How Long Can Two Generations Co-Exist?

Posted: December 13, 2013 in Current Gaming
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Coexist

For better or worse, the next generation of consoles is upon us. Still, a funny thing has happened, the older consoles, the Xbox 360 and PS3, have refused to die their nice quiet death and wander off to the console graveyard to let their younger, hipper offspring take their place in the spotlight. As a matter of fact, it appears that, at least for a while, developers are content to either manufacture their games for both generations or even stick to the 360, PS3, and WiiU (no, I’m not calling the WiiU last gen, just not ignoring the fact that it’s more likely to receive games of the same quality as the 360 and PS3 due to it’s capabilities). While this is obviously still very early, there are still quite a few well-known games announced for the last generation of consoles into 2014. I believe this is actually quite understandable, and I can see it continuing for a couple of years at the very least for a few reasons.

Cost of Development
The cost of developing games has increased massively from what it cost just a couple of generations ago. If developers are going to sink a sizable bit of money into a game, they’re going to want to make it as widely available as possible. Right now, there are just under 10 million current generation consoles out there, a touch over 4 million of which are PS4’s and Xbox One’s. Which is more appealing to a developer that has a game that may not be a guaranteed hit (apparently also known as a sequel): releasing to that number of consoles, or including the 80+ million consoles from the last generation as well? This is not a hard question to answer.

A metaphor

A metaphor

Familiarity
As consoles have gotten more advanced, it has taken longer for developers to fully harness what they are capable of and make games that push them to their absolute limits. I think that we were really just getting to that point with the Xbox 360 and PS3. At least one former developer agrees with this:

“The 360 and PS3 are far from tapped out in terms of what a developer could do with them, but the whole world’s gonna move over towards next-gen and high-end PCs and all these other things. Part of me still frets a little bit about that, where just as you fully understand a previous generation, you have to put it away to kind of surf forward on the tidal wave of technology that’s always moving. That’s something that we’ve struggled with in every generation.” – John Carmack, formerly of id Software

If there’s still life to be squeezed out of these machines, technologically speaking, then why would developers not continue to do so? These are the machines they’ve been working on for seven or eight years now. They know how to approach the architecture of these machines and how to design for them efficiently and quickly, relatively speaking. New machines represent a new challenge, which means learning the ins and outs all over again. Obviously, they will work to know the newer consoles better, but going back to my first point, why not downscale a game a bit on a piece of hardware you’re familiar with and squeeze a bit more revenue out of your game.

The Difference isn’t that Great
I may catch some grief for this one, but as of right now, the graphical leap from the seventh generation to the eighth simply isn’t that striking. I do realize that these new machines are more powerful, obviously, but this generation hasn’t seen the visual leap that was seen in previous generations. Frankly, this doesn’t surprise me because visuals on the seventh generation machines were pretty great. How far can you truly push graphics? At some point, they are enough, and I think we’ve hit that point. I feel this is why there are so many media elements or controller alterations going on with newer consoles. There has to be a reason to upgrade. Once, the leap in power and graphics was enough, but that’s not the case anymore.

This is so last gen. Looks like an NES game.

This is so last gen. Looks like an NES game.

Current Consoles are still Popular
Anyone remember the PS2? It was this little system that became the best-selling console of all time. As of November, 2006, it became obsolete with the launch of the PS3. Yes, despite being obsolete, it continued to sell well and was only officially discontinued in the first week of 2013. Yes, that would be this year, the same year the PS4 launched. Also, new games continued to be available up through 2011. Granted, it wasn’t many games, but they were still there.

Now, to state the obvious, the Xbox 360, PS3, and WiiU aren’t the PS2, but they do account for nearly 90 million consoles sold. That is a major install base and there is no guarantee that those owners are going to upgrade in the next year or two. Both the Xbox 360 and PS3 have big name games announced for next year. Games that could drive more people to purchase those consoles. If either the Xbox One or PS4 were backwards compatible, I could see the argument for upgrading, but as they aren’t, some consumers are going to choose the cheaper, older console with the larger game library versus the newer, more expensive console with the relatively small library. Speaking personally, I’d absolutely purchase a PS3 over a PS4 at this point in time. I have to believe there are other gamers out there that feel the same about the current consoles.

The major caveat here is that it is still very early, so this is the one point I’m really making major assumptions about. My opinion is that the older consoles will still continue to sell well alongside their newer brethren, but I have no facts to back up that assertion. I believe I’m right, but most people with opinions do, so this is one that we’ll simply have to wait and see on.

Awwww, thank you!

Awwww, thank you!

Yeah, this is all my opinion and I could be drastically misreading the market, but my gut tells me that the PS4 and Xbox One are going to level off in sales in the new year and won’t match what the Xbox 360, PS3, and Wii were able to do at their launch. There seems to be a certain excitement lacking that I felt when the seventh generation launched. I don’t know why that is, but I do believe it exists, and I believe it will show itself in sales as the early adopters fall away and general consumers begin to make decisions with their dollars.

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