The nature of the new consoles and backwards compatibility has destroyed the "need" for filler/shovelware at launch

It's new console day today (and Thursday) for those lucky enough to snag one, and that means some discussion about launch libraries. Leaving aside comparisons between the two (for the record I think PS5 wins easily, even though I did not manage to get one) one thing that's interesting about them is how little filler/shovelware there seems to be.

Launch exclusive games generally fall into one, or more, of three, or four, depending on how you look at it, categories:

System sellers: Great games meant to make the system incredibly desirable from day one. Your Halos, your Soul Caliburs, your Super Mario Worlds.

Tech demos: Games meant to show off the power or features of the new system. Your Resoguns, your Astro Bot Playrooms, your Ryse: Son of Romes.

Filler/Shovelware: Basically everything else; from the pretty good (Dead Rising 3) to some of the worst games ever made (Fighter Within was also a tech demo, but was very much in the shovelware category too.)

It used to be that basically every game on launch day was a tech demo. The jump between NES and SNES, or PS2 and PS3, was so massive that any game that even made an attempt to use the new hardware's features would look much more technically impressive than games on prior hardware. This stopped being true in the move from 7th to 8th generation, where the upgrades were more subtle than in prior gens, and is even less true in the move from 8th gen to 9th gen, where a lot of the benefits seem to be in frame rates and resolution rather than poly count or fancy new effects (though ray tracing is a thing.)

In addition, because most systems did not feature backwards compatibility, there was a lot of room for library "filler" so people would have things to play on their new systems after they finished with the few big guns and messing around with the tech demos. Not all the "filler" games were bad. Condemned: Criminal Origins was definitely a "filler" title for the Xbox 360, but is very well regarded to this day. But a lot of these games were short or kind of janky and clearly just existed to fill out that library a little and take advantage of the new system hype. And plenty of them were actual shovelware, and flat out stank. Launch software is famous for its low quality.

This year there seem to be a few of those games (like Bright Memories and the Falconeer) but none of them have much budget behind them and aren't getting much attention. And this makes sense, because these machines are launching with massive libraries full of stuff to play. Backwards compatibility means that there are literally thousands of games available on both consoles from day one, and many of them will run better on the new hardware and already look and play great. There's no need for Killzone: Shadow Fall on a system that has Doom Eternal, Titanfall 2, and Overwatch. There's no room for something like Knack (which was also a tech demo) on a system that has...well...Knack!

Of course these systems are launching with a bunch of cross-gen stuff, as all systems since the Xbox 360 era have, but Assassin's Creed Valhalla isn't really a launch game per se, it's just a game that was going to come out anyway that is launching at the same time. And you see that with the number of these games that launched before the systems on other platforms, like Watch Dogs: Legion and Dirt 5.

We're just not getting anything along the lines of Amped 3 this time. A game that clearly existed to fill a niche on a new box. All those niches are coming pre-filled thanks to backwards compatibility.

Is this a good thing or a bad thing? I'm certainly not sad that there isn't going to be a LocoCycle or Crimson Dragon for the Xbox Series X. Those games just aren't necessary and are often a big waste of money. On the other hand these "filler" titles could sometimes be experimental in a fun way. The Xbox One Killer Instinct is a really good game that also showed an interesting model for fighting games with a very small roster that built over time. Amped 3 is nuts in a good way. Smuggler's Run and Motorstorm were solid racers that led to even better games down the line (not a direct sequel for Smuggler's Run, but its influence on the studio.)

The lines between generations have never been blurrier. Xbox Series X is launching with zero exclusives, and PS5 is only launching with a few. Every great game from the prior generation will be playable on the new one, fresh out of the box, often with enhancements. It's a weird time. And part of that weirdness is the lack of the traditional filler launch game. So let's pour one out for Summoner, Fantavision, Fuzion Frenzy, and Bloodwake. We'll probably never see your like again. For better or worse.

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13 Comments

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MechaShadow84

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Edited By MechaShadow84

Well said. I miss the days when console manufacturers actually seemed to care about their launch libraries. Sony does to an extent with PS5, but no argument could be made for Microsoft. I can only imagine how poorly the SNES or Genesis launches would have been if all they had were slightly upgraded versions of NES and Master System games... To this day, I still hold the SEGA Dreamcast launch as the high watermark for console launches. In my opinion, no other launch since then has come close.

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bigsocrates

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@mechashadow84: This isn't exactly what I mean and I also don't think it's really fair. For one thing the Genesis Launch wasn't actually that great, and the SNES launch was only great because Super Mario World is one of the best games ever made.

For another thing, the Genesis at least relied almost entirely on arcade ports, so it didn't even have a lot of new games. Ghouls 'n Ghosts, Thunder Force II, and Altered Beast are probably its best games, and they're all ports.

Finally, those systems both launched in Japan well before the US so they had time to build up their libraries. The Japanese launches had almost no software. The SNES launch was just Super Mario World and F-Zero! Both fantastic games, no doubt, but it's hard to argue there was a lot of filler there! It was just one system seller and one tech demo.

I actually don't think these libraries are objectively terrible. There are a lot of games, and some of them are quite good. They just don't include the types of games that used to launch with systems of the past, and I will admit to having some nostalgia for weird-o launch filler games, even if most of them were bad.

As for the Dreamcast launch...if you're talking about the U.S. launch then I agree it was spectacular. Sonic Adventure, Power Stone, NFL 2K, and of course Soul Calibur. It launched with four incredible bangers and had a lot of good filler like Blue Stinger, Tokyo Xtreme Racer, Hydro Thunder and NFL Blitz 2000. You could buy 10 games along with that system and not get a single stinker if you chose right.

The Japanese launch, on the other hand, was pretty mediocre. Godzilla Generations, July, Pen Pen Tricelon and Virtua Fighter 3tb. Pen Pen and VF 3 tb are...fine. Not bad games. But Godzilla Generations and July are considered absolute dreck. So arguably the Dreamcast had either one of the best or one of the worst launches of all time depending on the territory!

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Deathstriker

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This is a pretty lame launch (both systems). There's really no reason to get either this year unless someone has a 4K TV without a One X or PS4 Pro. Replaying Control, Witcher 3, or whatever else with faster loading and more frames sounds pretty lame. This launch skipped filler games, but also skipped system sellers and tech demos too.

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sodapop7

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This is an interesting point. I’m still a little surprised there aren’t some more swings at it. People who buy the consoles now will be looking for stuff to play that’s New and Shiny right? I’d guess we’d have a few more without the pandemic but it’s still pretty sparse regardless.

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Arjailer

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Edited By Arjailer

I'm blaming Covid for the lack of games, not the console manufacturers.

And I agree that in a normal year, the criticisms of lack of games etc would be totally valid - but I'm finding that in this shitty year I'm willing (and even excited) to take the new consoles as a welcome bright spot.

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Shindig

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Actually, the nature of these consoles mean the shovelware can still carry on being pumped out for previous platforms, knowing full well they'll work on the new boxes.

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dijidiji

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I feel like we still might see some of the usual tech demo/shovelware stuff next year and that it's just delayed due to pandemic.

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AtheistPreacher

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The fact that not only backwards compatibility for last-gen games, but also improved performance for those games is a thing, is why for the first time ever, I saw no good reason to wait to go next-gen.

I had never before bought a system near launch. I generally waited until there was a critical mass of software that I actually wanted to play, and by then consoles were also easily available.

This time, there's only the one PS5 launch exclusive I care about (the Demon's Souls remake), but I'm actually even more excited about quality of life changes to my existing games.

E.g., I have a large library, but the three games I'm playing most at the moment are Genshin Impact, Nioh 2, and Overwatch. Genshin Impact has gotten a patch to take advantage of the PS5's power, and not only massively increases frame rate and general performance, but cuts down on some really long loads. Fast traveling typically takes about 30 seconds on PS4... I've seen videos that show the PS5 doing it in 10 seconds. That really adds up over time. Nioh 2 is getting a PS5 version in early February that owners of the game on PS4 can upgrade into for free. Overwatch seems like it maybe hasn't changed any, but hey, two out of three ain't bad.

So, if there's already one console exclusive I care about, and a lot of my other existing games are going to run significantly better... why exactly would I wait? From a cost perspective, it's going to be a goodly while before we see any kind of price drop. And if it's still going to be $500 in a year, why exactly wouldn't I just buy one now and start reaping the benefits?

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Asylumrunner

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This drum has been beat a lot on the Bombcast as well as various other discussions regarding this launch, but I'll beat it nevertheless:

All console launches are lame.

When we look back to the launch of the PS4 and the Xbox One, it might have been an even more tepid batch of launch titles than this one. You have a cross-generation Assassin's Creed and Call of Duty game, and at least they had a Battlefield (albeit one that was astonishingly busted at launch), sports games, and then piles upon piles of forgettable trash. Anyone still care about Ryse: Son of Rome in 2020? Zoo Tycoon? Killzone: Shadow Fall? Knack? For me personally, those consoles took over a year to build a library to make either of them worth owning, 'til early 2015 when we got Bloodborne and The Witcher 3, and I could go back and play Shadow of Mordor and inFamous (both of which have also fallen into general obscurity).

Nintendo even suffers from this. Ignoring the obvious punching bag, the 3DS launch was so bad that Nintendo apologized and gave early adopters a bunch of free games. The Switch launched with four games, and Nintendo got lucky as shit that one of those four games tricked a bunch of people into thinking it's good.

The 360 launched with bad games (hell yeah brother let me grab my copy of Peter Jackson's King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie). The PS3 library didn't pick up steam for literal years.

Sometimes consoles launch with one good game and then nothing (the original Xbox, which, let's be frank, had exactly 2 noteworthy exclusives, both of which star Master Chief), and some launch with nothing. But generally, and especially within the last 3 generations, console launches are historically pretty underwhelming. Like OP, I'm just happy that both manufacturers have made it pretty easy to keep chugging along on all of the games from my backlog I haven't gotten around to yet.

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bigsocrates

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@asylumrunner: First of all...how dare you? HOW DARE YOU? Ryse: Son of Rome was a very serviceable linear action game that looked very nice. An easy 7/10! It was definitely mostly okay!

Most console launches are pretty mediocre. There are for sure some exceptions (Dreamcast, Gamecube, arguably Wii all in North America) but most are pretty spotty. PS5 is arguably pretty good this time around, though I don't have one so can't say for sure.

Mostly, however I just want to say that you're totally wrong about the OG Xbox. Putting aside the Bioware games that also launched on PC (KOTOR, KOTOR II, and Jade Empire) because that's kind of a fair argument, you still have stuff like Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge, Panzer Dragoon Orta, Jet Set Radio Future, Project Gotham Racing, Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay, Fable, the Otogi games, Mechassault etc...

Did it have as many incredible exclusives as the PS2 or even the Gamecube? No. Of course not. Especially if you had a decent PC. It was much more of a "best multiplat version" console. But it had a pretty good library of exclusive games too. It wasn't all Blinx the Timesweeper, Azurik: Rise of Perathia, and Drake of the 99 Dragons. It was also Deathrow and Dead or Alive 3 and frickin' Metal Wolf Chaos.

Plus Tao Feng: Fist of the Lotus. Do you even Tao Feng, bro?

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colourful_hippie

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The Series X seems like the closest console analogy to what is essentially a PC upgrade. Your system runs faster and your game library benefits from the added horsepower but that's about it. I get the disappointment from some people looking for system sellers, not replaying old games with better performance. I'm at least happy to see these new consoles starting from a solid foundation of capable hardware unlike the last generation.

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OurSin_360

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I feel like the consoles needed another year in the oven, especially Xbox. There hardware is fine, but they have no software and their marketing and branding was awful. I still want to know how many kids are getting a one X this christmas lol.

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Gundato

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Mentioned this a few times but... yeah. If you are changing ecosystems (particularly Sony->MS) this is an insanely stacked launch.

If you aren't or aren't super hot on the platform exclusives: it is as weak, if not weaker, than any modern console launch. And just because "the others sucked" doesn't mean" this one is good".

I was considering and sort of attempting to get a PS5 since launch but... I think it was probably the Nioh announcement that really killed it for me. There are definitely some gaps that can sell me on a console but that also points out that a lot of these games are going to get remasters even if they don't actually need them. And in those cases, why would I play them now rather than next year?