Game On: Why I’ve still not bought a next-gen console
PlayStation 4

In the first of a brand new series of video game columns, Mark Butler explains why he’s yet to take the plunge with a PS4 or Xbox One – and probably won’t for a good long while. 

PlayStation 4

The new gaming generation has kicked off in record-breaking, mammoth-selling style. But despite all the song and dance about Sony and Microsoft’s new hardware, and the tangible excitement that has been flying around, I’m not one of the 7 million people who bought a next gen console late last year. And I don’t plan on getting one for a while yet, either.

There are obvious reasons of course. Despite the odd triumph, the launch line-ups for the PS4 and Xbox One have hardly been extraordinary. The initial price tags are pretty damn steep too – particularly in the case of Microsoft’s new system, which insists on charging an extra £80 for a Kinect system that I have precisely zero interest in.

But as I look ahead to the next 12 months, the lack of appetite-whetting incentive becomes even more apparent.

Last week I picked out the games I’m most looking forward to playing in 2014, ranging from major Triple A releases to offbeat indie projects. Of the 20 games I selected, just 3 are next-gen exclusives – a meagre 15 per cent. In stark contrast, half will be available on PS3 or Xbox 360, and it’s also worth bearing in mind that all but four will be available on PC – hinting at a compelling alternative option.

To add to this state of affairs, some of the most exciting upcoming releases won’t even be available on the new systems. For the moment at least, you won’t be able to play Dark Souls II on PS4 or Xbox One.

Of course, the enthusiastic, psyched-up gamer in me can’t help but look at the likes of Witcher 3 and The Order: 1886 and crave an opportunity to get stuck in. But while I certainly plan to pick up a next gen console somewhere down the line, it probably won’t be for a good while yet.

What’s interesting about the current state of play, is that this is the first time in the history of the medium that the generational leap has not really felt essential.

Normally, after eight years of a console cycle, gamers – and developers alike – are crying out for new hardware to get their sweaty palms on, as the previous generation’s graphics begin to look even more dated and jarring, and the possibilities of the systems’ processing power fade into obscurity due to the ever-relentless onward march of technology.

But things are very different this time around. As impressive as Ryse: Son Of Rome and the new Killzone are visually, there’s far less of a tangible gap between the two generations than ever before. The PlayStation felt like a brave new world after the cartoonish childs-play of the SNES and Mega Drive; both the PS2 and 3 were notable evolutions compared to their predecessors, which had started to seriously show their age. But despite having been around for just shy of a decade, the PS3 and 360 show no sign of becoming irrelevent, outdated and sluggish just yet. Not to a notable degree, anyway.

I don’t know about you, but I didn’t play BioShock Infinite and The Last of Us last year and think: ‘f*** me, these feel a bit dated, don’t they’?

Developers are continuing to pump out quality titles with top-notch visuals, specs and expansive gameworlds for pre-existing consoles, and it is arguable that they have only just begun to push the limits of that hardware.

The gap between the current and the next-gen has never been less pronounced; and the need for enhanced presentation and suped-up specs more negligible. This is the first generation that was not brought about by a feeling of necessity: it was forced by the notion that companies and consumers had gone too long without something shiny and new.

As a result, the vast majority of high-profile releases coming to next gen consoles as we speak are also available on pre-existing devices, and this has already led to some bizarre situations.

I personally know a number of people who bought a PS4 brand new at launch with just a single game, Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag – which was readily available on the consoles they already owned.

‘But it’s the best version Mark!’, they exclaimed.

Really? So good it’s worth an extra £350?

The fact that so many developers are unwilling to place all their eggs in the next-gen basket, and are instead deciding that the pre-existing systems are perfectly capable of supporting the same all-singing, all-dancing new IPs and big-name sequels as the new kids on the block, would appear to speak volumes.

The point of all this is not to bash people who’ve decided to take the next-gen plunge. If you’ve got yourself a PS4 or Xbox One and are happily tucking into Killzone: Shadow Fall or Dead Rising 3, then good for you. I’m sure you’re enjoying yourself, and the sheer overwhelming demand for the next generation at launch suggests I may be the equivalent of a grumpy old man waving his fist at trends and pop music he no longer understands.

But personally, I feel as though my trusty, dusty old 360 can keep on trucking for a good while yet. And with the likes of Dark Souls II, Destiny, Watch Dogs, The Evil Within and Alien: Isolation all on their way for it – and only a tiny number of next gen titles evading it all together – I’d rather save my cash and extra living room space for the time being thank you very much: and leap forward into the future when it’s finally here.

Mark Butler

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