. CDs), or shouldn't do (e.g. invade privacy).

At the same time, PR is spinning, record numbers of preorders are announced, and sales prediction for this fiscal year have double digits. Strangely enough, countries are cut from the release schedule because their regional German dialect might not get picked up by Kinect. Which is a statement you could apply to all regional dialects of German, not just the ones spoken in Switzerland. Unaffected is brasileiro, so we better argue prices there. Anything that might resemble "orchestrated outcry campaigning" is done, whether it makes sense or not. Example? First Microsoft announces Dead Rising is too brutal for Germany, next day every German can pre-order it on Amazon.de. Shortly after, Amazon declares that they also got you covered, if you wish to only buy download codes of anything 18 and above.

If you read comments, you get the impression nobody really knows why they are buying the new consoles. People just know that they are going to buy them. Are consoles to geeks now what shoes are to women? 720p articles certainly have a sound to my ear like the warning I gave before that last high heel purchase. But there is no use arguing there, feet will hurt, eyes are going to bleed and "I told you so" is a very dangerous statement threatening peace at home and in the forums.

In total, this is starting to reek a bit of an overhyped bubble. Something that runs the risk of collecting dust for a while.

Posted:8 months ago

#12

Dan Howdle
Head of Content

277 797 2.9
Popular Comment
Why is is that every one of these articles shrugging their shoulders at next-gen underplays just how big an improvement in fidelity even these launch titles offer? When I played Forza 5 and Killzone: Shadowfall my head burst into flames.

Posted:8 months ago

#13

Julian Cram
Project Manager

49 27 0.6
I can't help but think if sites like this one didn't jump on the fauxrage bandwagon over MS's original plans for the Xbone, maybe you'd be singing a different tune.

Posted:8 months ago

#14

Paul Jace
Merchandiser

868 1,272 1.5
As usual another good article Rob. I have struggled with this very question myself as of late. As a core gamer I absolutely can't wait to grab the new systems, an XB1 followed by a PS4 some time later. But realistically theres nothing wrong with this gen if you already have a PS3 or 360(I have both). Almost all of this years biggest releases are still coming to both systems, all the movie and tv apps still work fine and I can't recall ever having a moment when I said the graphics on either looked dated. The reality is that both systems are good enough for now and will continue to be for atleast another 2-3 years.

The next gen systems are still going to sell like crazy during the holidays and thru out the first two quarters of next year. New systems always sell and some people have been waiting forever so sell outs for the XB1 and PS4 from launch thruout December are almost a forgone conclusion. The reason why they'll still be selling out next year is because some people won't be able to get systems this year. Also, the second wave of games hitting during the spring(Titanfall, Watchdogs, Destiny) will make others want to upgrade. Of course if you have a 360 you'll be able to play all three of those games anyway but some people want prettier visuals.

I haven't 100% made up my mind about a launch system yet but rather I get one in November or wait until next year I'm sure I'll still be playing my 360(and using my PS3 as an occasional bluray player) for quite some time. I think the only thing that would have made me permanently retire my 360 is if all the retail games were backwards compatible with XB1 hardware and if I could also transfer all my saved dlc 360 games.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Paul Jace on 1st November 2013 11:44pm

Posted:8 months ago

#15

Christopher Ingram
Editor-at-Large

41 31 0.8
Believe it or not, I actually cancelled my next gen preorders. I caught a good bit of flak from the retailer for doing so (which was quite funny, to be perfectly honest), but I'm perfectly content with my decision here on the brink of launch.

Working a full-time job as well as working in the gaming industry as a second job (and spending time with my family), I've acquired an enormous backlog of incredible games across the current generation that I still have an strong desire to play. Many of these games I already own (e.g. Mass Effect 3, Final Fantasy XIII, Paper Mario: Sticker Star Saga, etc.), but there are so many other games that I've just not had the time to play as of yet.

Thankfully, I've got a fantastic team that is hyped up for these launches and ready for some next gen reviews, allowing me to keep on enjoying this generation as the upcoming one gets past its early growing pains.

Posted:8 months ago

#16

Greg Wilcox
Creator, Destroy All Fanboys!

2,130 1,038 0.5
I added up MY backlog and did it again to double check. Went DOWN from about 3.2 years to 2.7 and that's only the digital stuff. Thank you Steam, Desura, gog.com, Indiegala, Humble Indie everything, Bundle Stars and so forth and so on. I'll get a PS4 at some point and maaaaybe an Xbox One, but I have no idea when I'll get to play stuff outside what I really want to hop onto right away (which isn't much for now)...

Posted:8 months ago

#17

Patrick Frost
QA Project Monitor

387 180 0.5
So would it be fair to say that this generation is publisher/developer led? I'm sure that Sony and MS would be ok with not having to develop a whole new console soon. That's definitely the case for Xbox but I suppose you could argue that Sony needs this change to start to manoeuvre it's bigger strategic picture.

Posted:8 months ago

#18
These same arguments have been roilled out since the PS2 generation. "It's not that big a leap"... "N64 Mario was a leap that we'll never see again" And the "I've still got lots of games to play" gets rolled out the older you get (less time to play games as you get older unless you realised that being employed sucks time away and being a business owner is the only way to actually get more time and still earn money).

For me, new generations bring the promise of new games. Launch window is always hit and miss, so instead I get excited about the future. End of generation always shows how limited that generation is - look at BF4 on the 360 - it totally can't cope. Look at Shadow of the Collossus - it pushed the PS2 far beyond what it was capable of and suffered for it. Bring on the next gen as quickly as possible I say. I even made a "Next Gen Hype" forum on my site so that people could get excited about it.

Posted:8 months ago

#19

Christian Keichel
Journalist

561 773 1.4
These same arguments have been roilled out since the PS2 generation.
When the PS2 launched, it wasn't a runaway success, it took some time for sales to pick up. This didn't happen before Gran Turismo 3 and GTA III were released. Both games served as prime examples of what Sony's new console was capable of and what leap in visuals can be expected by upgrading.
Additionally at the time Sony released the PS2, support for the PS1 more or less dried up, the system saw only one major title in 2000 (FF IX), the rest of the newly published games were mostly based on cartoon licences like Spongebob, nothing the targeted customer of a PS2 was interested in. Meanwhiile time a whole lot of new games was released on the PC, due to the technical limitations of the consoles these games couldn't be ported to the PS1 or N64 anymore.
Tthe Dreamcast got some of these ports, but it wasn't until the PS2 was released, that games like Unreal Tournament or Quake III would be ported to consoles. This is different today, even PC exclusive games like Diablo III are ported over to the consoles and all new games for the upcoming year (and I guess well beyond) will be released on all current platforms.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Christian Keichel on 2nd November 2013 9:49am

Posted:8 months ago

#20

Tosin Balogun
Studying International Business

23 21 0.9
I actually concur that most of the features next generation offers so far atleast is nothing more than consolation of what this generation could have been, there is not that much huge leap and as you said we are reaching a point of diminishing returns with regards to visual fidelity.
I was opportuned to play the Xbox One and i never felt as if the visual fidelity had something of a woow factor as i did in previous generations. I understand its all in the little details but untill a game comes out that really shows how crazy this systems can get, people will not be very impressed, so far we all just seem excited to get the hardware for the promised potential of what they can do

Posted:8 months ago

#21

heirdt von braun
Marketing Specialist

22 8 0.4
I think people should remember games like Resistance Fall of Men and Dead or Alive 3. Those games were launch titles and were not a huge leap from PS2 and Xbox respectively in many terms. Resolution (480p vs 720p) was the biggest change at the dawn of a new era.

Then Gears of War proved we were wrong, and every single AAA title shows superiority over PS2/Xbox games. PS4 is already showing almost every game in 1080p, that's the least we could accept for now, and Battlefield (900p) is the exception, not the rule. Unfortunately most Xbox One games are running at 720p and the only exception I know is Forza 5, the other one might be Dead Rising 3 (not sure about this). That's a little bit preoccupying, and from the marketing perspective because it will be challenging to sell a $500 USD 720p machine, trust me on this, gamers are aware about 720p/1080p differences, this is very basic technical stuff, most of them understand it perfectly. However, it's not the end of the World. I think we need to focus on the facts. Both PS1 and PS2 operated on SD resolutions and showed really big differences, and even PS2 had very poor image quality compared to its competitors but was a very successful product.

It's silly to estimate the potential of these systems with the first games. Let's use science gentlemen: PS3 GPU was 300 GFLOPS (at least theoretically), PS4 is 1.8 TFLOPS, and 1TFLOP is 1,0000 GFLOPS. On PS4 is pretty easy to measure performance due it's using PC hardware entirely, so there's no way it's exaggerating or lying about its potential like in the past. There's almost 10x difference here. Let's not kid ourselves Battlefield is a multiplatform game, DICE must balance their efforts in order to produce the best experience in 5 platforms: PS3, Xbox 360, PC, PS4 and Xbox One. That is much more challenging than it sounds, ports are not microwave meals, and developers are steal dealing with every single major issue on next-gen consoles: driver updates, incomplete and barely operational Operative systems (basic functions), etc. I even expect to see some big software issues on launch, might even experience some system crashes.

Also, not every bit of that power is exclusively dedicated to graphics, there's the possibility of general computing (GPGPU), which in programming terms is almost as challenging as CELL BBE. It's not new, but it's pretty much an uncharted territory. Everything we know is GPU's are a cheap way to get tremendous amount of computational power at rational prices. NASA is already studying the possibility of using GPU power in order to study weather changes, which is a very computational expensive task. Using GPU's is a cheap alternative to very expensive multi-core CPU servers.

Posted:8 months ago

#22

Peter Warman
CEO & Co Founder

16 6 0.4
NIce article. The success of nextgen shoudl be seen in a broader perspective including current gen. A couple weeks ago, we at Newzoo published an insights post about this as well using hard data on th epast: http://www.newzoo.com/insights/current-gen-holds-the-key-in-the-xbox-vs-playstation-battle/

Posted:8 months ago

#23

Benjamin Kratsch
Freelance Journalist

17 5 0.3
I doubt Rob Fahey has played Battlefield 4 yet. It looks absolutely gorgeous on Xbox One and PS4 and like pretty crappy on Current Gen. Same goes with CoD: Ghosts.

Plus: I just played Need for Speed: Rivals on PS4 at a recent press event. Man, that's one hell of a ride. I was blewn away by those sharp textures and HDR lighting, that came really, really close to the pc version. Trust me: Once you have an XOne or PS4 in your hand, you just go back to the old gen for some nostalgia. Or Red Dead Redemption :)

Posted:8 months ago

#24

Benjamin Kratsch
Freelance Journalist

17 5 0.3
Totally agree with Dan. There might be some problems (not 60 frames, not all games 1080p native), but that's nothing that can't be fixed. And I mean Killzone 4 looks like a playable Iron Man movie, what more do you want technically?

Posted:8 months ago

#25

Greg Wilcox
Creator, Destroy All Fanboys!

2,130 1,038 0.5
Why does the title of this piece make me hear Stuart Smalley doing his "I'm good enough" spiel from those old Saturday Night Live shows? I say give it a year and do a postmortem. Between delays, disappointments and which games actually do MORE than just run at higher resolutions, it will be interesting to see what Year One of the coming gen brings that's actually BETTER and not just slightly different or shinier and bumpier...

Posted:8 months ago

#26
I completely agree with this article. The number of people willing to invest in a brand new console just for 1080p, a higher frame rate, and more detail is very, very limited. Take out the people who just don't invest in a high-end, gaming level PC instead and its even more limited.

Its been almost a year since my 360 has been on, and I have a huge backlog on that.. not to mention WiiU or 3DS (I still have several WiiU launch titles I haven't even tried). The only reason WiiU has taken over in my house is Off-TV gaming - and neither the PS4 or XBone support that properly.

Once the brand-fans and gaming hardcore get their purchases - these consoles are going to be hard sells.

The other big issue I haven't seen touched on yet is gameplay innovation - which is what really drives purchasing in each generation. Show me unique gameplay on the PS4 or XBone that can't be done on a 360/PS3.

In some ways, at least MS is trying with the W8/Kinect/TV integration. But this is more extending the capabilities of the box, rather than extending the possible gameplay models possible. And "Kinect" is still poison to the hardcores I know.

Nintendo is struggling for the same reasons: there is very little in gameplay models that is possible on a WiiU, but not a Wii (or 3DS). So they are stuck between spending the big dev $$$ putting out new iterations of the same old gameplay models to boost sales (less risky) - rather than really developing new and innovative WiiU only SW (more risk).

....

If I even get through my backlog, I'm seriously considering trying a SteamBox Living Room solution (the "Apple" model). If I have to pay $1k for a rig, it may be worth it - given the number of games on there, and the average cost ($5 vs $100AU).

Posted:8 months ago

#27

Sasha Yelesin
Student

53 33 0.6
Great article, I completely agree. The excitement of PS4 and Xbone has already worn off on me. There's nothing new or interesting coming out that I can't get on PC or the hundred other consoles I own. And where are the risk-taking games? Today I played Dark Souls and Vanquish, games where you either jet boot into Space Russians or spend hours getting yourself killed. They might be at the opposite ends of the instant-gratification-spectrum but both are perfect examples of risky, niche games that spawned cult followings due to their creativity and tight gameplay.

Maybe in a year or two weird games will pop up and I'll consider a console purchase. Right now, I couldn't care less about Assassin's Creed (which I can get on my PS3), Assassin's Creed with Cellphones (can also get on my PS3 or similar platform), Generic Shooter Franchise, New Shooter Franchise (Titanfall joke. Will still probably get on sale on my PC.), you get the idea. You also just read it in the article above. Better polygons or not, next-gen doesn't matter to me until we can get some innovation in our games.I'm buying a Wii U for Wonderful 101 alone. There's no equivalent yet on next gen consoles that I can't find on existing consoles or PC. So I'm waiting. And I'm find with that.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Sasha Yelesin on 3rd November 2013 11:15pm

Posted:8 months ago

#28

Charles Herold
Wii Games Guide

35 74 2.1
For every console launch I remember, the first games out for the new system looked no better than the last games out for the previous systems. And five years later, the difference between generations is vast. I'm not saying that we haven't reached a plateau; I'm saying we won't really know whether we have for a couple of years. If in 2015 The Last of Us still looks almost as good as the latest PS4 game, then your words are more prophetic.

The point about "good enough" resonates with me, but for me, "good enough" happened some time ago. I could still be happily playing Dreamcast games.

Posted:8 months ago

#29

Robin Clarke
Producer

295 678 2.3
@Dan Howdle

Because there's no frame of reference yet. We got the same complaints at the start of the last console generation.

Posted:8 months ago

#30

Alfonso Sexto
Lead Tester

765 574 0.8
"After the initial excitement for next-gen, the process of convincing people that it's worth making the leap may be much harder"

People buy a console for games, with a percentage focused into the services it provides, but mainly about games. A lot of people bough the PS3 when it launched but it took some time to really hook people in due to a considerable lack of exclusive tittles that took their sweet time to arrive.

@Bruce

If they do things correctly, they can keep both platforms running and making money both sides, like Sony did with the PS2 until 2009.

Posted:8 months ago

#31

Curt Sampson
Sofware Developer

589 345 0.6
I think it's instructive to look at the continuum of PC games, where the hardware has incrementally been getting better over time, to get a sense of where the graphical quality differentiators really lie. For me, it seems to be roughly around 2006. Many games before that I find a bit too clunky to be comfortable; any decently produced game from after that point is fine. Even if the graphics aren't brilliant, they're acceptable enough that the game itself becomes the primary point of comparison.

As examples, Just Cause (despite being released in 2006) and Far Cry fall in to the former category, and Just Cause 2 and Far Cry 2 in to the latter. I still play the latter two from time to time (I'm in the midst of a Far Cry 2 replay right now, in fact), and I don't find them jarring in the way that I find the former two, after having played things such as the new Tomb Raider.

Most PS3 games also fall in to this latter category, meaning that a PS3 is an acceptable gaming platform even today when set along side my much more powerful computer, in a way that the PS2 isn't.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Curt Sampson on 4th November 2013 5:34pm

Posted:8 months ago

#32

Pablo Ortiz
Studying Computer Science: Games

1 0 0.0
Mr. Fahey,

This was a very interesting read. I agree that the current console generation is hardly obsolete, and it does provide a challenge for the PS4 and Xbox One. As you hinted, however, Microsoft and Sony are quite aware of this, and I think it shows that the industry is seeing an established pattern in console launches. There will always be a sector of the consumer base that is ready to shell out cash for the next big thing; the pre-order estimates for the PS4 and Xbox One indicate this. Seven years is quite a long time to go without an upgrade in gaming, let alone technology in general. A good number of gamers and developers have expressed their boredom with the current generation, and I suspect even those that do not share the sentiment as heavily will have no problem justifying a seemingly unnecessary upgrade, particularly with the approach of the holiday season.

Of course, there are also others that will not make moves on the new consoles, and this is as anticipated by game studios as it is by Sony and Microsoft. Developers have realized that launch titles are not only hard to make, but that they often do not take advantage of the full potential of the new hardware. Furthermore, these studios have to understand that waiting to release their next-gen exclusive games will increase sales and momentum. All these factors certainly contributed to the delay of Watch Dogs, which now joins Titanfall and Destiny in a safer launch during the first half of 2014. On the other hand, Battlefield 4 is a game that has everything to gain from the Xbox One and PS4 hardware right from release. It shows that there is more to the consoles than better graphics, because the scale of gameplay is drastically increased by the new systems. Yet EA chose to release Battlefield for the current generation and offer a $10 upgrade later this month. The principle is the same: EA knew that going exclusively next-gen this early on would hold the game back and it accommodated.

None of this is a secret, so while the Xbox 360 and PS3 remain prevalent, do you think it is an actual concern or just part of an all too familiar console launch progression? It seems to me that while both publishers and hardware developers are making money throughout the next-gen turnover they will be happy. And as games push the boundaries of the new system, not only in graphics but in the scale of experiences, there is little doubt in my mind that the Xbox One and PS4 will succeed. An interesting question this poses is, given the landscape, will the lower retail cost of the PS4 have an even greater advantage in the months following launch than on preorders? If consumers are debating a console upgrade, the $399 price point could afford Sony a boost in momentum over Microsoft this holiday season. Regardless of who comes out on top, gamers will continue to look for new content, and I believe the Xbox One and PS4 will be the appealing solution sooner than expected.

Posted:8 months ago

#33
This article makes me laugh, and surprising from a journalist who has seen this pattern unfold time and time again.

How many times have we bemoaned a new generation based on the quality of the launch titles, we all know that a launch lineup is usually comprised of a handful of titles made by developers struggling to get to grips with changing hardware specs, premature SDK's and tight time limits, we know this. We saw this with the games like The Bouncer on PS2, Ridge Racer 7 on PS3, with the very first FIFA and Kameo on the 360, but compare those early titles mid gen games like uncharted 2, and Fallout 3 and you start to see the quality jump.

The law of diminishing returns is not always a bad thing, it's what drives technological innovations and pushes technology into new areas. This generation we'll have G-sych, we'll have instantly playable games, energy efficient quieter machines, we'll have less loading times, better payment models, we'll have games that blur the lines between campaign and online, we'll have truly amazing stories finally being told by indie devs who now have a platform to tell them. Guys... Stop moaning.

With things like low level graphics API's, 4K screens, VR headsets there will be plenty of ways to spend these extra hardware resources when these so called returns start diminishing, but that hasn't happened yet. It's one thing settling for a 3D world which seems convincing enough, but what about the artificial intelligence of the characters that traverse them, what about the animation fidelity, or the constantly repeated lines of dialogue, we only accept what we have because we haven't yet seen the future, and rather than continue to cling onto an ageing generation that has done us all proud no doubt, We should lay it to rest and look forward.

Posted:8 months ago

#34

Login or register to post

Take part in the GamesIndustry community

Register now