UK retailers have warned that consumers may hold-off buying PS4 or Xbox One in order to play GTA V.
The strong current-gen line-up this year will mean the next-gen transition will be slower than before, experts say. Especially as Xbox One and PS4 are not backwards compatible.
And games bosses have told MCV they feel there’s a lack of exclusive PS4 and Xbox One content, with many of the big next-gen games also coming to PS3 and Xbox 360.
“The core gamers will be out in force at launch,” said one high ranking retail boss. “But after that it’s going to be hard convincing consumers to spend £350 to £430 on a new console as many of the best games will be available on machines they already own. That’s made even more complicated when you consider that games like GTA V, Splinter Cell: Blacklist and Gran Turismo 6 are only available on Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3.”
Games that are releasing across generations this Christmas include Watch Dogs, Assassin’s Creed IV, Call of Duty: Ghosts and Battlefield 4, and that trend will continue next year with Titanfall, Thief, Destiny, Metal Gear Solid V and The Evil Within. In fact, EA exec Patrick Söderlund said last month he expects cross-gen games to continue for up to two years.
“I think there will be a ‘wait and see how much this affects me’ attitude to the next-gen from gamers,”said Dixons PC games buyer Simon Urquhart.
“If they aren’t seeing an immediate difference in the server populations and gameplay features, then it’ll be tough to justify the expense. Killer apps like Halo and God of War are always tipping points for owners of legacy consoles and until dates on those are released, gamers will be patient – especially if they have a PC and an Xbox 360.
“Sony and Microsoft are going to have to work hard with publishers to make use of the new features of the next-gen. That being said, there is a whole new audience for the ‘family entertainment hub’ that both are trying to reach.”
Games Centre MD Robert Lindsay added: “Publishers seem to be covering every angle by bringing their titles out on current and next-generation formats. As a publisher you wouldn’t want to put all your eggs in the next-gen basket straight away, especially as Microsoft have just announced record sales of the Xbox 360.
“If consumers are feeling the pinch, and with quality titles still being released on current formats, the customer transition to next-gen might be slower this time around.”
But Asda’s games boss Craig Thirkell isn’t worried. He says there are consumers that will want the best versions of these titles, and that the real challenge is getting the stock levels right.
“It’s going to be a difficult and sensitive time inventory-wise to plan this right with the publisher – for them and us,” he said. "We welcome the appearance on both current and next-gen, but getting the mix right will be key to making any money with the risk of poor availability versus overstock.
“Personally I don’t see any reason not to upgrade. Gamers are gamers – they want the latest and greatest and if it look and plays better on next-gen then I think they will trade up. PC gamers think nothing of paying out £300 every two years or so on graphic card upgrades just to keep up with the cutting edge improvements in gameplay and frame-rate.
“I also think there will be a lot of trade-in opportunities this year as we find a proportion of gamers buying current-gen titles until they are launched on next-gen, especially in the two months running up to launch.”
Meanwhile, Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot told MCV this week that he expects the cross-generation trend to fade away over the next 12 months.
"The goal for this year is to have games that are on next-gen, but can also can be played by the number of people that aren't ready to go next-gen," he said. "Starting next year, not all of the games will be done across generations. You will have to use the capacity of the machine, and to do that you will have to do a specific versions for next-gen."