Killer apps aren't worth the risk at launch

OMG new consoles! They're here! Like, for real--I just got my Xbox One in the mail. Time to hook it up and start playing some games. Let's see. There's Dead Rising. That looks kind of cool. Forza? Nah, not into driving sims much. Oh, Ryse; that one's totally next-gen, but meh. Where are Microsoft's big guns? Why am I not playing the next Gears of War? Where's the Master Chief when I need him? Where's my killer app, like the next-gen Halo?

Those big guns simply aren't here--as least, not yet. And it looks like Microsoft planned it that way. In an interview with Kotaku, Microsoft revealed why the Xbox One lacks a shiny new Halo game at launch. With developer 343 already working on Halo 4 for the 360, Microsoft felt it was a better move to release yet another Halo title on the current-gen hardware, rather than force a Spartan to hurriedly lead the charge on the next-gen launch.

It seems Microsoft isn't the only one holding back on its biggest franchises at launch. Killzone and Knack weren't the most hard-hitting franchises under Sony's belt. Seriously, PlayStation has Uncharted, God of War, and Infamous, but none of those potential killer apps were planned to release with the PS4 and kick up a next-gen buying frenzy. Hell, I don't think anyone would've minded if God of War: Ascension was scrapped entirely so that we could get a next-gen GOW launch game on PS4. It's like console manufacturers don't have the confidence to put out the big-name games at the forefront of a next-gen console launch. But really, holding off on the more popular titles until later in the console's life is probably the smarter thing to do.

You don't want to put all your eggs into one basket. The console manufacturers definitely don't want to screw up more than one of their cash cows simultaneously--which could've been the case with Halo and the Xbox One. If one failed and dragged down the other, it would end in disaster for Microsoft. That would mean Halo is no longer the shit. Master Chief is all washed up. The Xbox One is a laughing stock. And so on, and so forth. Failure in any measure would be a huge blow to those names and products. And we can't have that.

Instead, the minds behind the Xbox and PlayStation businesses put all of these high profile titles, like Halo 4 and God of War: Ascension, out on last-gen's Xbox 360 and PS3 (respectfully) in order to stay in a comfy, cozy buyer's market. That frees them up to push the inevitable next-gen sequels past the new console's terrible growing pains, sidestepping any launch snafus entirely. This seems to be the case with Halo 4's Xbox 360 release and the upcoming, unnamed Halo title.

There's an uncertainty that goes with any console launch. Hardware is bound to have problems early on, software needs gigabytes upon gigabytes of updating, and gamers need to have time to settle in with their new platform digs. It makes sense that you wouldn't want your beloved super-soldiers and god-slayers tangling with those technical monsters. It's better to let the console mascots roll up to the scene when all the major issues have been ironed out.

We haven't seen a bona fide system seller come in a console launch since Halo: Combat Evolved. Top that off with a higher percentage of console unit failures, Blu-Ray drive players munching on disks, and higher purchase prices (after you consider the expected console price drop down the line), and it looks like being an early adopter this generation is just as bittersweet as the last.

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  • Phantom Cipher - November 28, 2013 4:25 p.m.

    There might be some fools in some other websites complaining that Gran Turismo 6 should have been on the PS4 lunch lineup instead of the PS3.
  • Vonter - November 27, 2013 10:13 a.m.

    Well Mario 64 and Melee were released on the launch window of their respective systems and that sold consoles. PS2 picked steam when GTA 3 got released and before that its main feature was DVD playback. I hope killer apps are announced soon, because as of now I only see groundbreaking FF XV and the Last Guardian mainly because both have had a 7-8 development cycle... Also my hopes for the future is seeing less shooting games (it has become really tiring exercise of rinse and repeat), at least giving more air for other mechanics.
  • jedisamurai - November 26, 2013 12:26 p.m.

    I'm not sure who is dumber collectively, the companies who put out consoles or the people who buy them. Dreamcast launches at 199.99 with amazing games at launch, and is an enormous leap forward in technology. It fails because no one buys it. Wii releases with graphics that look like a Gamecube and a remote that you waggle around to play sports games that look like they are designed for kids raised on teletubbies, and they sell like hotcakes. The PS4 and Xbox One launch with warmed-over rehashes of old genres with no real innovation in any area (they look like PS3 and 360 games to me) and people flock to buy them. We live in mediocre times. Only the Indie Devs can save us!!!!
  • Vonter - November 27, 2013 10:18 a.m.

    - Too new (unknown and unfamiliar), too advanced for its time (online). - New but familiar (TV remote, simple movements), establishing a trend, appealing to more people. - Graphics.................................. No I can't think of anything, maybe just better performance.
  • jedisamurai - November 27, 2013 12:13 p.m.

    I'm getting the feeling that the momentum behind the current "next gen" is more about status symbol and having the latest and greatest gizmo than anything to do with real world usefulness. Just a feeling.
  • jh4911 - November 26, 2013 9:35 a.m.

    I'm kinda disappointed that there wasn't some new series that were top draw at launch. It seems like a good time to put out a new IP and have lots of people buy it. I was pleased however that Microsoft revived an old popular series and did a good job of it, solid idea.
  • JakePPetersen - November 26, 2013 1:28 p.m.

    Watch DOgs looked like it would be that IP, but then it got delayed. That and Titanfall will probably be the push for a lot of people to get into the new generation.
  • rxb - November 26, 2013 7:16 a.m.

    This is kinda true, but I'm sure I also remember reading that launch is a time when 'new heroes' can be made. Early adapters will always buy the console once something half decent is out. Its a good time to try out a new game or try to promote a 2nd tier game to AAA status. Sometimes you have to hold off on the big guns. Would we rather get everything now then have a long drought? Also Magnus I hear people talk about killer 'apps' in relation to all types of technology, not just games, ie in car sat nav for GPS.
  • Ensoul - November 26, 2013 5:01 a.m.

    I thought Killzone was considered one of Sony's killer apps? Forza also seemed like it was one of Microsoft's flagship titles. I'm not necessarily disagreeing, I was just under the impression that those two games were a bigger deal then is being presented here. I'm in no rush for this generation, outside of the usual "new and shiny" appeal.
  • GamesRadarCollanderCooper - November 25, 2013 9:02 p.m.

    Yeah, not launching with any great games turned out pretty well for the Wii U
  • garnsr - November 25, 2013 7:28 p.m.

    People keep saying we should wait for price drops, but how long does that take? It's never less than a year, is it? I keep hearing people talking about boxing up their PS3 and 360 right now, like there's a ton of games to play right now on next gen. But, there's not that much still coming for the old systems, either, to hold us for the year or more it takes for the prices to drop. There are lots of people with new systems, maybe more than the console makers expected, I don't see why they shouldn't want better games to launch with, to keep the sales rolling in the first year.
  • udUbdaWgz - November 26, 2013 1:36 p.m.

    here's how it works: smart gamers like me buy games months after they come out. as well, the games i buy have 100's of hours of content. throw in a lot of common sense and patience and, what do you have? a gamer who has lots of games to buy and play on his xbox 360. result: cheap prices for great games and no foolish decision to buy a new console.
  • Doctalen - November 25, 2013 6:18 p.m.

    I feel like captain obvious deserves to have a picture in this article. Both for Microsoft's/Sony's risk management with their average launch titles and for the consumer's side for not seeing this coming.

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