The current trend of uniformity will continue in the next generation of gaming.
With the new consoles only about a month away at this point, there are a lot of new games to look forward to. For the most part, regardless of what console you’ve decided to get, you’re likely to have the same selection of games across for either the PS4 or the Xbox One. While there are still going to be exclusive games for each console, like Killzone: Shadow Fall and Forza Motorsport 5, we’re seeing far more cross-platform releases. While plenty of folks do love their exclusive content developers are taking a much more broad approach to their titles, and for plenty of good reasons. New generations of hardware are getting new IPs and new games that everyone can enjoy. There’s not necessarily a “wrong” choice these days for new hardware. The question now is “Which consoles fits me the best?” The developers play a big role in this too, it’s not all relying solely on hardware manufacturers.
The first, obvious reason that developers are pushing for more parity in gaming is that it costs a significant amount of money to develop a triple-A title. So, if you’re going to drop millions upon millions of dollars on a game, don’t you want to have the best chance of not only getting your money back, but also making a killer profit? Developers take a lot of risks when developing new, largely untested franchises. There is a fairly long list of developers that have gone bottoms-up chasing an idea that just didn’t pan out or wasn’t accepted the way they had hoped, so it make much more sense to go cross-platform and to push their software on not only the consoles, but the PC as well. Even games that were previously only PC titles jumped into the cross-platform pool years back.
A perfect example of this is the Call of Duty Franchise. When it was re-booted it came out on everything that could play it. Sure, there were plenty of PC gamers who felt like they’d been “betrayed,” when the reality of the situation is that it gave players more options, and it gave people who may not have been able to afford an incredibly powerful gaming rig the chance to play what has ultimately become one of, if not the most recognized franchises in modern gaming. Whether you love or hate the direction that the CoD series has taken, no one can deny how successful it’s been. A big reason for this is simply because Activision, Infinity Ward and Treyarch made it a point to release the game across all major platforms. Even the Wii got games like World at War and Modern Warfare, though a little bit later than the rest.
Another reason that may not be so obvious is that, while the seemingly growing chasm of fanboyism is ever present and no more so than when new hardware is only a mere month away, the truth is that these consoles are much closer in design, power and hardware than any other consoles before them. While there certainly are some differences, compared to previous console releases from the past, these differences are incredibly minor. It’s these insignificant differences in hardware choices that also help make games more easily ported from system-to-system.
While it’s easily ported from one system to another that doesn’t necessarily mean that every game is going to work or play the same regardless of what hardware you’re on though. A good example of this right now is GTA V. Rockstar released it on both the 360 and the PS3, and while it’s the same game there were certain design issues that had to be addressed, specifically with the 360. One such issue is the amount of visible pop-up that happens. Entire models will just pop into the game during cut scenes, for instance. While this doesn’t really affect the gameplay much, it’s an annoying setback that luckily can be avoided as long as the player isn’t running the game from their console’s hard drive. So while both of these consoles are completely capable of running this game, there were some design pitfalls that Rockstar had to get around. In most cases they did so quite well, while in others like the pop-up problem just mentioned it probably could have been handled a little bit better.
Regardless, even with these problems in mind GTA V has been wildly successful on both the PS3 and 360 as Rockstar is making an absolute killing with this long awaited title. Surely, if Rockstar had decided to release it on only on the PS3 or 360 it would have still been incredibly successful, but not by comparison to the cross-platform approach.
This also doesn’t just go for big-name titles either. Indie and self-published games are also becoming incredibly popular this way too. With some games being so open, they can move from smartphones, to computers and into consoles, it gives budding development teams the exposure that really was not available to them before, which thankfully is also made easier by companies like Microsoft’s and Sony’s digital distribution systems. Games like Mojang’s Minecraft which started as an indie PC title have quickly become popular on Xbox live and will soon be making their way to the PS3, PS4 not to mention the Vita, will all the bells and whistles that the PC version has. It’s this cross-platform and fair approach to game access in mind that has made these small developers be able to compete with the big studios like EA, Activision and Bethesda Studios.
Developers have not only made millions of dollars but have also made gamers happy by trying to make their titles available on everything they can and we’re seeing even more of this moving forward with the PS4 and Xbox One. Games like Destiny, Tom Clancy’s The Division, and Watch Dogs will be cross-platform and in some cases, a few of these games will even be available on the PS3 and 360. This overarching goal to keep the next generation’s consoles as equal as possible as far as the games themselves are concerned is what will keep every gamer happy, and give every developer, no matter their size much more exposure. It is in the spirit of fairness and equality where everyone wins.
While it may not be completely possible to make everything fair and equal for every game this shrinking gap between available titles on each system is a great thing. You may prefer the PS4 and Sony, or Microsoft’s Xbox One because all your friends have a Live account. It’s these thoughts and specific features like Sony’s dedication to sharing and opening up the gaming world that may sway you to buy a PS4 over an Xbox One. It should be the console’s features and the community that it represents that gets you to choose the consoles, not necessarily just the games that will be available for it. While we still are going to see some big name exclusives for each console, by in large there’s no reason to have this separation anymore for many games. There’s no reason to feel like you’re missing out on one game so you can play another of your favorites. Not everyone is going to be able to afford both consoles, not on launch anyway. So why not make it fair for everyone?
There may even be a point some day where it doesn’t matter what console we’ve purchased as long as we have the same games we could even play together. This may be a bit of a pipe dream, but its not completely impossible, we’ve already seen PC and Xbox gamers play against one another (though it was woefully unbalanced.) Having everyone on an even keel could work for consoles better than it would from the console to PC market. It would certainly unit gamers too, and hopefully get us all playing some games we’d never really thought we would like before too.