Sunday, 2 June 2013

My Next Gen

As I write this, E3 is less than two weeks away. Sony and Microsoft have already announced some details of their new machines, with more to come at their E3 conferences. The next generation is looming and will most likely be with us before the end of the year. So I need to decide which way to jump.

I'll tackle the two machines in a separate post, but first I think a few questions about the next generation need answering...

1) Didn't I already buy a next gen console? The Wii U?

While I love my Wii U and it has some fantastic games that are only possible on that platform, it's probably only brought Nintendo up to the current gen (i.e. 360 and PS3) standards. It's not clear at this stage how much support it's going to receive from publishers as we have already seen some high profile cancellations, including Ubisoft's Ghost Recon Online, Sega's Aliens: Colonial Marines (a blessing in disguise probably, considering the reviews received for other versions - although wasn't the Wii U version previously touted as the "definitive" version as the gamepad could be used as a motion tracker?) and EA's Battlefield 3.

The once exclusive Rayman Legends from Ubisoft has now gone multi-platform and the ready-to-release Wii U version has been delayed to almost a year from it's originally planned release date so all versions can release simultaneously.

Will I be able to play FIFA 14 on Wii U later this year? And will that version be on a par with the 360/PS3/PC versions (FIFA 13 on Wii U was based on an older version of the game and was missing a lot of the features of other versions, for instance the fantastic Ultimate Team mode)? What about the next Call of Duty and Assassin's Creed games?

Only time will tell, but I suspect that to experience all the best games on offer I will need something else to complement my Wii U.

2) Do we actually need a next gen console?

This is an excellent question. When Sony did their big PS4 unveiling they talked about a lot of features that I am just not interested in. All the on-line streaming of your game shenanigans? No thanks. I know is very popular and lots of people regular watch players streaming their matches of Starcraft 2, League of Legends, etc., but I've never looked at any of that stuff.

And Microsoft seem to have a huge focus on the way Xbox One will communicate/control your TV viewing. They would like you to think that this is a very innovative new feature, but really they're just lifting the idea from Google TV. Besides, I suspect that this feature either won't be available outside of the US, or will be highly diluted by comparison to what is offered to customers in the US. We're still waiting for Nintendo's TVii feature to launch in Europe and that console has been available over seven months now!

So I don't think I need any of the "exciting" new features, so it's all down to the games. But are the games actually going to be much better? It's rare that I load up a game on PS3 or 360, even those from the early days of this generation, and think that the graphics are awful and this game would be so much better with double the RAM and double the processing power behind it.

Do I need to spend hundreds of pounds to see a small visual upgrade in my games? I can't help but feel that the improvement isn't going to be the equivalent of moving from standard definition TV to high definition TV. More on a par of the difference between 720p and 1080p. It's definitely there, but really, is it making that much of a difference?

3) What do I do with all my old games and consoles?

It appears that we're going to see no backwards compatibility on either the PS4 or Xbox One. So to make use of your existing games collection you will have to keep your old consoles. That's great if you have the room to leave them set up alongside your shiny new purchase, but the reality is that a lot of people won't have the space - either that or their wife/girlfriend/partner won't be impressed by the addition of another box under the TV and the old one will have to go to make room for it!

A lot of people will probably contemplate selling off their old consoles and games to fund their new console, but can you really face not playing some of those great games from this gen again? No more inFamous? No more Uncharted? No more Gears of War? No more Halo 4? No more Red Dead Redemption? Not sure I want to go down that route.

4) Can I actually afford any of this?

Both the PS4 and Xbox One consoles are up for pre-order at Amazon, both priced at £599.99 and at Zavvi, this time at £399.99. I hope that Amazon are wildly off the mark with their prices, but I suspect Zavvi might be a lot closer, if not right on the money. £400 for a new console with no games to play on it? Woah...

And speaking of games, Zavvi are listing a number of PS4 titles for pre-order at £49.99. I'm a little surprised here and think Zavvi might have shot themselves in the foot by getting these listed early. I wouldn't be surprised to see the recommended retail price for PS4/Xbox One games being another £5 to £10 more than that.

Why? Because games for these new consoles are going to become far more expensive to make. If we have greater graphical fidelity, that means that we are going to see much more detail in textures and models. That means that those textures and models are going to have to be higher resolution (in the case of textures) and more complex (in the case of models). Both of those will take longer to create, leading to an increased amount of development time, which equates to a higher salary paid to the development team. That increases the cost to produce the game which means that the publisher is going to pass that price on to the consumer.

Offline multiplayer? How much is it going to cost me to sit on the sofa with both of my kids playing a game together? One of the things I loved about Wii U is that Nintendo made it backwards compatible not only with all the Wii software, but with all the Wii controllers and peripherals too. I bought a Wii U and Nintendoland and using my existing collection of Wii controllers we could have a fantastic 4 player game with the whole family involved. If I want to play four players on either the PS4 or Xbox One, how much am I going to have to spend? Another £150? Probably.

It begs the question why Sony and Microsoft couldn't have made their new consoles backwards compatible with controllers in the same way Nintendo have? Instead Sony have forced the Move technology on us by including it in the controller, rather than as an optional peripheral and Microsoft have done the same with Kinect by including it in the box.

The obvious answer is: money. They both stand to make money from consumers by forcing us to pay again for additional controllers. So we're now looking at paying in the region of £500+ for a new console, an extra controller and a copy of FIFA 14 come Christmas? I doubt that I'll be paying that.


Unless there are some BIG surprises at E3 and over the coming months regarding cost, I think I will be waiting a while to join the next generation. I just can't justify the cost.

As a side note, if I was offered the two consoles for free and told I could only take one, right now I would probably take... the PS4. Purely because where my existing consoles are setup I don't think I would have enough room for Kinect to work, which pretty much rules out the Xbox One for me. Nice one, Microsoft.

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