This might be a completely subjective thing coming from me, and maybe it’s just plain common sense, but I see the starting console generation following a pattern I’ve seen happen at the beginning of almost every other one. Let me just ask this: if you’re not willing to early-adopt with the PS4 or Xbox One, what software will finally make you hop on board?
Maybe a lot do people really have to have Forza 5, maybe Call of Duty and Battlefield fans really want those upgraded graphics, maybe KillZone Shadow Fall really is a big deal, but none of this fall’s releases make me feel like I really need a new console. Okay, my first choice is actually to try to build a new PC, but even then I still plan to use it to mostly play games I already own for now.
If you look at most game platform launches of the last 20 years, it tends to take about a year before the first real killer app games show up. I’ve probably already written here at least once about how the PS2 didn’t really become an appealing console until the year following its release when games like Final Fantasy X and Metal Gear Solid 2 came out. The first Xbox 360 game a lot of people really paid attention to was Gears of War around that console’s first anniversary.
From my point of view, the first games I played on PS3 that actually felt like they justified the console were Metal Gear Solid 4 and Grand Theft Auto IV in 2008. If I hadn’t switched over to PC in 2007, I imagine games from that fall like Call of Duty 4, Mass Effect, and The Orange Box would have been the first wave of real hit “HD generation” games for me. That same year Super Mario Galaxy and Metroid Prime 3 finally brought some hardcore gameplay to the Wii. I didn’t get a 3DS until months after its release, after the price drop and the release of games like Super Mario 3D Land. Heck, I can probably justify the purchase of a Wii U this fall with Super Mario 3D World, The Wonderful 101, and Pikmin 3 out. Okay, I’ll admit Halo was a big deal for a lot of original Xbox owners, Super Mario 64 was a medium-defining launch game for the N64, and Soul Calibur singlehandedly justified the Dreamcast in 1999. The point is, truly great launch software is in the minority.
The other problem you have is spring droughts that typically come after console launches. The Wii U just suffered a particularly bad one, every Nintendo console has gone through something similar, and even the Xbox 360 had relatively little to play in the spring of 2006. Even Sony first party boss Shuhei Yoshida admits the PS4 could suffer a post-launch drought. “Large publishers typically target [the launch date], not two months or six months after, so it’s natural that the first peak comes at launch and then there will be a drought,” he said to IGN in September, hoping some indie games would help that out. Though, I’ll admit Infamous: Second Son and Titanfall are scheduled for quarter 1 2014 for the PS4 and Microsoft platforms respectively.
Finally, I think the whole cross-gen game development strategy is a sign that publishers aren’t willing to put all their eggs into the next-gen basket. Yeah they also don’t wanna leave behind the current-gen install bases, but it always takes me a minute to find all the third party games that are next-gen-only. That’s the issue: there’s honestly little appealing software right now that you HAVE to get a next-gen console to access.
On an earlier post about the prevalence of cross-gen games I think I said it was probably a natural thing for a hardware transition to proceed like this. The transition from DVD to Blu-Ray was a slow process, and game console transitions could probably afford to be slower just for the sake of consumer affordability and adoption.
For some reason, The Witcher 3 is the first game I feel like I have to own that’s only coming out on next-gen hardware (and PC). That game’s release is probably my ultimate deadline for building a new computer, and it probably doesn’t come out until middle or late 2014.
I know people like just having new hardware — that’s what I’ve felt in the past too. Whenever I’ve jumped on that new hardware for the sake of new hardware though, a few weeks later I was always left just fiddling around with the system menu or other functionality, with no new software to run. You could argue that new machine is gonna be the same price a year from now and ultimately no money is wasted, but that only really becomes true when that justifying software actually arrives. I’m just not in the business of paying for potential anymore.