The start of a new console generation always feels like a fresh start for video games development, but this month’s double launch – starting with the arrival of PlayStation 4 in North America today – feels like something more.
After all, these are unlike any devices we’ve had before, built to be a high-end gaming PC, a set-top box, Blu-ray player, entertainment downloads store, social network and video conference calling system all in one.
They are designed to connect with the smartphones and tablets that so many claimed would be their undoing, rather than compete with them. Such a structure changes how games can be designed; those oft-lamented companion apps could be the precursor to a whole new type of gaming experience.
For developers, the arrival of the next generation is also the first glimpse of where console gaming is heading for the next five, potentially ten, years. Yes, many studios have already had dev kits on their desks for months now, but for the rest of us, seeing those games in action is the first real taste of what PS4 and Xbox One can offer.
The devices also mark the beginning of a new hierarchy that has been building over the last few years. This will be the first home console generation where the infrastructure allows for genuine self-publishing from its early stages, and Sony and Microsoft are more attentive to studios than ever before. The relationship between developers and platform holders has rarely been closer, but only time will tell how strong that bond becomes.
It’s a very interesting climate for established studios, let alone the plethora of start-ups that continue to flock to gaming.