Posted by Zenogiasu (192 posts) -

This November, Microsoft's newest gaming console will turn 7 years old. Let's put that in perspective, shall we? When the Xbox 360 was released, Kanye West's "Gold Digger" was at the top of the charts. Saw II, Jarhead, and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire were topping the box offices. You were about 7 years younger than you are today. We are still playing that same console. The PlayStation 3 and Wii were released within the next year, and the seventh console generation was in full swing.

Back in 2005-06, one would reasonably expect that, by July 2012, we would have a pretty clear idea of what the next console generation would look like. We would be our old hardware to rest, and developers would be refocusing their efforts towards the coming advance. With the exception of the Wii U, this does not seem to have occurred.

So what does this mean for new IPs trying to penetrate the market share of established genre benchmarks? Certainly, there are several avenues available for indie developers to market their efforts nowadays. But for large studios backed by even larger publishers, any non-sequel represents a substantial risk. This risk is multiplied exponentially at the end of a console generation, in which many gamers have already settled in with their favourite franchises, and are more than satisfied by annual instalments. That's what Ubisoft's chairman and CEO, Yves Guillemot, would argue, at least. He has recently stated that he feels his company has been "penalised" by the sluggish pace of hardware innovation, and asserts that "it's important for the entire industry to have new consoles because it helps creativity. It's a lot less risky for us to create new IPs and new products when we're in the beginning of a new generation." Guillemot would no doubt have to concede that these new IPs are often just shovelware and glorified tech demos, but there are certainly some big exceptions.

But is a longer console generation really stifling innovation? Gearbox's Randy Pitchford doesn't think so, arguing that "We launched the first Brothers in Arms in March 2005 and we sold 3.2 million units. Xbox 360 launched in November 2005 so that's about as end of the lifecycle as you can get. And you know what else launched in November 2005? God of War." In truth, God of War launched in March of 2005, but he still makes a valid argument. For example, Okami, a critical and commercial success, was released just two months before the launch of the PlayStation 3. "You can create IP at any time," Pitchford argues. "You just have to make something that people want."

Ultimately, I would have to agree with Pitchford on this one. I don't believe that Guillemot should be pointing the finger at Sony and Microsoft for harming innovation when they merely provide the platform for it--not the content. Games like Okami prove that new IPs can succeed, even when in the shadow of a big new console launch. They are the exceptions rather than the rules, of course, but it is the job of the publisher to invest in the projects and ideas that they believe in, regardless of the console calendar. A bold and innovative new title does not need to be mutually exclusive with one that can turn a sizeable profit.

Has this generation overstayed its welcome? Maybe. But that's no excuse for publishers and developers to rest on their laurels.

#1 Posted by Zenogiasu (192 posts) -

This November, Microsoft's newest gaming console will turn 7 years old. Let's put that in perspective, shall we? When the Xbox 360 was released, Kanye West's "Gold Digger" was at the top of the charts. Saw II, Jarhead, and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire were topping the box offices. You were about 7 years younger than you are today. We are still playing that same console. The PlayStation 3 and Wii were released within the next year, and the seventh console generation was in full swing.

Back in 2005-06, one would reasonably expect that, by July 2012, we would have a pretty clear idea of what the next console generation would look like. We would be our old hardware to rest, and developers would be refocusing their efforts towards the coming advance. With the exception of the Wii U, this does not seem to have occurred.

So what does this mean for new IPs trying to penetrate the market share of established genre benchmarks? Certainly, there are several avenues available for indie developers to market their efforts nowadays. But for large studios backed by even larger publishers, any non-sequel represents a substantial risk. This risk is multiplied exponentially at the end of a console generation, in which many gamers have already settled in with their favourite franchises, and are more than satisfied by annual instalments. That's what Ubisoft's chairman and CEO, Yves Guillemot, would argue, at least. He has recently stated that he feels his company has been "penalised" by the sluggish pace of hardware innovation, and asserts that "it's important for the entire industry to have new consoles because it helps creativity. It's a lot less risky for us to create new IPs and new products when we're in the beginning of a new generation." Guillemot would no doubt have to concede that these new IPs are often just shovelware and glorified tech demos, but there are certainly some big exceptions.

But is a longer console generation really stifling innovation? Gearbox's Randy Pitchford doesn't think so, arguing that "We launched the first Brothers in Arms in March 2005 and we sold 3.2 million units. Xbox 360 launched in November 2005 so that's about as end of the lifecycle as you can get. And you know what else launched in November 2005? God of War." In truth, God of War launched in March of 2005, but he still makes a valid argument. For example, Okami, a critical and commercial success, was released just two months before the launch of the PlayStation 3. "You can create IP at any time," Pitchford argues. "You just have to make something that people want."

Ultimately, I would have to agree with Pitchford on this one. I don't believe that Guillemot should be pointing the finger at Sony and Microsoft for harming innovation when they merely provide the platform for it--not the content. Games like Okami prove that new IPs can succeed, even when in the shadow of a big new console launch. They are the exceptions rather than the rules, of course, but it is the job of the publisher to invest in the projects and ideas that they believe in, regardless of the console calendar. A bold and innovative new title does not need to be mutually exclusive with one that can turn a sizeable profit.

Has this generation overstayed its welcome? Maybe. But that's no excuse for publishers and developers to rest on their laurels.

#2 Posted by jtman54179 (182 posts) -

As someone who only last year purchased one of this gen's consoles... I can say I don't mind waiting.

I might be representing the minority though....

I'd have to say I agree with Mr. Pitchford. Honestly, I'm surprised it's thought that it's less risky to make new IPs on new consoles. It seems that if a consumer has owned a console for a long time, they'll be more likely to purchase unusual ideas for it, due to be tired of lackluster sequels. Whereas if it's a new console launching, consumers would be more cautious about new and lesser known IPs. And if the new IP fails, wouldn't the console developer suffer from failing console sales as well. Or is it marketing hype of both the console and games that causes the opposite reaction?

Did Yves Guillemot observe these trends in the previous console generation as well or are these observations a result of today's poor economy?

#3 Posted by Jay444111 (2441 posts) -

So many years... and FF13 versus STILL hasn't come out!

#4 Posted by Nonapod (126 posts) -

@Zenogiasu said:

But is a longer console generation really stifling innovation?

I think at some point it can. Better hardware can open up different possibilities. Imagine if we hardware never progressed past the 16 bit SNES era and there was no realtime fully 3D rendering in games. Imagine if tech like HD resolutions, touchscreens, harddrive storage, internet connectivity and so on were never developed. What would video games be like then? The funny thing is I distinctly remember friends of mine arguing with me back in the early 90s about how they couldn't imagine gaming getting any better or how more advanced tech could improve it.

#5 Posted by Morrow (1828 posts) -

My backlog of PS3 games alone is so big I don't mind this gen going on a little longer.

#6 Posted by mtcantor (947 posts) -

This generation needs to end. We are milking these systems for all they are worth, and we are making compromises where we really don't need to.

Moreover, the recent comments from Ubisoft are on the money: new generations spark investment in new IP and new ideas.

#7 Posted by bemusedchunk (656 posts) -

@Zenogiasu said:

That's what Ubisoft's chairman and CEO, Yves Guillemot, would argue, at least. He has recently stated that he feels his company has been "penalised" by the sluggish pace of hardware innovation, and asserts that "it's important for the entire industry to have new consoles because it helps creativity. It's a lot less risky for us to create new IPs and new products when we're in the beginning of a new generation." Guillemot would no doubt have to concede that these new IPs are often just shovelware and glorified tech demos, but there are certainly some big exceptions.

What about PC's?

#8 Edited by Ubersmake (754 posts) -

Really, the risk is that if you create a new IP at the end of a console generation, you might get blown out of the water by another similar IP at the beginning of the next. Even if that other, similar IP shows up in an inferior game, it might catch on by being the new big and shiny thing.

The real advantage for releasing at the tail-end of a hardware generation is that you can take advantage of all the tools that have been built up along the way. The Unreal engine now is leaps and bounds ahead of what it was a few years ago.

@bemusedchunk said:

What about PC's?

I think the next "generational" leap for PCs is dropping 32-bit support. A few games support 64-bit OSes, but these are exceptions rather than the rule, and this is support in addition to running on 32-bit OSes. A lot of things open up when you're able to push larger integers around, and when you can address more memory.

#9 Posted by bemusedchunk (656 posts) -

@Ubersmake: I agree with you there, but would next-gen console's be running some sort of 64bit counterpoint?

My point is that PC's have always been at least a minor step ahead of consoles - but some devs/publishers tend to cater toward consoles and end up producing muddy pc ports instead of taking advantage of the power and innovations of PC's - for example, 64bit.

#10 Posted by Dagbiker (6939 posts) -

Its not the Hardware that's hurting IP's its nostalgia, back then, even in 2005 you only had a fraction of the games available to play at any one time, rather then now. Xbox alone has a new indy game coming out every week, and Steam has games coming out all the time. And they are all good, Most are AAA games.

All these games coming out in 2012 vie for the same amount of money that the games in 2005 where trying to get, except there's more of them. Which means less money to go around, and harder marketing. So company's use tactics like nostalgia to get you to buy a game unrelated to the game that you remember. Or they don't want to take chances because there is less money to win.

#11 Edited by Zenogiasu (192 posts) -

@mtcantor said:

Moreover, the recent comments from Ubisoft are on the money: new generations spark investment in new IP and new ideas.

I would certainly agree that advances in hardware allow developers to try out new ideas and IPs, and that generations that stretch too long are not ideal.

My problem with Guillemot's statements is that he seems to be using ostensibly outdated hardware as an excuse for Ubisoft and other publishers to not back new IPs. This logic is bankrupt; with games like Watch Dogs, Dishonored, Beyond, and the Last of Us making such a big splash at this year's E3, it's clear that there is still plenty of room for exciting new IPs.

#12 Posted by Toxeia (728 posts) -

With how there's still hardly ANY news at all about the next console, I wonder if developers have an idea about what's coming. I really hope that Microsoft and Sony give their devs more than just a year and a half to produce games. It works for this generation, but that's because they can cut corners and re-use assets.

I suppose every generation's first games look pretty awful though. Maybe it's more to do with cutting corners to get a game out same day as consoles than it does with programmers learning the systems.

#13 Edited by Zenogiasu (192 posts) -

@Ubersmake said:

The real advantage for releasing at the tail-end of a hardware generation is that you can take advantage of all the tools that have been built up along the way. The Unreal engine now is leaps and bounds ahead of what it was a few years ago.

This is important as well. Unreal Engine 4 looks absolutely magnificent, and so does Square Enix's Luminous Studio Engine. Those two, on top of the technological powerhouses that are Watch Dogs and Star Wars 1313, make a pretty strong case for the life that's still left in this hardware generation. Third parties are picking up where the first parties have become more complacent.

#14 Posted by triviaman09 (780 posts) -

At some point, the lack of innovation in the hardware is a bit of a crutch, but I think there's some truth in it. I'm no game designer or game developer, but I would bet that looking at a new set of hardware and what it is capable of gives those in the industry a ton of new ideas and new ways to make old ideas more viable. To put it more succinctly, it is a bit lazy to rely on sequels to old IP near the end of a console generation, but new hardware is probably more conducive to creating new IP.