A reader is upset that games are still being released on current and last generation consoles and worries that it’s stifling innovation.
God of War
Reading matc7884’s Reader’s Feature about the flaws of the Nintendo Switch, particularly in regards to a lack of meaningful third party support, had me reflecting on one of biggest issues within video games in 2022, and that is how the tradition of cross-generation games is damaging the industry.
The Switch, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4 are part of the eighth generation of video gaming. The Switch released in 2017 to replace the Wii U, another eighth generation console. The Xbox One and the PlayStation released in 2013, with upgraded versions of the consoles releasing in 2016 and 2017. The Switch has never been improved upon, other than a new screen and more storage for the OLED model, meaning that it still runs on very old hardware.
It is to the credit of developers that they have ported AAA games to the Switch. These games have ranged from mature fare including Doom (2016) and The Witcher 3 to more child-friendly games including Crash Bandicoot 4 and Spyro Reignited Trilogy. The fact that these ports are still releasing is amazing considering the Switch’s hardware.
In 2020, the ninth generation of home consoles released: the PlayStation 5 and the Xbox Series X/S. While notable upgrades from the last generation, the Series S has less graphical and performance capabilities than the Series X, creating a two-tier system. Due to the new consoles having initially struggled with stock, developers still had to make new games compatible with the Xbox One and PlayStation 4.
The warning signs
On the Xbox Series in particular, this is a consumer nightmare. While the PlayStation 5 has some first party exclusives, the Xbox Series is non-existent in this regard. While Microsoft’s new approach to gaming is resulting in genuine innovation, all first party Xbox Series games are also being released for the Xbox One. Microsoft has also introduced features aimed at giving previous generation games a facelift, making it hard to tell which games are enhanced for the new hardware and which aren’t.
Additionally, being able to play new games from the cloud on Xbox One could make the Xbox Series redundant. Adding the Nintendo Switch, which is equivalent to an Xbox 360 X or PS3 Pro, into the mix causes major issues. Most Switch ports downgrade graphics and performance to maintain the core gameplay. While this worked previously, it’s reaching its expiry date.
While cloud-only games are cited as the symptom, the bad omen is GTA Trilogy: The Definitive Edition. It received backlash for launching with various issues, in part because the developers targeted every modern device. This includes smartphones, the Switch, the eighth/nine generation home consoles, and the PC. The result? A collection of games based on mobile ports in a new engine.
The PlayStation 5/Xbox Series received enhanced visuals, but the core origins remain obvious. Meanwhile, the Switch struggled with performance due to poor optimisation, although several patches mostly resolved this. The end result is a collection of games that doesn’t do justice to any of the hardware it released on.
Is this even needed?
The worst thing is that none of this is needed, as can be seen from Nintendo. As their first party games focus solely on the Switch, they make fun experiences that are suited for their hardware. This shows that the industry needs to focus more on the ninth generation if they ever want it to stand on its own. While cross-generation games are still valuable and have their place for now, it’s time to stop stifling the creativity of developers for the sake of older hardware.
By reader Connor Lamb
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