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Next-gen is about potential, not instant amazement

So, next-gen is now mostly spread across the western world. Last night saw the launch of PS4 in the UK, and thousands queued at midnight to get their hands on Sony’s latest piece of hardware. Early signs suggest that sales records have been broken all across the globe, with both Xbox One and PS4 smashing targets and expectations. Yet much of the media coverage of next-gen, combined with a good percentage of user comments, has had a whiff of negativity. It’s like many feel let down.

I’ve been guilty of it myself, berating both Microsoft and Sony for their digital game pricing. It’s one small part of next-gen’s overall offering; as is TV functionality, voice recognition, online servers--all things that have been nit-picked in recent weeks. I think the problem is that Xbox One and PS4 haven’t been able to provide one feature or game that represents a genuine step up from Xbox 360 or PS3. We’ve all been desperately looking for that one killer feature to proudly proclaim as ‘the next big thing’, and when it was nowhere to be seen, many have chosen to accept that as a sign that this next-gen lacks razzle-dazzle; that X factor which has been present at most previous generation changes.

However, to expect such a huge leap forward is unfair. While the innards of the new machines are indeed more powerful, the true potential of next-gen lies in the way it will evolve to suit the needs of its players. Right now we’ve got the raw clay from which Sony and Microsoft will shape the future of entertainment for the next 5-7 years. And yeah, the clay is pretty ugly at the moment. Just looks like regular old clay, albeit shinier. Cross-gen games look current-gen at worst, or ‘as good as high-end PC’ at best.

Cast your mind back to the launch of Xbox 360 back in 2005. Gaming was hugely, hugely different back then. A mere 8 years ago we didn’t have (deep breath)… true HD gaming, Achievements/Trophies, digital games or stand-alone DLC, TV streaming services, motion control, remote play, second-screen support, party chat, cloud storage, social media integration, or even a button that lets you access your dashboard mid-game. Over the course of the current generation, the way we use consoles has changed dramatically.

Not bad for a generation that started in much the same way as this one. None of the games looked particularly great--even when PS3 appeared nearly 2 years after Xbox 360, the launch line-up was mediocre at best. Improvements to Xbox Live were minimal, and there were few wider uses for the machines beyond playing a DVD or Blu-ray.

So, with this new generation, it’s important that we keep all this in mind. We’ve paid £350-430 (and beyond) for the potential, not the immediate gratification. There are glimpses of it already--features like the ability to stream games to Twitch on PS4, or the impressive voice commands on Xbox One. Yes, impressive--one calibrated properly, they work beautifully. Xbox One’s cloud features could change the way games behave, and the ability to share footage on both consoles will change the way we behave around games.

So what if some of the TV features don’t work properly or haven't arrived yet? Does it really matter that some games don’t run in native 1080p? Not really. These consoles are built to evolve, and that’s exactly what they’ll do over the next few years. The kinks will be ironed out, and they’ll work according to our needs. And if Microsoft or Sony try to introduce features we don’t want, then it’ll be equally easy to remove them. In other words: relax. Your new console is a small slice of the future, sat under your TV, just waiting to impress you.

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21 comments

  • NinjaPopsicle - December 3, 2013 5:24 p.m.

    Current-gen (it's not next-gen anymore) consoles may be about potential; but the current-gen of gamers is about instant everything.
  • HAMMERCLAW - December 3, 2013 5:58 p.m.

    Yep. Whoever makes their fans wait for "greatness" the longest, loses.
  • Moondoggie1157 - December 2, 2013 12:49 p.m.

    I sure hope this generation is about potential, because I was damn excited until I saw actual gameplay on next-gen. I guess I was being naive, but I was really expecting to see something amazing, instead I'm seeing gameplay and graphics that are no different than my little brother's 2 year old PC. Of course this isn't a bad thing for me, I have plenty of games to play on PS3, I just really miss that feeling of anticipation and excitement over a next-gen launch.
  • HAMMERCLAW - December 1, 2013 7:39 p.m.

    I thought this was a Sony apologist article that would say that "greatness" would have to wait a little longer. Instead, it was unbiased and spot on! Kudos to the journalist!
  • Balaska - December 1, 2013 12:01 p.m.

    "Cross-gen games look current-gen at worst, or ‘as good as high-end PC’ at best." Ah ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Oh mercy. I still wan an Xbox One though.
  • Sjoeki - December 1, 2013 10 a.m.

    The biggest thing I get from this article is that I did the right thing by not buying either at launch, I know what they are capable of and am very intrested in them. Dropping money on something that doesn't really have anything going for it yet is something I did on the PS3, now I will wait till my must haves are out. Specially cause the last gen still has a lot of intresting things coming out.
  • Pruman - November 30, 2013 9:18 a.m.

    I respectfully disagree. I was instantly amazed by every other system I bought because it had games that did things, right out of the box, that were not possible with the previous generation. Take the SNES. Super Mario World arguably could have been made on the NES without losing much of the experience, but F-Zero and Pilotwings were not possible on that platform. The choppiness of the SuperFX games proves that N64 games weren't possible on the SNES, and so on right up through the PSWii60 generation. You can't argue with a straight face that what's on the PS4 and XBONE isn't possible on the PS3 or 360, because unlike very other generation jump in history, literally the exact same games are available on the old platforms! Now admittedly, that new-system amazement was mostly due to better graphics, but an equally large part of the novelty of a new console is playing new games that have never been made before. The high-speed futuristic racing and kart-racing genres did not exist before F-Zero and Super Mario Kart. Super Mario 64 arguably invented the 3D platformer, GTA 3 invented the 3D open-world sandbox game, and Gears of War invented the cover-based 3rd person shooter. (FYI, I know these are not all launch games). While I do not doubt that the new genres are coming, they're not here now, as evidenced by most of the new systems' launch lineup being sequels and last-gen ports. When the only argument you can make to buy a new system is "the games look a bit prettier than on the same system you probably own already," it's not a very compelling one. For a lot of people, that's plenty of justification to not jump aboard the next-gen train.
  • Eightboll812 - November 30, 2013 10:33 a.m.

    There is one tiny issue with a comment you made. "unlike very other generation jump in history, literally the exact same games are available on the old platforms!" Last gen had the same phenomenon as well. And you would have seen a lot more of the dual release titles on PS3 if PS3 didn't have backwards compatibility. But since it did, there was little incentive to create a new version.
  • Pruman - November 30, 2013 1:13 p.m.

    You're right on that. I shouldn't have painted with such a broad brush. The next-gen versions of the same games were still appreciably different enough to be worth an upgrade, though. The two that come to mind for me are Twilight Princess and Guitar Hero III. The main differences between TP on the Wii and GameCube (other than the Wii version being flipped) was that the Wii one had motion controls and ran in widescreen, while the GC lacked both features. Probably not worth buying a new system for, but with the Wii, I was going to do that anyway, since it's admittedly the only system I've ever bought based on future potential. :) I owned GH3 on the PS2, and gameplay-wise, it was the same as the 360 version. However, I still picked that up once I got a 360 because it was appreciably prettier and because you couldn't download new songs on the PS2 version. Both were worth an upgrade, IMHO. I haven't studied the games enough to determine if there's a reason other than graphics, so forgive my ignorance on this, but I'm not sure you could make that argument for Battlefield 4, COD Ghosts, or AC4 on the next-gen.
  • Eightboll812 - November 30, 2013 8:17 p.m.

    I think in all fairness to those games they were released so close to launch that they were built to be multi-gen and just run at faster framerates and higher native resolution on PS4/Xbone. Games that were released a few months ago, might get a re-release with extra content or features. I'm not saying your original point is wrong. I'm less than enthusiastic about "60 FPS" when it seems like that has come at the cost of major improvements to graphical quality (more polygons, etc.). I'm not buying this "potential" thing either. If that's really how Sony/MS wants us to view it, they should be telling us to buy it next year when some of that potential is fulfilled, and giving the early adopters some sort of bonus for beta testing the system. There are some neat possibilities, like Sony working on a VR headset, but I don't see why I should have to buy one today hoping and waiting for something big down the road.
  • ainokea - December 2, 2013 12:21 a.m.

    I don't see how you're claiming you'd be 'hoping and waiting' when these companies have already proven their ability to utilize developers to push their individual consoles to their limits. I don't think you both are realizing the implications of the new consoles, just because right now the only thing the new consoles have is shiny graphics, doesn't mean that's all the new console is. You both fail to look at the larger picture here, with upgraded hardware PC titles released alongside Console titles will not have to go into extra development to cut down the features before released on Console. There is more available to the developer to create larger more meaningful games. Zipper was able to create a game that was able to sustain 256 players on one map, in a shooter. With that being rare for a console, do you understand the implications that has for Consoles? Sure, why not buy a PC? But why? The console is the much easier form of delivering content and bringing people together, it always has been. It's easy to say "This next gen is just a graphical upgrade" when you fail to realize that the console is in-essence a PC. A PC that is near 8 years old.
  • Eightboll812 - December 2, 2013 9:22 a.m.

    You are making a mountain out of a mole hill. The point you referred to as "hoping and waiting" was, which you seem to not grasp is, IF this next gen is about potential, and not PRESENT DAY features, THEN I should buy it WHEN there are more of these future features realized. There is little incentive to upgrade TODAY, IF Sony and MS admit that their platforms are just about POTENTIAL features instead of PRESENT DAY features. Hopefully the emphasized words will lead to clarity. Second, your second paragraph is dead wrong. >>"Console titles will not have to go into extra development to cut down the features" Let's analyze that. Assuming PC development stalls, which it won't, then this might be true. But the thing is, these new consoles are ALREADY sub-par mid-range PCs. In a couple of years, developers will be back to "going into extra development to cut down the features" for console titles. If you read my comment fully, you would have noticed I grant the point that there MAY be some cool stuff down the road, like VR. BUT in granting that point, the next question is why shouldn't I buy it THEN, when likely there will be a price cut and any hardware launch issues resolved. If you can explain why anyone should be an early adopter of a console that is only about future potential, that would be swell. Because that is my point in it's entirety, and if you are going to say "I'm wrong" about that, then you should focus like a laser on that point and tell me why.
  • ainokea - December 2, 2013 12:10 a.m.

    Your opinion is retarded and here is why. Every generation before this, was built upon improving technology. Your argument holds no validity when you're talking leaps from 2d to 3d. There is no new technology to make a leap from last generation to the next one. There is no wow factor, this is not the consoles fault. Last Gen consoles have already been raped of it's potential, games are not going to look or get much better than they are. The hardware limits A LOT, in fact the hardware out of the box limited Battlefields larger player count, it did when BF3 came out, instead of being able to enjoy large open environments with a healthy 63 other players, I have to play in a near barren wasteland with 24. The argument "The games look a bit prettier" is a valid and compelling argument when you stop thinking inside of your box, and expand it to "My god the games look like this because of the hardware, just think of the potential for other games.". So yes I do take the opposing argument, you're wrong, what's capable on the new consoles are not feasible on the older ones. It's like taking an E-Machines PC and comparing it to a Custom Built hobbyist PC, the differences are night and day.
  • Vonter - November 30, 2013 6:31 a.m.

    The thing is as of yet, we only see better visuals. Gaming tropes from last gen feel tired (mostly due to the long lasting of last gen), as of now there is little future incentive (FF XV and MGS V look like the only "new potential", mainly because of the long development time). If its potential what will count I think the Steambox and Wii U have the most since both are offering alternative input. (Still quality software its what will make a console worthwhile).
  • Jutame - November 29, 2013 9:43 p.m.

    I am quite agree... :) And for this There are plenty of websites which are interested about Playstation and Xbox in the Western Area like http://jutame.com/
  • udUbdaWgz - November 29, 2013 6:12 p.m.

    potential? are you kidding me? not instant amazement? are you joking? "next-gen" consoles SHOULD be about developers finally getting the technology that allows them to produce the games they've always ALREADY wanted and imagined due to the spec tech. taking the creativity and innovation they SHOULD ALREADY HAVE IMAGINED and now being actually able to implement them. like i always say, TRUE "next-gen" takes place in the minds of developers.
  • Rhymenocerous - November 29, 2013 11:18 a.m.

    "Cast your mind back to the launch of Xbox 360 back in 2005. Gaming was hugely, hugely different back then. A mere 8 years ago we didn’t have (deep breath)… true HD gaming, Achievements/Trophies, digital games or stand-alone DLC, TV streaming services, motion control, remote play, second-screen support, party chat, cloud storage, social media integration, or even a button that lets you access your dashboard mid-game." Sounds good to me. I mean, I like HD and Achievements/Trophies, but they're just little extras. What I'm waiting for this gen is some genuinely must-have GAMES. Everything so far is just sort of decent at best. That's where the potential is... Brilliant, unforgettable new game experiences, exploring massive new worlds etc. It'll all come good eventually I'm sure.
  • clownferret - November 29, 2013 9:49 a.m.

    very bizarre, the current gaming situation is. You have the Wii U, which is a vast step forward for the 100 million selling Wii and it's bombed. Yet the new Sony and Microsoft consoles offer a slight graphical leap and they are both selling at record levels. I for one just don't get it.
  • GoldenEagle1476 - November 30, 2013 9:34 a.m.

    The only reason the Wii sold so well was because motion controls were new and everyone had to have one. The Wii U, which has about the same amount of power as a 360/PS3, is only useful for playing Nintendo-published games. Xbone and PS4 are more powerful and offer way more content and variety of games. This is why they have sold more.
  • jeremycarrier - November 29, 2013 7:13 a.m.

    And in the mean time, I can wait to buy one until some great games come out.

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