Why The PS4 and Xbox One Console Generation Has Brought Nothing New To Game Design

GamingBolt’s Shubhankar Parijat argues that this gen has been nothing but mechanical iteration over the previous one and how Nintendo’s NX could possibly make a difference.

Posted By | On 07th, Mar. 2016 Under Article, Editorials | Follow This Author @Shubhankar2508


The Xbox One, the PS4 and the Wii U, this far into the cycle of their lives, have given us some truly excellent games. I love games like The Witcher 3, Bayonetta 2, Xenoblade Chronicles X, Metal Gear Solid V and Bloodborne. They’re experiences that are, in more ways than one, the pinnacle of what their genres represent. And then there have been games such as Batman: Arkham Knight and Splatoon, that are far for being the perfect games but are still ultimately enjoyable experiences.But here’s what the problem has been with the eighth generation of console gaming so far- it’s all starting to feel a bit stale. Because when you really start thinking about it, we’ve been playing these exact same games, in one form or another, for about a decade.

And as a result, I cannot shake this feeling that this generation of consoles- the generation of the PS4 and Xbox One- is actually just an extension of the previous one. It’s more like Generation 7.5. It’s brought nothing new to the table.

Let’s take a look at previous generations and how they took massive leaps over their predecessors. With the NES and Master System, the 3rd generation gave us 8-bit gaming, which brought about revolutions and staples such as screen scrolling, the d-pad, saving your game, and games with stories, all made possible because of what was then the immense power of the NES. A game as basic as Super Mario Bros. could not have worked on the Atari, as an example.

metal gear solid 5 the phantom pain

"What has this generation made possible that would not have been possible on a previous gen console? It’s hard to think of anything- the fact that some of the biggest, most popular games of this generation are also on the PS3 and the Xbox 360 only reaffirms this point. Games such as Destiny, Dragon Age: Inquisition, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, Alien: Isolation and more are all playable on previous generation consoles."

With the SNES and Genesis, the 4th generation gave us 16-bit gaming, much higher clock speeds, rudimentary 3D, multimedia capabilities, more control inputs and much more storage space on cartridges, making possible games that would not have worked on the NES and the Master System. Games such as Super Mario Kart, Sonic the Hedgehog, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past and Mortal Kombat simply could not have been done on 3rd gen systems. Sure, Sonic the Hedgehog was released on the Master System as well, but it should be noted that it was completely different from the version released on the Genesis, remade from the ground up specifically for a system that was coming to the end of its life.

With the N64 and the PlayStation, the 5th generation saw the console market make a massive jump. It really doesn’t need to be pointed out just how colossal a paradigm shift the PS1 and N64 brought about. They brought about features that may seem very basic and fundamental today but were completely new to the gaming market back then- the analog stick, 3D movement, 3D space, 3D game design, 3D camera control, rumble, CG and multimedia cutscenes, voice acting, 4 player multiplayer gaming and over 700 MB of storage space made possible by CDs. Can you even imagine games like Super Mario 64, Ocarina of Time, Metal Gear Solid or Final Fantasy 7 running on a Genesis or an SNES?

With the PlayStation 2, Xbox, Dreamcast and the Gamecube, the 6th generation of gaming was the first time that consoles were able to provide enough power for 3D games to match their design ambition. Proto-online gaming, handheld-console interactivity, onboard HDDs, DVDs giving almost 7x the storage space of a CD-ROM became possible for the very first time. For instance, you cannot imagine playing something like Grand Theft Auto on the N64. Though there were not many new paradigms introduced, game design took massive strides forward thanks to the benefits of these new systems’ powers. Games on these systems simply would not have worked on previous generation consoles.Titles such as Halo: Combat Evolved, Resident Evil 4 and Metal Gear Solid 2 are prime examples of such a statement.

With the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, the 7th generation, or the HD generation, was almost as big a leap forward as the N64/PS1 era. HD graphics, online gaming on a worldwide scale, social interaction, complex AI and physics mechanics leading to bigger and more immersive worlds (and games in general), facial mapping, motion capture, Blu-ray… all of this, and more, was now finally made possible by the immense power of the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. All of this made games far more detailed and far more immersive than they had ever been before. Something like Gears of War or Uncharted 2 is unfathomable on a PS2 or an Xbox.

uncharted2

"With the death of third party exclusives and no meaningful differentiating features to set the PS4 or the Xbox One apart, these consoles are basically the same thing. You just pick one based on whether you like Uncharted more or Halo."

And now here we are- the 8th generation of console gaming. What has this one brought us exactly? SharePlay? It’s cool, but it doesn’t actually have anything to do with game design. Game streaming? Ditto. Shinier graphics? Sure, but all that does is make new games just slightly better looking versions of older ones. What has this generation made possible that would not have been possible on a previous gen console? It’s hard to think of anything- the fact that some of the biggest, most popular games of this generation are also on the PS3 and the Xbox 360 only reaffirms this point. Games such as Destiny, Dragon Age: Inquisition, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, Alien: Isolation and more are all playable on previous generation consoles, and they all run pretty well, without significant hits to their performances.

This generation doesn’t add anything the way previous generations have always done. All it’s doing is optimize what we already have. The features it has added are admittedly cool, but they are, in the end, peripheral and meaningless in the larger context of game design and how a game plays.

The simple fact of the matter is that, with minor concessions, almost every game released this generation could have worked on the Xbox 360 and the PS3. And those that could not have are most of the times not even that special, which only adds to this generation feeling as stagnant as it does.

One of the few exceptions to all this is The Witcher 3The Witcher 3 is a massive world with hundreds of little systems all working together all the time to make for a persistent world rendered far more beautifully than any other open world has been so far.

So where does that leave us?

We are left with consoles that feel like mid-cycle refreshes of their predecessors, not true steps forward like they should be. They’re more like what the Gameboy Color was to the original Gameboy, rather than what the Gameboy Advance was- not a true next generation, but a sort of half step between generations brought about by beefing up of the current one with a mid cycle refresh.

Worse still, consoles have completely lost their flavour, becoming homogenizedand commoditized boxes with little to differentiate one from the other. Consoles used to each have their own distinct personalities- the SNES was nothing like the Genesis; the N64 and the PS1 were completely different; the PS2, GCN and Xbox all had different flavours; even the Xbox 360 and the PS3 managed to carve out largely different identities thanks to the kind of exclusive games and audiences they catered to. And none of these consoles was much like the PCs of their day.

Until now. These new consoles have almost nothing to differentiate them from each other. The Wii U admittedly has carved out its very own niche in the market, but all facts and statistics point toward the fact that in the larger context of the console market, the Wii U unfortunately remains largely irrelevant, owing mostly to how insular it has been all throughout its life cycle. With the death of third party exclusives and no meaningful differentiating features to set the PS4 or the Xbox One apart, these consoles are basically the same thing. You just pick one based on whether you like Uncharted more or Halo.

Zelda Wii U

"Assuming the NX isn’t hamstrung like the Wii and Wii U were, and it is able to keep pace with its competitors in terms of technological prowess, like the N64 and Gamecube were, then I think Nintendo are in a position here to make a difference and actually bring in some much needed adrenaline to the market."

Is there even any hope for console gaming to make strides forward like it used to in the past? Honestly, I think the future looks dim in this regard. Sony’s financial struggles- and the massive success that the PS4 has brought them- ensure they will be relatively more conservative going forward in the console market (the PS4 itself perfectly illustrates this point). On the other hand, Microsoft’s failures to try something different (such as the Kinect, and their original, poorly handled vision for the Xbox One, which they almost completely backtracked on) and their subsequent loss of marketshare means they probably won’t want to try anything new again- they’ll probably want to stick to the conservative console rulebook that has brought the PS4 so much success.

What we’re left with is Nintendo, and now all eyes turn to the NX. It can be argued that console gaming basically grows stagnant without Nintendo- this generation is proof. This is the first generation that Nintendo has outright failed- even more so than they did with the Gamecube- and this also happens to be the first generation without a paradigm shift in either game design, and/or console design. For good or for bad, Nintendo did managed to introduce some crazy new ideas to the market. Of course, that’s not to say that Microsoft or Sony (or Sega back in their day) don’t.

We’ve seen that- they want to go for closed system PC equivalents, providing a conservative design with their consoles, with nothing proprietary or out-of-the-box, like the N64 or Xbox 360 once were. Nintendo are still not backing out, though- in fact, they’ve been very clear that the NX will be something new again, entirely.

Assuming the NX isn’t hamstrung like the Wii and Wii U were, and it is able to keep pace with its competitors in terms of technological prowess, like the N64 and Gamecube were, then I think Nintendo are in a position here to make a difference and actually bring in some much needed adrenaline to the market. Because if they don’t, or can’t, then we’re doomed to stagnation. There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s just… boring.

And boring isn’t what we want. We want consoles to be consoles. And the PS4 and the Xbox One, regardless of how much they’ve perfected what the Xbox 360 and the PS3 so ambitiously attempted, have not done anything to shake the market out of its monotony.

Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, GamingBolt as an organization.


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  • d0x360

    What an utterly pointless article. Its up to developers to innovate in the gaming space not the boxes that run the games. All 3 modern consoles have more than enough power for developers to innovate with something new.

    Extension of the last gen? Thats what every generation is. Every generation of console ever has been nothing more than an increase in power.

    There is nothing stopping a dev from creating a unique input device to go along with their games so thats not an excuse either.

    How can you be so out of touch with the way gaming works? All that aside…there is always innovative ideas and changes even when you dont notice them.

    • Starman

      As long as games like ..COD , and Rocket League(supported by the consumer) ..lead the way , nothing will change , not to sound like a fanboy because I have all systems…at least MS is trying to innovate , and doing a pretty good job of it(not GREAT , but good) , can Sony do it , yes , but they chose to cash in on commercial “shovleware” …MS shouldn’t be in this issue , because they’re trying really hard with games like SB, QB, Recore ETC ETC …

    • d0x360

      The AAA studios can’t be blamed for giving people the same thing over and over if they keep buying it. The indie studios are the ones to look at for innovative ideas and they certainly exist which is why this article is pointless. It lays blame on the consoles on the headline as if the silicon is to blame. Last year I played plenty of games that tried new and different things perhaps whoever concepted this article should buy a PC and install steam.

    • P3RF3CTSP3C1M3N

      He is exclusively talking about consoles, not pc. And steam isn’t very innovative anyway, most of the games are either console ports and the ones tht aren’t have gameplay mechanics similar too games on console or directly taken from them. Take silent hills for example, it was going too be created by the genius of Hideo Kojima with collaboration from Guilliem del toro but got cancelled. Then games like layers of fear and Allison Road Come along, practically clones of it, which add nothing new too the established formula of which was presented in a twenty minute promo tech demo tht was vastly superior. Both of them horror, born of the same inspiration, taken, placed in different environments, then ported back too consoles. It Is due too the developer and console too innovate, some of the best games where born from hardware and hardware limitation, take silent hill an super metroid for instance.

    • d0x360

      Almost all art takes inspiration from and or copies prior art in some way.
      Let’s face it, the start of PT was great but that’s about it. Once you solved the first section it falls apart in the middle then the last section is so cryptic its ridiculous.

      Dont get me wrong I loved PT but that’s not really original either it was just high budget. Indies have been doing stuff like that for years.

      The point of my post is simple. Very simple. It doesn’t matter what hardware it runs on. Innovative is up to the devs. A developer could make an innovative SNES game right now if they wanted.

      The problem is devs and especially publishers chase the money. It if after all a business.

    • P3RF3CTSP3C1M3N

      It’s getting harder and harder too innovate as time progresses, it was far easier coming of the back of the 2d era into 3d where people’s ideas could transcend sprite based graphics and with the jump in power, better realised world’s and stories, take mgs for instance. But hardware and power only get you so far, unique gameplay ideas can make or break a game therein lies the problem, the ideas tht succeed usually get cloned too some degree and tht eventually becomes the norm and becomes stagnant. We have the technology too innovate but innovation and risk go hand in hand and as triple A games can have development budgets close too blockbuster films a failure can lead too bankruptcy. So they tend too stick too wht they know will sell and play it safe.

    • d0x360

      Which is why I said innovative games are the bread and butter of indie studios

    • Holeybartender

      He completely avoids PSVR in his little rant too. Sure VR isn’t new but this looks like its going be the first time it’ll actually be done right.I can’t wait.

    • d0x360

      The mix of vr with body tracking and motion tracking controls is new especially as something you can actually use in your home. That’s pretty innovative.

      I haven’t used anything other than the oculus dk2 but even that was very impressive. Who would of thought we would suddenly have so many options. The HTC Vive looks amazing, plus we have something else entirely in something like holo lense.

      Good catch.

    • Holeybartender

      I’m dying to have affordable VR for home gaming just like everyone else has for decades. Even IF its around $1000…

    • Truth™

      720P VR on the PS4 so sub-standard too 🙂

    • Holeybartender

      Better than red lines and boxes…Uh hmm,Virtua Boy…Uh hmm.

  • sublimetalmsg

    you think ps3/ 360 was the HD era? lol

    maybe after the first half….

    • yes, since HD is 720p.

    • sublimetalmsg

      Yeah but they shipped with composit cables which sucked.

    • No matter they both were able to support HD gaming.

    • sublimetalmsg

      some Ps2 games had 1080i why not count that?

    • Because it wasnt a standard on that console.

  • jacksjus

    I disagree with this article as well. We have seen the introduction of procedurally generated games starting with Bloodborne and soon to be No Man’s Sky. In fact, NMS is supposedly the largest game ever made.

    You also have VR coming soon too which hasn’t been done before on console.

    Now I will say that 4K was a missed opportunity this gen.

  • TPoppaPuff

    This is extremely foolish on the eve of the mass release of VR and Hololens/AR. Last gen brought nothing substantial to gaming, just higher resolution and new shaders. You can argue motion controls but those have essentially become short lived fads. And sure, VR/AR may not last either, but they’re just as innovative as anything we got directly tied to the gaming aspects of last gen. And the potential of VR/AR is astronomically higher than motion controls could’ve been.

  • asadachi

    gamingbolt strikes again!

  • Truth™

    Nothing but low powered DRM locked, walled garden, paid online PC’s with no exclusives when you can get the real thing without restrictions instead.

    PC gaming keeps winning. Death to consoles.

  • Graeme Willy

    Well, firstly, it’s already been called the generation of diminishing returns. That applies to more than just graphics, I’m sure. What we’re seeing is the maturing of gaming technology. Generations previous to PS3/ Xbox 360 were full of gimmicks and off the wall ideas. A lot of failed ideas, too…the Nintendo Power Glove, Virtualboy, 32x, N64’s add-on disk drive(DDS?), Panasonic 3DO, Atari Jaguar…but they were more than just failures and gimmicks. These were fresh ideas that attempted to bring something to the table and are good examples of the point I am about to make. I think that generation, after generation it has been proven that people just want immersion and good games. No gimmicks, no off-the-wall ideas. The games themselves, if done right, are enough in its own right.

    And let’s not forget. Even this and last generation attempted to bring fresh ideas that ended badly.

    Kinect, Playstation Move…and Holo Lens probably to join them. The issue is in thinking that something needs to change.

  • JTTHEGAME

    The thing is sega were innovative when they had a console to support and look where that got them now as a result we have a bunch of devs that want to play it safe. Wii u is the only place i have played anything unique this gen

    • HoistDude

      Agreed. Wii U and 3DS are the only systems worth having this gen. PS4 and Xbox One are both just wannbe PCs with a bunch of glitchy multiplat ports and a handful of HIGHLY overrated and boring exclusives.

    • JTTHEGAME

      Actully I think the best thing about the xbox one is its exclusives while not quite as good as wii u exclusives they are at least good and xbox does try sony on the other hand in there case I agree with your statement 100%

  • Asmodai

    The PS4 and Xbox One brought us 64bit gaming. Even PC’s despite having 64bit hardware for years now have only started releasing 64-bit ONLY games since the launch of the PS4 and Xbox One. Similarly they’ve brought about asynchronous compute. The PS3 and Xbox 360 had largely fixed function GPUs but the PS4 and Xbox One have programmable ones that can process things like physics calculations at the same time as the normal graphics pipeline. The “HD” of the last generation was 720p so we went from 480p to 720p between the PS2/Xbox and PS3/Xbox 360. Going from 720p to 900p/1080p is a similar size jump. Sure it would have been nice to go to 4k but there wasn’t a single GPU for under $400 that could do 4k@60fps in 2013. Heck they JUST agreed on the Ultra HD Blu-Ray standard last year… two years after the Xbox One and PS4 launched. We’ve got VR coming this year as well which could be HUGE or it could totally flop but either way I don’t see how anyone could say this generation brought nothing new.

  • HoistDude

    Wii U and 3DS are the only consoles this generation that have provided anything new and exciting to gamers. I am enjoying XCX, Fire Emblem: Fates, Mario Maker, Bayonetta 2, and Splatoon more than I have with any games in over a DECADE.

    And, BTW, No Man’s Sky looks incredibly boring. Beautiful, but boring. Star Fox Zero on the other hand is looking really fun and UNIQUE.


 

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