It’s a secret to nobody. All of the evidence is pointing to this current generation of home consoles (that’s Sony’s PlayStation 3, Microsoft’s Xbox 360 and Nintendo’s Wii) coming to an end within the next year or so. However, although the WiiU (Nintendo’s HD-Wii sequel) is releasing by the end of the year, it’s unlikely we’ll have a full ‘next-gen’ hardware line-up for a good year or two yet.
But things aren’t looking as good for the gaming industry as in the past few years, and now would be the best time to begin the next generation of home consoles. Why is now the time to release the next generation of consoles? Well, read on to find out…
The Xbox 360, the first console of the current generation to be released, launched late 2005, or just under 7 years ago. A lot has happened in 7 years, though. We’ve survived two epidemics, a worldwide recession, the fall of the Arab Regime and the rise HD, amongst other things, but most notably, computers have moved on a long, long way since 2005. And it’s clear to see that home consoles have yet to catch up.
And that brings me to my first issue. With such great technical advancements in the past few years, current generation consoles are starting to fall further and further behind the PC market, and this leads to a number of problems. With such (comparatively) limited power to utilise, the possibilities for the current generation have hit a proverbial roof. There’s only so much you can do with 256MB RAM, after all. Yes, videogames have come a very long way since 2005 (arguably for better or for worse), but you can’t help but feel there’s much, much more to give. If we were to have the next generation start in 2010, as the 5-year console cycle would suggest, would we have been playing a Zelda which looked like the screenshot above? Doubtful, but you have to consider the possibilities. I, for one, am waiting for the next generation to start so we can see just what developers can do with that extra graphical oomph. If we can see scenes like The Last of Us on 6 year old technology, imagine what we could see with equipment 4, 6 or even 8 times more powerful.
So the sooner the next generation starts, the sooner we’ll see new, intuitive games. And that brings me on to my next point…
Breaking down the Creative Wall
If you take a look at the big, upcoming games for the current generation of home consoles, you see a worrying trend starting to form. Halo 4, Assassin’s Creed 3, Black Ops 2, BioShock Infinite, Borderlands 2, Darksiders 2… seeing a pattern yet? Almost every single new game coming out for this current generation is a direct sequel of a game released earlier in the generation. And that’s a worrying trend. Is the excitement level really as high as it might otherwise be for a new IP? You only need to look at last month’s E3 showing in Los Angeles to see that the most ‘hyped’ games were new IPs. The Last of Us? Watch Dogs? Both of these games made a real impact at E3, because they were both doing something new. Something that hasn’t really been seen before, and, at the end of the day, that’s what gamers really want.
If that’s the case, then, why aren't there more new IPs coming soon? Well, those sequels sell, and they sell well. Sure, they may not sell quite as well as previous iterations in the series did, but that’s a small price to pay for the developers to already have the game world, engine, story, characters, etc. in place. And, of course, it comes back to my first point; there isn’t the power in the consoles to really extract all that much out of them anymore. It’s difficult to do something new when you’ve already maximised the potential of the hardware you’re working with, after all, so surely it’s best to stick with what you know, after it worked so well in the past?
That’s why a new generation is needed, to kick-start the industry creatively. A new generation with new power will force developers to come up with new ideas and new gameplay mechanics to utilise the new hardware. It happened when the industry came out of the last generation, so it’s likely that the same thing will happen in a few years’ time, when we head into the next generation. But that’s too far away. Why? Well, it’s quite simple really…
Dwindling sales leads to dwindling consumer confidence
And what does all this mean? Well, with no new experiences, and with 7-year-old computing under the hood, consumers will look elsewhere for their gaming fix. Right now, the sales for the current generation are, to put it bluntly, depressing. There are more reasons for this than those I’ve mentioned above (the rise in mobile gaming, people who really wanted a console likely already have one, and so on), but there’s no easy way out for the gaming industry unless there’s some serious change.
A new console generation can and will add the extra power developers want, the variety of new IPs the consumers want, and the overall sales the industry wants. In my eyes, there’s very little to lose. This generation has had its time, let’s see something new, something exciting, something that can put console gaming back at the forefront of people’s minds. The WiiU is a great start, and will (hopefully) kick-start the industry once more and almost ‘force’ the next generation to begin. Then we can begin to see the start of a new, glorious era for videogames. Why not start now?
Feel free to disagree with me, but the gaming industry as we know it is changing. It may not be long before we no longer have dedicated home consoles. With the rise of cheap, 99p mobile games, home consoles have to really show why they’re worth so much more. And the sad truth is they aren’t doing it currently. That’s why a new generation is needed; to claw back consumer interest, and give them experiences they can’t get anywhere else.
And, at the end of the day, isn’t that why we play videogames anyway?