Sunday Meditation: Welcome To The Other Next Generation
Perhaps it was naive of me to think this generation change would go over like the others.
Since console gaming has become closer to PC gaming I should have guessed there would be some more hiccups, but I think it's console software publishers taking advantage of the situation in order to conduct money making experiments that are to blame.
Instead of a nice clean transfer of old games fading away and new full next gen games coming in we instead have this nebulous no man's land between generations where gamers, developers, and publishers are fumbling in the dark while trying to navigate a rising industry that is expensive for gamers, game makers, and financial backers.
What are the features of this new “other” next generation? I've smoked out a few of them but please feel free to list your own.
The Cash Grab:
It's not especially easy to draw a line on which games do and do not deserve a full super HD remaster for the new systems, but some of them are undoubtedly a way to make more money. Square Enix is guilty of this, probably because they have insane sales standards. While I defended Tomb Raider DE for the extra work done, the detractors certainly had their good points about why the Definitive Edition wasn't reasonably priced. Even if you want to give Tomb Raider the benefit of the doubt, now I see that Sleeping Dogs is getting a super version. It's nothing against that game or its extras, it was a great experience. It's old though, a thing of the past, and now it seems the floodgates are open. There's talk of more collections like Final Fantasy XIII, again from SE, and also an Uncharted collection from Naughty Dog. The Last of Us? Sure it was late-gen, but there are only so many viable excuses. Beyond: Two Souls may have a hard time not fitting into the cash grab section unless they fix those vacant controls.
Basically there is a flood of old games on their way back over. It's one thing to deal with a year of cross-gen games but this is a whole new level of cross-gen. The ability to do this is facilitated best by the fact that new systems are not at all backwards compatible, something I wouldn't be surprised to see again even with the new PC style architectures.
The Indie Content Gambit:
Indie games were a little cherry on the top of gaming last gen. Good and great ones came now and then, even changing the landscape by getting GOTY nominations. They don't really feel that way anymore. In hopes of nabbing the next huge thing like Angry Birds or something (mobile games coming fits into this category) indie games have become a stopgap measure to dump onto the digital stores and pad the thin PS Plus subscription freebies in order to report big game numbers without recognizing the fact that the true next gen experiences just aren't coming for the time being.
The Split Decision:
Rather than decide whether or not to place all resources into big, innovative next gen experiences we see that Ubisoft is leading the way in making full use of the giant install base for the former systems. While Assassin's Creed: Unity is coming for PS4 and Xbox One, Ubi has no problem releasing a new last gen AC as well. At first glance it seems like they are being nice to everyone, but don't you think that the new/old Assassin's Creed won't be brought back up to snuff and sold again on the new consoles?
The Straight Up Lie:
This is when developers assure us all that a cross generational game, say Dragon Age: Inquisition, will take full advantage of the new systems. This is a thing which is not possible. The vision for the game is clearly big, much bigger than before, but any game first created to function on less powerful hardware can't exactly spread its wings unless there is going to be a ton of content chopped off for the last gen version. We know the world could be bigger, the graphics better, the physics tighter, the stories more numerous, the dialogue options more plentiful etc if the game was not also being produced for old hardware. The only hole I see in this is for games like Destiny which will be able to keep growing and thus have the ability to leave the PS3 and Xbox 360 behind.
The Anything Goes Strategy:
This covers just about everything questionable. PS4's still can't play our own digital movies or music and I doubt that's just something they couldn't have ready at launch. Sony wants their services to sell. Needing PS Plus to play online is another issue with Sony. Technically they didn't break their word since free online play was part and parcel of PS3, but they did make some statements about free online play in the past that made the requirement of a subscription service not quite kosher. Needed to be profitable? Perhaps, but they are lucky gamers feel like the extras they get cover the cost.
In Xbox land they shotgunned out a bunch of crazy DRM ideas that got them in trouble, then launched a Kinect anchored Xbox One in order to get an extra hundred bucks. Those things did not help them, but they were part of the “let's see what these people will put up with” experiment.
Pricing is another piece of this puzzle. Things are a little less steady. When the original The Last of Us Remastered price received a little backlash it was quickly cut down to $50, an alteration that might have aided Tomb Raider DE. On another front entirely, I think anybody surfing the Playstation Now beta will have a few things to say about this pricing/rental structure. I wouldn't be surprised to see these change down the line. It really would have made more sense to go with a Netflix interface.
Finally in the anything goes we have the dirty play; do I need to even say what I mean? Third party exclusives like Rise of the Tomb Raider are now up for exclusivity sale and boy doesn't that just leave a foul taste in one's mouth? Keep an eye out for this one, I think in 2015 it will only get nastier during this kind of in-between other next generation.
8/16/2014 David D. Nelson