Shank’s Spiel: Last Gen Shackles

Admittedly, I spoke about this topic a few months back, but I find it necessary to revisit. In part, this is due to the influx of games that are still releasing exclusively on last gen machines. More damagingly, however, are the upcoming games that are releasing on current gen and last gen.

This makes me angry. I can’t begin to describe just how frustrated I become when, week after week, we hear of more upcoming titles that will release simultaneously on current gen and last gen. Again, I understand the reasons why these publishers push for continual support and release of games on the last generation of consoles. As Brian bluntly put it on Totally Heroes, there is a lot of money to be had in the last generation machines.

It’s a simple fact that the install base of last gen grossly outweighs the install base of current gen, even though the adoption rate of the new consoles is higher than it was at this same point in time for their predecessors. In other words, generation over generation, adoption rate has increased. This is a good thing. But…this still doesn’t matter when looking at pure margin.

I will be the first to tell you that while I understand the reasons why these big publishers push to develop games for last gen, I simply don’t care. I completely disagree with them. I really only care about one thing in this industry: progress.

“But Shank,” you decry, “I thought all you cared about is graphics.” To that, I submit the notion that graphics are a result of progress. And I don’t mean progress with respect to storytelling, gameplay, etc. I mean pure technological progress. I firmly believe that a narrative as phenomenal as The Last Of Us could have been written in 1998, but there is no chance in hell that it would have been nearly as impactful then. Similarly, there’s no way that the gameplay would have been as intense in 1998.


The technology simply didn’t exist in 1998 to support the storytelling and gameplay experience that Naughty Dog wanted to bring to life. In other words, storytelling and gameplay can always be improved at almost any point in time. But without the technology to bring them to life, they simply aren’t as impactful nor meaningful.

Still don’t believe me? Ok. Take a look at Final Fantasy VII on the Playstation. It was a great game. Great music, awesome story, and fun gameplay. Now imagine that game running on modern hardware, with all the gorgeous DX11 bells and whistles, while keeping the music, story, and gameplay intact. You can’t tell me that the modern experience wouldn’t be more immersive, fluid, and just more fun. All things equal, better tech will lead to a better, more impactful experience.

And that’s what I care about most. That technological progress.

What does this have anything to do with last gen, you ask? Simply put, by continuing to pander to the lowest common denominator, the industry will continue to be shackled to the technological boundaries presented by last gen hardware. A perfect example of this is the Destiny beta, which is currently underway.

Eurogamer’s Digital Foundry did an analysis on the PS3 and PS4 version of the beta and found that while the gameplay and other elements are pretty much the same across both platforms, the PS3 version looks decidedly worse than the PS4. And before you begin to retort with, “you can’t compare 8 year old hardware to a brand new console”, you are wrong. I absolutely can compare 8 year old hardware to a new console simply because the same game is on both machines.

This is not to say that the PS4 beta is ugly by any means. It’s quite pretty. But just imagine how much better the graphics would be if Destiny released solely on current generation consoles.

And this is exactly my point. These cross generation games are being crippled visually just so they will be able to run on grossly inferior hardware. Surely, the PS3 version of Destiny can’t be the full realization of Bungie’s vision for the game. And simply because the game is running on PS3 and holding back the PS4 version, who’s to say that even the PS4 version meets Bungie’s full vision? It is a catastrophe if developers are compromising their vision for their game just because publishers want margins in the so-called security of last gen install base. It’s a cowardly outlook on the industry.

By the way, console gamers, this frustration you’re feeling now is exactly how we PC gamers have felt for years…but that is an entirely different topic, one which I may cover in the future.

Additionally, by continuing to release cross generation games, the publishers are discouraging gamers from adopting the newer hardware. Why buy a new console if the same game is also releasing on my old console? I’m willing to bet that most consumers won’t dish out $400 just so the same game can look marginally shinier.

Without games exclusive to the newer consoles, these consumers have no incentive to upgrade. For example, upcoming games like Assassin’s Creed Unity are exclusive to the new consoles and PC, however, there are all-but-confirmed rumors that an Assassin’s Creed experience will be coming to last gen machines.

This may discourage those last gen gamers from buying a PS4 or Xbox One, because even though they won’t be able to play AC Unity, they’ll still get an Assassin’s Creed title this year.

This is horrible. It’s such an incredibly backwards mentality that it makes my blood boil. And all because these publishers want return on margin.

I am a gamer first and foremost. I don’t give a damn about margin. All I care about is that my games are the best that they can be. I want to know that my new consoles and PC are being pushed to their absolute limit. I want to get my money’s worth.

In short, I want progress. This poisonous mentality of releasing games for vastly inferior last generation hardware needs to stop. It’s fueled by an industry run by cowards who are too damn scared to take risks and leap into the future. Instead of paving the way forward, they are clinging to shackles of the past.

And that is a pitiful outlook on the industry.

One comment

  • If this goes on for longer than this holiday season, I agree entirely. I can see the business case for this year because the industry is still in a state of transition into current gen, but this can’t continue into next year. A line has to be drawn in order to allow the devs to push the new HW to it’s limits.

Leave a Reply