Like any piece of technology, video game consoles go through cycles. Affectionately known as “generations,” they act as markers for jumps in technology and innovation in the industry. Traditionally, a generation lasts for about five years before a new set of lovely boxes take over.
It has been eight years since the Xbox 360 came out.
Some blame it on the recession, others on the increase of online access for home consoles, allowing for smaller updates to extend the shelf life of a game. Fact is, it has been way too long since a new console hit the market and the industry has suffered for it. A new generation brings creativity, it allows developers a chance to try new things and evolve the medium. When the life of an old console gets stretched, developers have no choice but to rehash old gameplay mechanics in fear that starting a new game property so late in the cycle will make their product seem stale once the new hardware hits the market.
With the Wii U hitting shelves this past holiday season, Nintendo pulled a Sega Dreamcast moment and decided to deliver their goods a little bit early and slightly underpowered compared to what we have come to expect with the new systems. Frankly, the Wii U only helped Nintendo catch up to what other manufacturers were already producing graphically. The one year head start will only make the games seem dated by the time Sony and Microsoft show up, so publisher support is key to keeping the console afloat.
Last week, Sony had its fifteen minutes of fame, announcing the highly anticipated PlayStation 4. Instead of actually showing the console, they opted to tell us what new features it will have and had developers stand on stage and give us concept videos on what their games might look like. To be fair, Watch Dogs and Destiny did show some gameplay footage, though both these titles had been announced prior. Killzone Shadow Fall looked mad impressive but until I get my hands on it, I don’t believe what I saw was gameplay, considering their previous overstatement with the second game in the series.
A highly touted feature was the all new “Share” button in the all new controller. It will record the last ten seconds of gameplay and let you annoy your friends with your pointless gaming achievements. While this feature is a godsend for the YouTube community, I don’t see it making the new PlayStation a must buy. Furthermore, the addition of a touchpad similar to the Vita across the front of the controller seems like an awesome feature, once they tell us what they plan to do with it.
In the end, the PlayStation 4 announcement came off as kind of rushed. I understand Sony’s need to capture their audience before the overwhelming chaos of E3, but not showing proper gameplay or a fully realized console just fell flat. Either way, your current PlayStation games will not work on it, nor will your old controllers, so if you want to keep up, better line up in the cold lines this November. The recession is over; throw your money at the screen.