COG Considers: We Don’t Need A New Generation of Consoles

Talking About My Generation

It’s like Christmas-eve for gamers, new consoles are on the way and we get new info daily on all the exciting hardware specs, UI design, and new games coming next month. But, do we really need another generation of consoles? No. The answer is no.

Let’s look back at generational leaps gone by. The move to home consoles from the arcade, well heck that’s pretty monumental – now you can play Space Invaders on your carpet! How about the transition to 3-D graphics? The Sega Saturn, Playstation, and N64 were just an unbelievable step forwards – literally as your characters could now actually walk forwards with a push of a button. The PS2, Xbox, and Gamecube era is one we all hold fondly in our hearts, taking advantage of the increased power and graphical capabilities to push what we thought games were capable of. Shadow of the Colossus (a game so gripping we’re still playing it), and Grand Theft Auto 3 were titles that just would not have been possible before, which is the best marker for progress.

The PS3 and Xbox 360 were certainly capable of better graphics. They were also both multimedia players in their own right, a way for you to access the power of the internet and play games online with your friends. Developers used all the extra power to make games look more photorealistic, and they created a whole new industry of competitive online gaming to the point that single-player campaigns looked like they may go extinct all-together. By the end of the era, titles like GTA V and Skyrim were showing us what the systems were capable of; games were now more expansive, more online, and more realistic than ever. Meanwhile, the Nintendo Wii, and Wii U (which cannot fairly be lumped in with the next group) did next-gen thinking in their own way, pushing motion control tech forwards in a way that was so popular that Sony and Microsoft followed suit.

The PS4 and Xbox One, well, they have been home to some wonderful games, but did either of them really change how we play? They were certainly more focussed on our ability to share our content, but their readiness for VR has so far been something of an afterthought. All that extra processing power has given us gorgeous games, Ghost of Tsushima and The Last of Us II look incredible, but is that the only bar that developers must clear to call something next-generation? The Nintendo Switch went entirely the other direction, less power and putting games back into your hands as most of us play Breath of the Wild in our beds. I’d argue that the Switch, while really just pulling the same trick the gameboy did way back when, did more to push developers to think about games differently than Microsoft or Sony.

The halfway step of the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X were…nothing really. Yeah I know that they are capable of higher resolution blah blah blah. Bottom line, neither of these 1.5 consoles did anything to push gaming forwards. Now we’re on the eve of a new generation, the PS5 and Xbox Series X/S dominate headlines and everyone is getting excited. The flame wars on twitter, which side-note: are beyond ridiculous, have fans at each other throats crying about how their chosen system is the messiah that will save gaming. We gobble up news like the addicts we are, desperate to see the PS5 UI, or to know how many Xbox games are backwards compatible, but honestly – have we seen anything to be that excited about?

Spider-man: Miles Morales, Watchdogs: Legion, Horizon: Forbidden West; these are all launch titles for the next generation. Guess where else they will be available? On your good old fashioned, creaky current-gen hardware. I don’t care about additional features, ray tracing, or faster load times. Sure, they’re nice, but are they fundamentally changing your gaming experience, I don’t think so. Why should we be so excited to plonk down a hefty wad of cash for a new system, are we all sick of the games we’re currently getting? Who honestly wouldn’t be thrilled if they announced Elder Scrolls 6 for the Xbox One, or else Ghost of Tsushima 2 for PS4? There are so many ways that developers could change up the experience on current-gen hardware. Invest more in branching narratives, make more use of the motion sensors or track pad, incorporate our mobile devices, all these ideas are achievable right now, but instead we’re all distracted by the shiny bauble on the horizon.

Metacritic Review Bombing

I’m not saying we’ve reached the pinnacle of gaming. I know that the PS5 and Xbox Series X/S will have some insane power under the hood, and once developers have had chance to get to grips with all that horse-power I’m sure there will be some phenomenal gaming experiences to enjoy. I can’t wait to see what developers do with adaptive triggers and 3D audio, and there seems to be a whole new push for accessing our games via streaming which could open the floodgates for indie titles like never before. In spite of all this promise, however, I don’t get the rush. The first game I played on PS4 that really felt like a generational leap was God of War – a full 5 years into the life of the system. It wasn’t just that it was pretty, but the design philosophy felt totally different in a way I hadn’t experienced since Grand Theft Auto 3. So while everyone else is wetting themselves in anticipation of the new hotness, I’m going to grumpily wait a couple of years and catch up on some golden oldies, because we do not need a new generation right now.

Am I just crazy? Probably. Will I get myself a next-gen console? Definitely. Do I need one? No.
Do you disagree and think I should be banned from ever holding a controller again? Let me know in the comments!