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Why a new console generation would be terrible for gaming

I don’t want a new generation of consoles any time soon. I don’t want one any time not soon either. It’s not just that I’m happy with the current set. I absolutely am, and I’ll elaborate on that in a minute, but that’s not my main point.

No, my main point is that the longer this generation goes on, the more clear it becomes that a new set of machines would be pretty damn dangerous for the health of the industry itself. It would also be pretty damn dangerous for creative game design, and it would be very damn dangerous for your wallet. Here’s why you should go home and give your console a big hug tonight, and forget all thoughts of casting it out into the cold for a new model.

We have no need for new consoles

Having gamed through four generations before this one, I can say with absolute certainty that we’re nowhere near reaching this generation’s potential yet. All that talk of ‘we’re pushing Machine-X to its limits’, you keep hearing from devs? Twaddle and falsehood.

Above: Fan-made Doom on a Spectrum. Proof that machines can keep showing better and better results long after their death

No console generation has ever been pushed to its full potential. They only ever get to perform half their routine before the curtain is dropped in favour of a newer, prettier starlet. Which is a tragedy, because by that point the seasoned pros are really hitting their stride in terms of what they can give us, whereas their clueless replacements always take a couple of years to even start remembering their lines properly.

We now have the most powerful and most versatile set of consoles ever known to man. And we have an online infrastructure that means that for the first time, console evolution is about the fundamental expansion of an existing machine’s functionality rather than simply providing a new box for prettier graphics. Compare the 360 and PS3 at launch to the 360 and PS3 now. Pretty amazing leap, is it not? In terms of hardware potential, we have the healthiest consoles we’ve ever had, and that potential isn’t going to wear thin any time soon.

We can’t afford new consoles

And when I say ‘we’ I mean ‘gaming in general’. Seriously, a new line-up of machines could flatten the industry. Think about how many good quality, big-name developers have gone under this generation already. Compared to previous generations, it’s a bizarrely high number.


Above: Sleep well, sweet Timesplitters monkey. Haze may have killed you, but you'll live forever in our hearts

It used to be that even an average developer (and thinking back to the 8 and 16-bit eras, I’m being generous with ‘average’) could happily muddle along for years with modest sales as long as they kept costs down. But the difference with this generation is that no-one has the option of keeping costs down any more. If you want to make triple-A hardcore games, they need to be in HD, and they always need to be more impressive than your competitors’ last releases. 

And the more of your company’s livelihood that hinges on a game, the more impressive it has to be. And the more impressive you have to make it, the more of your company’s livelihood hinges on it. It’s a horrible situation, and it’s exactly the reason Nintendo went SD this gen. And it’s why we now have such an influx of small-scale games for digital download and the likes of Facebook. You can make them without having to sell your children if it all goes wrong.


Above: You chase hardware specs too long, and this is what happens

Being expensive to make means that games are expensive to buy, and there just isn’t room in most people’s wallets to pick up anything other than an obvious mainstream hit, at least until the price drops or it turns up second-hand. And second-hand hurts devs even more. Needing even bigger teams, even bigger wages and even bigger tech, another set of console would push dev costs up to unimaginable levels. But the problem would be even worse that usual this time around.

Next: Why it would be worse this time

101 comments

  • Prequel - December 30, 2011 7:29 a.m.

    Gosh. What a retard. You don't know shit about what's really what. You're talking about potential... Do you even know what those consoles use as a graphic card? It's ancient. Even current graphics cars can't deal with the some of the graphics of some games. (Now don't talk to me about optimisation, there are enough games with good graphics and with decent optimisations) And you're talking to me about a minuscule thing's potential. FACE REALITY. It's not a miracle machine. It's nothing but an outdated silicone chip. All console games do is cover the ugliness with some dumb methods so you won't see it from 3 meters far on your comfy sofa. It's not even something A REAL GAMER would do. I personally have a 52" Full HD TV connected to my PC and my PC has a 22" LCD Monitor, and i NEVER play any games on my TV, which i also have wireless keyboard and mouse. A real gamer plays a game on seated position (you can always buy a comfy chair), close to the monitor, on a computer table, so you can actually control and feel what you're playing. When you do that, since TVs' pixels gaps are much more wider than a monitor, graphics look better and you also have more pleasure with the graphics while playing on a monitor. And when doing so, graphics needs actually to be physically better, not by phony tricks, so this is where reality kicks in. Consoles can't even dream of having this kind of real quality graphics. It's just beyond their capacity. It's beyond their capacity, by miles, they can't even cope %30 of today's quality graphics. So you can't even expect to run this graphics ona 3 or 4 consoles' combined power. If you have any objections against this, like the article owner, provide some real datas to us about this before making any retarded arguments or you will not be taken serious. But you won't find anything to support that, because it is just not true. Do you even know anything about graphics techniques? Tessellation? Bump mapping? Parallax mapping? Texture resolutions? Shading? Lighting? Physics? Do you know what processes use what part of your graphics card? Do you know what your graphics cards' memory does to help graphic processing? Did you know graphics made in visual effect heavy films are genereted from 5 thousands of computers combined? Rendering and real time graphics might not be same but this should give you a general opinion about what graphics really are, what power is needed to run them in real time and what's something's potential, and what's not. I woudn't even care to reply to this shit, and it's also very old but even if i inform a couple of readers with reality, it's enough for me.
  • Rowdie - July 11, 2010 3:26 p.m.

    Life span for a console is not from one launch to another. The lifespan of the old console usually continues beyond the launch of the next. Lifespan is how long the platform is receiving support. The ten year lifespan sony has been talking about since the PS and that MS talks about with the 360 is not till the launch of the next console, it's how long they plan on releasing titles for it.
  • ballplayer27 - July 10, 2010 10:22 a.m.

    Couldn't agree more. Compare final fantasy XIII or call of duty modern warfare two with their counterparts from just a few years ago on thasame hardware and you can truly see that even though cod mw looked amazing compared to the xbox, it was not what the 360 was capable of. Remember how amazing everyone thought FIFA 06 was and now FIFA 2010 kills it in every aspect, despite being part of a genre notorious for lack of innovation! Devs finally know what they are working with. It isn't that we are pushing the capacity of the current machines, it is that we are finally tapping the abilities of the current gen! Let it ride Microsoft and Sony! I know they projected ten year lifespan for this gen, but if it is not broken when that timeline expres please do not fix it. We have been in a new golden age of video games for the last few years. Favorite old franchises have been revived and revisited, amazing new ups have been developed! Don't destroy what has been happening with greed. Couldn't agree more, great article
  • Rowdie - July 9, 2010 10:16 p.m.

    jimbo9981, that's what happens when you don't own the rights to the console you're building. See, gpu.
  • Rowdie - July 9, 2010 10:13 p.m.

    "We have all witnessed first hand what happens when a console goes under developed in favor of a new platform. I talking about Sega of course. Sega CD to 32x to Saturn to Dreamcast. I think that even a die hard console fan would have to take a moment to name any Saturn exclusive title let alone strong or memorable one." That take is whacky. First, 32x and sega cd are not consoles they are add-ons for the genesis. They are much more in-line with what many people commenting are asking for, instead of honest new consoles. As for saturn exclusives, VF, VF2, FMM, Fighting Vipers, NiGHTS, Sega Rally, Daytona USA/CCE, Panzer Dragoon, PD Zwei, PD Saga, Virtual On, Saturn Bomberman (maybe a bit of a reach exclusive wise but you can't talk saturn without mentioning the best multiplayer game of all time), Burning Rangers, Clockwork Knight, and I'm running out of space and coming up on a moment's thought. Not to mention the Genesis was in no way under developed and the saturn as proof by the issues with Burning Rangers was being pushed beyond its limits. DC no doubt would have benifitted from more years, but with the release of xbox it was done. It didn't stand a chance of ever reaching the xbox's launch titles. Of course I think there's an argument the PS2 failed to as well. Oh and sega cd was a genesis. It's not like the 32x where you had whole new metal to write too. Whatever you where doing on the genesis was done the same on the CD.
  • JoelVoodoo - July 9, 2010 6:20 a.m.

    Wii HD would be good.Monster Hunter Tri looked like anus on my tv.
  • LordAngus1992 - July 8, 2010 11:02 p.m.

    You guys think this is a problem for consoles? It is infinitely worse for the pc world. Nvidia and Ati constantly pile on new GPUs with shitty drivers and no discretion for the hardware being taken advantage of at all. That's why the best looking pc games (Crysis 2 and Rage) are also the best looking console games despite the pc being much mroe powerful in theory.
  • Jimbo9981 - July 8, 2010 9:13 p.m.

    Also, the way that MS unceremoniously dumped development for the original Xbox in favor of the 360 was damn near criminal.
  • Jimbo9981 - July 8, 2010 9:11 p.m.

    I certainly wouldn't complain if this gen last 10 years total AT LEAST. Hard to imagine some of these games looking or sounding much better than they already do (Gears and BioShock are two prime examples). As you said, it's not the technical side which is facing stagnation, but rather the creative side. That's been flagging for some years, though, at this point. I'd like to see some older games touched up and rereleased via the various online distribution channels (the classic arcade beat-em-ups from Konami come to mind; of course, there would be licensing issues to overcome a la GoldenEye 007). The reveal of Steam coming to the PS3 is a pretty huge step in the development of the home console, as well. Given that Newell and Co. seem to favor the 360 over the PS3 in almost all cases, I would imagine that a similar deal is being worked out with MS.
  • Lyon85 - July 8, 2010 2:18 p.m.

    Sorry I mean't "shudder."
  • Lyon85 - July 8, 2010 1:34 p.m.

    Brilliant article. We have all witnessed first hand what happens when a console goes under developed in favor of a new platform. I talking about Sega of course. Sega CD to 32x to Saturn to Dreamcast. I think that even a die hard console fan would have to take a moment to name any Saturn exclusive title let alone strong or memorable one. Stating that a title like Killzone 2 "Finally showing what the Playstation 3 can do" I feel it's just scratching the surface of the machines power. How many of us were exclaiming "next generation be damned" while playing God of War when the PS2 was on it's last legs. Then following up that game with a critically acclaimed sequel. With the thought of the PS3 to be abandoned for a newer console just makes me shutter.
  • candyman - July 8, 2010 4:01 a.m.

    My good sir, you have successfully driven the slimmest desire for a new generation from my mind. Kudos.
  • Clovin64 - July 8, 2010 12:41 a.m.

    Nice article. I love my PS3, but I still wish PS2 had got another year or so in the limelight. We should of seen more PS2 blockbusters like FF12, GOW2 and Rougue Galaxy. I'm going to be brutally honest for a second and admit that if money wasnt an issue (which it is) I would buy a PS4 just for the bigger games and better graphics (I know, I should be ashamed). However, this article has made me see otherwise. I dont want developers dropping out every couple of months (RIP Timesplitters, my bestest friend) and I dont want every new game to just be a souless race for shinier graphics. I'm off to give my PS3 a nice warm hug right now, and maybe give it a cute pet name.
  • gmknoble - July 7, 2010 11:51 p.m.

    I agree wholeheartedly.
  • Rowdie - July 7, 2010 7:38 p.m.

    True gamers want the best graphics as well as great game play and innovation. There's no reason to play some washed out, bland, rd game when there are games that are just as good in the other areas and have great graphics.
  • yagirlfriendsfavoriterapper - July 7, 2010 4:37 p.m.

    @Sabtos nice point but my argument is the GAMEPLAY improvement are more important than the graphics. you guys when apeshit for "HD" and all now dont want new systems that wil give you NEW GAMES just the way we got bioshock,littlebigplanet and other games his gen that were about new GAMEPLAY experiences than shiny HD visuals, now 5 years in no one wants new hardware? My place as a true gamer is solidified in my blog if u want the in detail reasoning why I want next gen http://www.gamesradar.com/forums/message.jspa?messageID=1573904#1573904 P.S.if you look at a game system and find yourself not willing to play it because of lack of "HD" then you need to reevaluate your status as a true gamer, good day.
  • yagirlfriendsfavoriterapper - July 7, 2010 4:21 p.m.

    Why do you guys fear new consoles? I don't really care if they release a new console sooner than expected I'm a gamer and know i will buy one as i want to play the best games i can play, Sony won't force anyone to buy a new console should it arrive say in 2012, they will obviously still support current gen for at least another 5 years and that console is well good enough to last at least that long.
  • yagirlfriendsfavoriterapper - July 7, 2010 4:17 p.m.

    im already bored of the ps3 and xbox360 ... so i want it now ... u guys saying u still need time to play ps3 games ... u can buy the games anytime u want .. alots of people want something new and better ... i hate games now bcous i finish the game in the first day i buy it ... this is really making me mad bcous games are expencive for me and i finish it and get bored of the games in the same day i buy it .. i even finished mirror edge and uncharted 2 times in the first day i buy them !! ... so im ready for new consols ... sorry .. my english sucks ... xD .. just try to understand .. lol
  • TwistOfFate94 - July 7, 2010 4:14 p.m.

    NOOOO!! ANYTHING BUT FARMVILLE!
  • tayruh - July 7, 2010 3:38 p.m.

    I agree with this article 1000%. Personally, I think last generation died a bit too early also. You can't tell me that the PS2, GC, and X-Box had all reached their full potential when their replacements were rolled out. I think we still had a few years left. Generally around the time at which the new consoles are announced, there seems to be this time in which the developers of the current consoles don't need to worry about concentrating on graphics anymore and the pricetags of the games have lowered to the point where the devs can take whatever risks that they want and give us amazing things. This has happened with Snes/Genesis and then PSX/N64 and then PS2/GC/X-Box. This has not happened with the current generation of systems, so we need to wait until we hit that sweet spot. In fact, we need to drag out that sweet spot as long as we can to make up for the all the bad things that have happened this generation.

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