Once upon a time a new generation of consoles brought with it a major step forward in game content.
From Super Mario World to Super Mario 64 and Grand Theft Auto III to Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, each generation has brought with it something that has forever transformed how video games are played and built.
Almost 12 months into the life of PS4 and Xbox One, I can’t help but wonder: when are those platforms going to get those types of redefining experiences?
Titanfall, Watch Dogs and Destiny were heralded as next-gen proof of concepts. But they aren’t. Call of Duty with jet packs, GTA with hacking, Halo as an MMO… these are not things that were ‘impossible’ on the previous consoles. Hell, they’re even available on the previous consoles. And they hold up quite nicely.
Too easily, ‘new’ games chase the same trends. This Christmas racing fans will be truly spoilt for choice in terms of amazing-looking driving games. Well, they are spoiled if they want nothing but an ‘open world socially-connected racing experience’. What I would give for a racing game on a track that allowed for four-player split-screen multiplayer. Now that would be a real social gaming experience, even if it would cost 135 in extra controllers (but retailers wouldn’t be sniffy about that…).
The new machines need more variety, content and inspiration. So far, my oft-repeated ‘best thing’ about the new consoles is the fact I can update my PS4 in the background without waiting.
This may be a contradictory thing for the editor of MCV to write. Xbox and PlayStation have both broken their own records this year. Titanfall, Watch Dogs and Destiny are entirely new brands that are now firmly established. The latter two proved to the world that a new IP can be as powerful and successful as a major sequel. In a business sense, those games have performed wonderfully.
But for all the sales and the corporate back slapping, these new machines still need to prove themselves. There’s no room for complacency. This year, PS4 and Xbox One have had it all their own way. There’s no Wii-style game changer to upset their progress. But next year? Well, that’s when the Steam Machines arrive, that’s when virtual reality becomes a reality… and who knows, maybe Nintendo will drop one of those once-a-decade wild cards. And that’s not to mention the inevitable progress of tablet tech and streaming platforms.
The sales charts suggest that console gaming is back on top of the world. Yet the current range of content makes you wonder if it’s doing enough to stay there.