So here we are again, another "next gen". I'll apologise right now if I don't seem very excited at the prospect of another decade of pointless bickering between various factions over which is the most technologically advanced plastic box, or whose faceless company they've pledged their alleigance to is the least out of touch, monopolative and money hungry.
The thing is I guess, is that I can still remember when the videogames industry was about just that, "videogames" and not all about trying to appeal to the masses, creating cookie-cutter content that's guaranteed to sell well but further stagnates the industry, incorporating social-media applications, providing TV and other popular media services, all for the sake of having an "all in one multimedia entertainment device". So while Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo have each now presented to us all their brand new "next gen consoles" the PS4, Xbox One and Wii U respectively, the devices with which we will be experiencing a brand new generation of "gaming" amongst other things I'm sure. I'm left asking the question. What's so next gen about them? Or better yet. Other than the fact I won't be able experience the next generation of watered down, casualised, made for the masses videogame entertainment, why exactly should I purchase a next gen console?
This isn't to say that I don't like videogames anymore, on the contrary, it's precisely because I like videogames so much that I'm a little disappointed with what "next gen" is offering this time around.
Maybe I should back up a little and explain exactly where I'm coming from. You see last gen saw some incredible games, there's no denying that, but each console suffered, they suffered either due to poor design resulting in a higher than acceptable failure rate, complex architecture which resulted in shoddy ports, a blatant lack of creativity and the rise cookie-cutter game design due to needlessly bloated budgets, yearly sequelisation which offered little variation and improvements over the originals, a lack of 3rd party support due to inferior architecture, shodilly implemented motion sensor gaming, and the further disconnect between the player and the game by way of hand holding and/or movie-esque cinematic gameplay. So what concerns me here is, will these issues rise up again in the 8th generation? Even though each company has aknoweldged certain issues they had last gen and rectified one or two of them for the new generation, the fact is that there is nothing to say that this new generation won't be plagued by more of the same that ailed the previous. For example, instead of acknowledging how they intend to get gaming out of it's current rut, it almost seems as if they would all rather ignore the fact that their even is a problem, and instead are carrying on as they have been into next gen.
These new features such as access to social-media websites, TV and content sharing, aren't going to make gaming any better that's for sure, and if you ask me it almost seems as if these companies are very well aware of this, and have brought about these new features purely in order to take our attention away from those issues that really do need our attention. The cost of game development for this new generation is only going to increase, with development budgets already being as blotted as they are, and with publishers being more interested in style over substance and the spectacle over palatability, things are only going to get worse before the get better. Let me be frank, many publishers and developers haven't realised yet, that constantly trying to create a cutting edge game by throwing tons of money at it is the wrong way to go about game design, at least in the sense where games function relatively bug free, they may look great but pretty much everything does these days, I'd be happy to see a game with inferior graphics if it functioned properly from day one and felt like a full game. But no, apparently these companies feel that the next obvious step forward, instead of creating content that functions properly, is to complicate matters further by implementing such features as sharing content, accessing your TV and social-media aps, along with the rest I mentioned above.
Now don't get me wrong, I'm not against these additional features, Im just not convinced that gaming is ready for them. The PS4 share button, Kinect 2, watching TV and accessing social-media sites through my console. None of them interest me personally because none of them are what I buy a console for, now I don't intend to speak for everyone but who here was asking for such features to begin with? Because none of them are anything that I feel gamers have been asking for, they might be nice little features, and heck nobody dislikes convenient aps, but what about the games? What improvements are being made to gaming that aren't just a continuation of the narrow minded, everything for everyone, design by committee mentality that plagued all of last gen?
Asking myself this question it eventually occurred to me just why the actual "games" side of the videogames industry, doesn't appear to be undergoing any new, generation defining changes. You see videogame development as it stands now is extremely expensive, or better yet, insanely expensive, but also extremely lucrative, so when we consider the fact that videogames have been around for well over 25 years and still suffer from very similar issues faced from around 10 years ago, it leads one to wonder whether or not that's all just a coincidence. The reason I feel that the approach to videogames hasn't changed much going into this new generation is because it's still very profitable in it's current form, now Microsoft did try to implement new policies in order to increase profitability going into this new and inevitably more costly next gen, but had their new policies shot down due to how damaging they would have been if they were to have become the industry norm. While both Sony and Nintendo appear to be carrying on the "status quo" so to speak, obviously they have implemented a few positive changes here and there, but nothing that I believe will greatly contribute to the betterment of gaming.
However this is not to say that there are no positive reasons to buy a next gen console, like I mentioned above the PS4, Xbox One and Wii U are going to be taking on board many well established franchises and brand new IP's, so with popular games and franchises like Assassins creed, Infamous, Metal Gear Solid, The Legend of Zelda, Mario, and interesting new IP's like Watch_Dog, Titan Fall and Deep Down, each console has something going for it in terms of videogame content. The thing that concerns me though is whether or not these new games won't just be prettier looking but hollow versions of games we've played before.
Few developers took chances last gen and it showed, never in a generation before have I seen so much wasted opportunity, we had some great games I'll give you that, but far too many companies were afraid to try something new due to just how costly game development has become, instead choosing to milk the one franchise that had offered them success for all that it's worth, I've got nothing against sequalisation, but last gen more than any other, sequels became more about creating a game that sells rather than creating a game worth playing.
So I ask to you Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo, and any other Triple-A publishers and developers who are reliant on such business models and practices. What will you be doing in this new generation that will address the needlessly bloated budgets that are apparently required in order to develop Triple A titles? the ever increasing cost of videogames brought on due to the insane cost of development, the continued misuse of DLC due to greedy money hungry publishers, or the industry stagnation that's occurred due to cookie-cutter game design and mass-market appeal? Are these issues really something that can be allowed to continue whilst we're all distracted with social-media aps, TV and sharing content? or are we to assume that all these issues are just going to disappear in a new generation that seems tailor made to depend on them?
Before I rap up I just want to say one last thing, to all those who are announcing why they think a particular console has won next gen already, let me just remind you all that companies change, their policies change, the content they provide changes. Basically, it's far too early in the game (pardon the pun) for anyone to decide who'll be "wearing the crown" so to speak, this coming gen. As always you're far better off getting the next gen console that you feel you will get the most enjoyment from rather than relying on others to make decisions for you.
Thanks for reading my blog and as always if you want to add anything or disagree with any of the points I've made, please feel free to leave a comment.