Is Next-Gen Actually Here?
Now that the dust has settled a bit from E3, we can look back at all the news, and start to decide how we will be spending money during this next generation of gaming. This time around, we have hundreds of games being released, never before seen support for independent developers, and two (or three if you count Nintendo) consoles that are raising the bar on what living room gaming can be. It will be an exciting time for sure, but let’s not get carried away. As great as all the gaming news has been over the last couple weeks, I suggest to you that we are still at least a year away from true “next-gen.”
So how do we define next gen? While there are many factors that one could say equals next-gen, let me break it down into 3 major categories: Services, graphics, and gameplay.
Services: The consoles of the current generation are among the first to offer services such as Netflix or Hulu, and we should expect to see even more features in both the PS4 and Xbox One. The next-gen consoles will try to reach out to those who might otherwise skip out this holiday season by providing new experiences through the use of Kinect for the Xbox One or the Eye for the PS4. However, as Microsoft is learning, consumers do not want to be forced into these services or gimmicks. These things will be great when we want to use them, but only when we want to use them. They will quickly be more of an annoyance when we are forced to use them. If Microsoft and Sony want us to be involved with these services and features, they will start by easing, not forcing us into using them, which could take a year or two before we readily accept them as a necessity.
Graphics: The graphical power of today’s games is astounding. We are on the precipice of the uncanny valley and need to find a way to cross it. The slew of games we saw at E3 are impressive, but nothing stood out as a graphical innovation by any stretch. Sure the textures look smoother and more realistic, but nothing shown to us last week is anywhere near what we have already achieved this generation. Take a look at this screenshot:
As you can see Crysis 3, which was released four months ago, has already surpassed most, if not all of the games at E3 in terms of realism. With that said, developers will be able to reach past Crysis 3’s level of realism some point over the next five years. When they do, only then will we see true next-gen graphics.
Gameplay: No matter how good the hardware is, or how realistic a game looks, people will not play a game that does not engage them and provide good gameplay. Bad AI, confusing rules, crappy story, and boring multiplayer are just some of the things that will break a game and make it undesirable. Out of these three points, this is the one I think we will see innovation sooner rather than later. Games like Respawn Entertainment’s Titanfall or Sony Online Entertainment’s Planetside 2 are bringing innovation and excitement to the industry. We need this excitement to encourage developers to look beyond the current models of games and deliver something new.
So, while we wait for the new consoles to be available, let us think about what we want to see in our games. Then, let us speak out and tell the developers, system architects, and publishers what we want to see during the next generation of gaming. True “next-gen” is not here yet, but we can help it along by actively being involved. The future of gaming is drawing near, so let’s shape it the way we want it.