COG Considers: Cross-Gen Chasms

A Huge Generational Leap That Will Also Be Looooooooooong

Randy Pitchford, noted word-user and relentless headline generation machine, was in the news this week. Not for anything crazy, though! He merely posited that the move to Gen Five will be “the biggest leap I have ever seen in the history of console generations. I’m saying, including the leap from 2D to 3D.” Whew! That’s enormous! As someone who got to see the move from 2D to 3D, that’s a big old boulder of a claim. I’m not saying he’s wrong, but I am saying it will be many years before we truly get there. My guess is like, 2024. I’ll explain why in a second.

Watch Dogs Legion 1

It’s this cross-gen stuff we’re seeing that’s got me concerned. Hear me out! Developers offering free upgrades to the inevitable PS5 and/or Series X/S versions of a given game is a real cool-guy move, but doesn’t it seem weird? Like, if it’s so easy to gin up a next-gen version of your existing game, how different will it actually be from the current gen version? The new version of GTA V will be ‘expanded and enhanced,’ which seems to mean PC-level graphics and DLC. The Witcher 3 is getting ray tracing and faster load times. Cyberpunk 2077 will take “full advantage of the next-gen hardware,” whatever that means.

Okay, but what about Watch Dogs: Legion? It’s definitely getting a PS5 version when the system launches, but I’ll be god-damned if I can figure out what that means. Since they’re both A) not listing differences and B) launching it immediately, let’s assume the worst. That is, the PS5/XS version will be the one that like, runs properly. In fact, I’m willing to bet that ANY game getting an immediate next-gen upgrade (free or otherwise) is going to run like smoking hot garbage on current gen consoles.

Which finally, FINALLY leads me to my main point: no-one knows how to wield this next-gen power properly. In theory, this overwhelming power means that games can be smaller, load immediately, and be stuffed with nonsense tools like ‘ray tracing.’ No, don’t try to explain it to me. Many have tried, all have failed. But the games are just as enormous! 100 GB for Spider-Man? Booooooooooo.

Look, the tech in place that removes the need for massive asset files, in-game choke points, and loading in chunks is just… fully beyond my power to explain. They might as well be drawing circles in goat blood and chanting bug fix scripts while incense burns in the corner. The main takeaway is patience. AAA devs the world over will eventually be performing arcane sorcery that tethers to your controller, but we’ll be waiting a while yet. I’m sure the 2024 release calendar will be cram-jammed with games that would liquefy my eyeballs if I gazed upon them now.