By YukoAsho 30 Comments
What I'm about to say here might be a tad bit controversial, but I'm at the point where I don't give a damn, so whatevs.
Heavy Rain developer David Cage today said that he doesn't see a need for a next-gen console until 2017, citing Quantic Dream having not run into any PS3 tech limitations. While he also harped on about violence and shooters and RPGs, that's more a matter of taste and what sells. This blog's going to be focused on tech, and how the pursuit of graphics may have reached its limit for most of the industry.
Now, many on gaming forums, and indeed many in the jaded gaming media, have been clamoring for new consoles, despite the fact that some truly amazing games have come out in the latter years of this cycle, not because there's anything that can't be done on these consoles compared to the latest and greatest PCs, but because they're not as pretty. They don't have super-maxed-out resolutions and trillions of polygons and particle effects, yadda yadda yadda.
What people don't seem to realize is that we've run into a very real limitation already this generation.
It's no secret that game development has ballooned this generation compared to previous generations. For many "AAA" titles, a million units sold is no longer a breakout hit, but rather the baseline, minimum expectation for a game to be considered profitable. Only the biggest companies are really able to get the most out of even the current consoles, simply because of how bloody expensive it is to make games for them. In these years, we've seen the games industry become more reliant on sequels than even the creatively bankrupt film industry, while companies desperately search for ways to nickel-and-dime customers, trying to get just a bit more return on their absurdly high investment.
What happens when the next systems come out? When the gaming media knocks points off for anything that isn't 1080p, 60FPS with the largest, most detailed textures possible? What happens then? Well, for the biggest companies, the answer is most likely to forsake new IPs and ideas altogether, or to banish them to the iOS/downloadable ghetto. When budgets start doubling or tripling, games start costing $70 or more, with even more content held back to be charged for later, or even holding back vital single-player content. When these become the norm, how many people will simply walk away?
And what of mid-tier companies like Atlus, Capcom and the like? Most likely, their games probably won't change much at all. They won't have the money of an EA or Activision to churn out the latest and greatest graphics tech. What happens to them? Are their games even viable in the mainstream marketplace? Or does the hunger for "bigger, badder, more" consume them, drive them to the downloadable underground with the indies? I don't know about you, but I don't like the idea of some of the most respected companies in this industry being damned to invisibility for not having the money to push a platform to its limits.
I'm not saying that we should never have new hardware. Obviously at some point it's going to become needed. However, I think for the industry not to suffer an eventual second crash, everyone involved - media, developers, publishers and fans - are going to have to ask how the next gen's development can be made more affordable rather than less, or barring that, what do people want to sacrifice in the name of higher definition graphics.