Is it time to retire the old-generation of consoles?

sad ps3

Yes. Yes it is.

I might just be salty, but I think what sparked off this thought for me is the announcement of the new Tony Hawk Pro Skater game.

More importantly, the announced platforms: Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS4 and PS3. No PC.

You know me to be a die-hard PC gamer, so you may be accusing me (perhaps correctly) of eating sour grapes on this one, but it astonishes me that old-generation platforms are being supported over PCs.

What more do PC gamers have to do to prove themselves worthy of developer attention? Claims of piracy have been shown time and again to be overblown and not legitimately impacting sales, Steam’s userbase balloons year-after-year and Nvidia continues to make money hand-over-fist selling exorbitantly priced powerhouse GPUs. We’re here. Take our money.

Still, that’s not what this column is about – that’s just what got me thinking about it. Somewhere in my bitter mutterings to myself, my question was no longer, “Why aren’t they developing for PC?” but rather, “Why are they developing for the old generation?”

The answer, of course, is obvious and uninteresting – money. Developers think it’s in their best interest to develop titles for all the platforms – here’s why I think it’s not.

Catering to the lowest common denominator hinders progress

It’s certainly possible to have games release across old and new-gen platforms and make it work, but it’s not optimal.

Old-gen versions often seem like simple toned-down versions of the new-gen stuff – a couple of fancy light effects turned off here and there, lower the textures a little, drop the frame-rate, etc., but ultimately you end up with two games that are pretty comparable. They shouldn’t be.

Keep this in mind – the PS3 is packing a pathetic 512mb of RAM (which is shared with the GPU), while the PS4 is rocking a wholly respectable 8GB.

These are two consoles that were released almost a decade apart – at the rate at which hardware capabilities increase, a decade is a lifetime. That the same game can be designed to run on both machines is laughable.

Sure, devs have gotten really good at taking everything the PS3 has to give, but there’s no question that trying to make your game portable from one to the other is going to limit what you can do with it.

This is where we see RPGs become less compromising due to their demanding game worlds – titles like Bloodborne, The Witcher 3 and Assassin’s Creed have been leading the charge on next-gen exclusivity – and they look amazing for it. The quicker we stop trying to accommodate painfully old hardware, the faster we can get the most out of the new stuff.

Not suitable for children, or 512mb of RAM.
Not suitable for children, or 512mb of RAM.

Gamer entitlement is real, but should not be taken seriously

I think it’s preposterous that Sony or Microsoft feel in any way beholden to PS3/Xbox 360 owners. For a gaming console to last ten damned years is pretty impressive – expecting more than that just seems unreasonable.

PC gaming hardware has slowed down somewhat in recent years, but there was a time when every couple of years your system was damn near obsolete. And game developers didn’t give a damn – they rabidly chased bigger, better and more impressive, more beautiful code, and if your hardware couldn’t keep up you had to make way for those who can.

A decade of gaming on a single device is a solid investment. It’s time to move on.

If you make it, they will come

Does anybody really believe that the gamers with an old-gen console and massive game library are simply going to find a new hobby the moment their platform stops being supported?

Games are digital crack, as everybody reading this well knows.

Much like PC gaming has continued to grow despite the costs growing with it, stopping support for older consoles forces adoption of the newer ones.

This. This does not come cheap.

Thankfully, those who have focused development on new-gen only have been rewarded – I wouldn’t say any Assassin’s Creed Unity had any trouble making it off the shelves (despite being astonishingly mediocre), and Bloodborne surpassed a million sales in less than a fortnight – as a PS4 exclusive.

Something tells me when The Witcher 3 lands next week, a certain Polish studio isn’t going to be wishing they coded a 512mb of RAM-friendly PS3 version as well.

Agree? Disagree? I want to know why – share your thoughts in the comments.