Posted by Rampant Coyote on March 11, 2014
I wasn’t sure what to make of things when, right after the launch of a new generation of consoles, EA and Disney Interactive started laying off game developers and claiming that they were enhancing their “focus on mobile.” I mean, hello? In my experience, the first couple of years after a console’s launch is the time to really cash in. Historically, that’s seemed to be the case.
And then there’s this little piece on Tech Crunch:
I dunno how much I believe this or really want to read into it. I do take exception to the claim that this is the first time consoles have been outclassed by PCs. I think that the last time that they were NOT outclassed by high-end PCs was the around the time the Playstation 1 was released, circa 1995. And in regards to the “long tail” not sustaining itself as well, the last generation of hardware was also the longest, by my understanding – was that factored in?
If we assume that it is correct – or make a different assumption, that people just aren’t buying games for the consoles in similar launch quantities, regardless of how many consoles are actually out there in people’s homes – then there’s a lot to think about. In truth, there have been suggestions for the last few years that the console market is drying out, but it was easy to dismiss these data points and rumors on the assumption that everything would be back to hardware once the next generation of hardware hit. But now…?
I think more than comparison to the PC, the big issue is the comparison to the last generation of hardware. Historically, each hardware generation offered immediate, striking improvements over its predecessor. But each massive leap in technology offered slightly less of an incremental improvement in the overall gameplay experience of the previous one. The jump to 3D helped maintain the progression a little longer, but the law of diminishing returns wasn’t repealed. With the last two generations (Xbox 360 / PS 3 / Wii, and Xbone / PS4 / Wii-U), there has been a greater emphasis on things like online connectivity (awesome, but again catching up to where the PC had been for years), and new control gimmicks. From a raw gaming perspective, the jump to more memory and more triangles per frame with even cooler shaders doesn’t really add that much more to the experience.
But having the biggest bucket in the world doesn’t gain you anything if developers can’t fill it. That’s the flip side, and why some major publishers may not be entering a new golden age of prosperity. The costs of developing software to truly take advantage of the power of these machines has faster than the market, keeping pace with the technology rather than the end-user experience. As also suggested by the article, my suspicion is that while developers are finding ways of getting more bang for the buck, they are reaching the conclusion that they can’t keep up. Maybe not “throwing in the towel” as the article suggests, but not raising budgets as they have in days past.
Of course, today is the big release of a game (Titanfall) that Microsoft seems to be pinning hopes on being a console-seller. Sometimes all it takes is the “killer app” to make all the difference. So… I’d be more worried if I was working at a big AAA game studio right now, but I’m not ready to count the consoles out just yet.
Filed Under: Biz, General, Mainstream Games - Comments: 10 Comments to Read