Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Are we complaining too much about this generation of consoles?

Any gamer that surfs the web often, has to be familiar with the intense criticism that the new generation of consoles (PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Wii U) has received. There are many supposed arguments that seem to support the idea that this generation of consoles is not as good as the companies want you to believe. From my point of view and after reading a lot of these comments and rants I can say that we are not been realistic enough into what new consoles are and the things that consoles in the past have showed us. In order to prove it, I am going to take the most heard/read complaints out there and throw some light at them with facts.

Poor guy... His game was one of the most praised games of 2013, yet "Wii U doesn't have good games".

1) The new consoles have no good games.

This is basically the strongest complaint about the current generation, but at the same time is the weirdest one. This is because on the surface it looks like there is a "lack of games" while in reality we have more games since the launch of each new console than we had on previous generations by the same amount of time. First of all we are failing to consider "indie" games as part of the console library. I know many of these games can be found on networks like Steam or Origin, but guess what? Not everybody has a gaming PC and some gaming setups are still not based on the living room where a setup for full gaming is more convenient than an hybrid console-PC one.

Also for all 3 of the current generation consoles, we have seen games from different genres (counting indie and not indie). There's action, horror, puzzle, adventure, first person shooters, platformers, survival horror, action-rpg and even combination of genres into one. If things are like this, then how can people say there are no games when there is clearly stuff to play? If we go back 2 generations to the past, there was no digital game thing and we basically had to make ends meet very few retail games (often one of them was a killer app, while most of the otthers were not that great). So now we have more choices, but it seems that we have become so spoiled that if it isn't a AAA super-hyped cutting edge game apparently it doesn't count. Well, I leave that for you to judge, but talking about spoiled brings us to our next complaint to break.

If you sold your old console and went straight for the new ones, I have news for you...

2) The new consoles are been dragged down by the old ones.

Once again another thing from the past we seem to have forgotten. Throughout almost every generation the passing platform sticks around for a while before the new one sets in (except in the case of consoles that have died too soon like the transition from Sega Saturn to the Dreamcast). On this generation we have 2 consoles whose hearts are till beating and those are the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360. These ones are still receiving love from the game companies for one reason and that reason is that they have a BIGGER established fan-base.

Lets be honest folks. The PS3 and Xbox 360 have an established user base that is still gigantic, while none of the newer consoles has touched the 10 million mark by themselves yet. If you have a game company, you will most likely target the biggest market around and up until now and it isn't the new generation. We all know that the previous generation will eventually get cold and die, but they still have at least one more year on their lifespan and because the Wii U is the only console with a solid backward compatibility feature, the PS3 and Xbox 360 will live on for a little while longer.

Do the math! Now not with bits but frames per second and resolution numbers.

3) The game is not 60fps and 1080p or does not feature a breakthrough on graphics? Well it's not next-gen then!

If this generation has something in common with the one from the early 90's, is the obsession with numbers. Back in the day it used to be all about bits. 8 bits, 16 bits, 64 bits, OH MY GOD 128 bits! Now it's more like the frame rate and resolution of games. It is understandable to ask for the highest resolution possible because nobody ever buys a good HDTV or monitor to see a game that looks like Bubsy 3D on enhance mode, but at the same time asking for the full maximum quality AND frame rate on every game regardless of how the game itself is, looks kind of selfish and unrealistic.

Not all games are the same, and while linear adventures are easier to develop and easier to make them look pretty, sandbox games for example, force developers to use their resources as efficient as possible to create giant worlds in the best way they can. Not also this is very taxing on the developers, but also on the consoles themselves which were not meant to be competing with high end PCs in terms of power (unless you wanted to spend 800+ dollars on a game console (for an example check the price tags for all the Steam box machines). Also the graphical jump on this generation will not be as big as we believed like the jump from SNES and Sega Genesis to the PS ONE, Nintendo 64 and Saturn. It is something a little more subtle which will get better with time, but not as a giant leap as some people expect. Some games may look a little "photo-realistic", but it will not be that much and it will be based mostly on graphical tricks just like Nintendo did with Mario 64 to amaze us back in the day.

Do these games deserve to be called "AA"? 

4) Huh? That is not a AAA game!

This one is caused by the debate on how a AAA game should be. On this generation of consoles, games like Infamous: Second Son and Titanfall, took the heat for not been "AAA enough". Now here is the thing. Both games featured advanced graphics graphics, good gameplay and an enjoyable interaction between player and game. Now that we looked as those characteristics then what else do they need to be considered AAA? I've even read people classifying those games as AA and I just had to laugh. AA? Wow, what's next then, A and a half? Whatever happened with games just been games and not classified by how much money the company spent on them.

This kind of thinking may happen because we got too accustomed to cinematic showcases in games rather than the gameplay itself. It is like we are asking the developers to drop content in favor of exposition. So what if the game doesn't have a thousand cutscenes and cinematic style parts showing off how much the company spent on it? What we should worry about is what happens when we are finally able to use our game pads and move the character around. Of course this doesn't mean that games should be blank and devoid of any type of exposure, but that should NOT be what sets the bar on quality over a videogame.

The elephant in the room that nobody seems to care about...

5) I wont support any new console until I see it flourish!

This one can be pretty much considered a fallacy of thought. It is a vicious spiral that can severely damage any platform (think of the PS VITA and Wii U). Let's see, you won't support the platform because it doesn't have any games (see complaint #1), but the gaming companies will not release their games on the platform until enough people buy it. So if neither of the two parties involved yield, the console suffers as the result.

The case of the PS VITA and Wii U shows this perfectly. When both systems launched, everybody was like "wow, it is a cool machine, but I wont support it until they show the heavy hitters". That alone was a set back to the consoles themselves as they had horrible sale numbers and third party companies were like "huh... How about no?" Right now, the PS VITA is slowly gaining speed, but it is because Japanese companies yielded first, released good games and got good profits. Now these games are been released on other countries and we will get to enjoy them, but not because of ourselves, so thank the Japanese people for that. As for the Wii U, they are trying to bring interest to their console with the games they are and will be announcing before and during this year E3 event, but third party companies are still not convinced that the console will make a comeback. If regardless of all their effort the console fails, it will be a shame because it is a good machine and there ARE games for it, you just have to look, just like with the Wii.

Hype and more hype, but if the companies deliver, our wallets will cry...

To wrap things up:

At the end of this argument we need to get a few things into our heads:

  • New consoles start with limited libraries that pick up as time passes and the console defines its place in the market. 
  • Most previous consoles will not magically die off (because of the lack of backward compatibility) so they will still get support and games for them that will not necessarily be released on the newer ones.
  • Superb frame rate and resolution is something awesome to have, but it does not define the full quality of a game.
  • AAA games are more than cinematic showcases so give those new games a chance.
  • If you don't support a platform on it's infancy, you are creating a cycle that may damage the platform which could mean that you will never see the games you want on it, because the game companies see no profit on it.
  • We need to learn to look for games like we used to in the past, with an open and unbiased mind. Doing that will makes us find good games that we would probably ignore or miss if we didn't searched enough.
So at the end of the road, this new generation is really next-gen, but it needs time to fully develop and we need to stop ranting and have some faith. E3 is coming soon and things look bright for all of the 3 competing platforms so sit tight, enjoy the ride...Just play and have fun.

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