In this editorial, originally printed in Game Developer magazine, editor-in-chief Brandon Sheffield questions whether oft-theorized "graphics plateau" has already occurred, as supported by the continued success of graphically modest systems such as Wii and PlayStation 2.
Developers and journalists alike have talked about the inevitable point past which graphics do not matter, and the focus turns to gameplay. The question I pose to you is -- has that already happened? Were we just not listening?
I was considering this when confronted with a few facts from Japan, firstly. The most popular "modern" consoles there are the DS, the Wii, and the PSP. None of these consoles have the graphics push of the big boys, as we know. Further, Koei recently released Dynasty Warriors 6, "exclusively" for PS3, but due to fan reaction, subsequently ported it to PS2. Atlus is still releasing its largest product, Persona 4, on the PS2.
In the U.S., the DS is doing famously, the Wii has sold like gangbusters, and PSP hardware (though perhaps not official software) is doing quite well. The PS2 still has the largest installed base in the country. Now, does that mean the Xbox 360 and PS3 are doomed? Certainly not. But I propose the possibility that PS2 and Wii-level graphics were and are enough for the average gamer.