Meet the New Gen, Same as the Old Gen

By: Chris Hodges, Editor-in-Chief

As I look through the planned launch lineups of the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, there are actually some impressive titles on both lists. There’s just one small problem: Most of them are also coming to the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and/or the Wii U, all of which I already own.

Once upon a time, a new console meant new games, exclusive games that you couldn’t get on your pathetic “current gen” hardware. Of course, this was back when generations were more easily defined by their number of bits, before we started confusingly defining console generations as either “last,” “current,” or “next” and never quite being sure when the change officially takes place.

It was around the time that we started measuring our consoles’ manhoods not by the length of their bits but the way they used them that the line between one generation’s software and the next became a lot more blurry.

I first began to really notice this trend when prettier versions of current and even slightly older PlayStation 1 games began to pad out the Dreamcast’s lineup. It didn’t seem quite as prevalent on the PlayStation 2 or its competitors, but when the Xbox 360 launched that’s when the separation between the games of one generation and its successor became a lot more muddied. Many early Xbox 360 titles were little more than Xbox and PS2 games with a layer of HD gloss plastered over them. If you owned both platforms there was no question as to which version you wanted, but if you weren’t ready or able to upgrade to the 360 there weren’t really a ton of games you had to completely live without even if you were getting the jaggier, less shiny version. Nintendo shamelessly took its long-in-development Zelda follow-up Twilight Princess and released it as both a Gamecube swan song and a day one Wii launch game, and then turned around and played up the exciting and previously unheard of prospect of a full-fledged Zelda game launching with a new console. It was technically the truth, but it felt a little shady and ended up leaving Link to awkwardly straddle two console generations, not really knowing where he belonged and his fans not knowing which side to pull him over to.

Speaking of Nintendo, their Wii U launch last year was technically the first console of the “next generation”, and other than a mere handful of true exclusives their lineup was and continues to be mostly Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 games (with varying degrees of Gamepad support). And as I stated earlier, most of what has been announced for the immediate future of the XBone and PS4 isn’t too much better, and I’m not just talking the launch window. Even games that have been announced for well into 2014, like Metal Gear Solid V Ground Phantom Zero Pain or whatever it’s going to be called, is being developed for next AND current gen consoles, and depending on which quote you believe and from which interview you read it from, Hideo Kojima has said that much of what we’ve seen is actually largely current-gen footage. Maybe. Possibly. I don’t know, the guy is my hero and is the brains behind one of my all-time favorite franchises and I normally enjoy his games, but this time around he’s just giving me a headache.

The point is, we have yet to see very many titles that are 100% next gen exclusive or look extraordinarily better on the more powerful hardware. I can only speak for myself, but games are the primary reason why I buy a game console, not ancillary features or hard drive space or social media connections. And as long as all Sony and Microsoft are showing me are games that just look a tad bit prettier (and are possibly going to cost more money), I’m not going to be in any big rush to buy new consoles to play games I can play on systems that have been bought and paid for for years now. It’s not sharper textures or more realistic lighting that make me want to camp out at Best Buy or buy extra games I don’t want in forced bundles or overpay on eBay instead of waiting a few more months until the stores replenish their stock. It’s completely new games. It’s Ridge Racer, Virtua Fighter, Super Mario 64 , Soul Calibur, SSX, Luigi’s Mansion and Halo. Not the higher polygon count version of the new Call of Duty.