Next-gen consoles have now been in the marketplace for 6 months (or just over a year if you include the Wii U, which doesn’t quite stack up hardware-wise with the PS4 or Xbox One). Over that period of time, Sony sold over 7 million PlayStation 4 units. Estimates place Microsoft’s Xbox One in the 5 million units sold range. Even the Wii U showed a resurgence in sales numbers with the launch of Mario Kart 8, and more growth is sure to come as Zelda, Super Smash Bros, and other powerhouse Nintendo titles hit the console. It’s safe to say that next-gen consoles are starting to establish and replace last-gen consoles in living rooms around the world, but when it comes down to it, we as gamers have barely seen the tip of the iceberg as it pertains to true next-gen gaming.
In many ways, the transition period between last-gen and next-gen hardware is an expected one, as developers attempt to balance game development in order to cater to both a majority of last-gen customers who haven’t yet upgraded to newer consoles, as well as those early adapters who lined up for next-gen products the night before they hit the market. This results in an initial wave of games that don’t fully take advantage of all the features of next-gen technology in order to accommodate both sets of users.
This is also why, often, newer consoles are considered to have poor game libraries until a year or two after launch—an effect we’re witnessing in action right now with the Wii U, as its star titles (proprietary Nintendo software) start to take center stage and propel sales. Ubisoft went so far as to develop and complete a game for the Wii U that they won’t release until the console itself has sold several thousand more units. Indeed, most major game manufacturers view 2015 as the year in which next-gen gaming truly takes hold. More developers will create games targeted solely to next-gen consoles that will represent a truly progressive experience in regard to scale, visuals, and gameplay innovation.
But what does next-gen gaming truly mean? What does it encompass? Surely improved graphics are no longer a significant enough industry advancement to qualify games of the future. And it is at this point that we turn the discussion to virtual reality. The aspirations of Nintendo’s Virtual Boy back in 1995 are soon to become a reality. To determine the future of game advancement, one only need look at the difference between the technology demos present at major conventions, such as E3, in 2012 and contrast them with those available in 2014. 2012 was about graphical advancement and photorealism in game and animation engines, but 2014 was the year of VR tech demos.
The Oculus Rift and Sony’s Project Morpheus stunned the E3 floor as users injected themselves directly into game worlds. But there are more significant developments in the field just around the corner, even though VR, itself, hasn’t even launched for the mainstream yet. Development is under way on technologies that enable you to truly feel like you’ve become someone else, while other companies are hard at work on enabling a sense of touch.
Virtual reality is just around the corner, which is why some developers viewed Microsoft’s decision to detach the Kinect from the Xbox One in order to be competitive with the PS4’s price point as a step backward for the industry. Bundling motion detection technology with a console by default forces developers to step forward and take risks in order to create games that target a console’s full capabilities, but removing this technology enables them to default to the safer, more predictable route of developing only for standard (albeit high-end) hardware. However, the VR movement is gaining momentum, and Microsoft’s decision is A) probably just a minor setback along the path to full VR, and B) likely to be reversed sometime down the road of the Xbox One’s lifespan. Not to absolve Sony in this situation, as they also haven’t included Move technology with the PS4 by default. However, by making this decision at the PS4’s launch, they were able to avoid the controversy generated by Microsoft’s choice to do so 6 months after release—a choice that perpetuated MS’s “Me too!” reputation, which has been following them around since the initial announcements of the PS4 and Xbox One.
We may not yet be fully immersed in true next-gen gaming, but the future arrives soon, and looks pretty damn promising.
In other gaming news this week, the Steam summer sale returns, Ubisoft screws up, and our readers picked their favorite games of E3. Read on!
- Video Games: The Movie launches July 15. The film looks to delve into history of video games new and old from the perspective of developers and celebrities, as well as speculate about the future of the industry. Check out the trailer below.
- Suda51’s new PlayStation exclusive, Let It Die, looks like a modern-day mashup of Manhunt, Hostel, and Mortal Kombat. The multiplayer aspect of mirror images of dead players lingering to fight on is an interesting twist, perhaps inspired by the Dark Souls franchise.
- Pssst. It looks like Steam’s summer sale is starting this week. Pass it on. But for the love of all that is holy, hide your wallet. For your own sake.
- The world’s largest video game collection sold for a cool $750,000 this week.
- An initial flurry of speculation regarding Zelda potentially being a protagonist in the franchise that bears her name was disappointingly quashed shortly after producer Eiji Aonuma clarified that it was, indeed, Link in the game’s trailer—a clarification which elicited a response that was undoubtedly exacerbated by…
- …Ubisoft sticking their foot in their mouth by explaining away the absence of female assassins in the upcoming Assassin’s Creed Unity—a point of especial incredulity due to the game’s introduction of multiplayer and subsequent multiplayer assassin models—as a “reality of production.” Oof.
- Check out these 40 male protagonist faces from E3 and see if you can pick out the patterns! (Also, it may be a good idea to dodge the YT comments section to save yourself a few doses of stupidity).
- We love you, Peter Dinklage, but let’s be honest—you’re kind of just mailing it in for Destiny, aren’t you?
- The Resident Evil franchise has produced its last movie—for the time being, at least.
- VR is soon-to-be hitting the masses, but the next step in its evolution is already under way: integrating the sense of touch.
- Finally, a tip of the hat to our readers last week, whose favorite games from E3 (that weren’t listed in our own E3 roundup) finish off this week’s column…
- Meet No Man’s Sky, an open-world sci-fi exploration and survival game exclusive to the PS4. Immense scope and incredible promise best sum up what we know of No Man’s Sky to this point.
- Elite: Dangerous is a game similar in premise (open universe exploration) to No Man’s Sky, but differently styled. Space exploration junkies are going to have a banner couple of years.
- Finally, From Software (of Dark Souls fame) is back with a new gothic, gory, monstrous IP titled Bloodborne, and if their track record is any indication, we have a lot to look forward to.