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Gamers Need To Stop Expecting Graphical Leaps For Next-Gen Consoles

Posted on Wednesday, February 27 @ 16:04:40 Eastern by

At an industry event yesterday, Ben Silverman (talk about old-school Game Revolution, right?) and I began to discuss a topic that many hardcore gamers don't want to admit to themselves: They expect the next generation of consoles to have a significant graphical leap. At heart, even I am guilty of this.

It's a learned response, for sure. Every console generation has come with it a fuller realization from pixels and polygons to photorealistic graphics. The easiest way to sell a console and entice both gamers new and old to spend hundreds of dollars at launch has usually been showcasing a killer demo with incredible graphics. One of the reasons Final Fantasy VII is so beloved, beyond its story, is for its polygonal characters and world. We remember those graphical a-ha moments.

But as we've gotten closer to photorealism (and apart from the extremely rich, is anyone excited about 4K Resolution TVs?), the graphical leaps have naturally become thinner and thinner. And we feel the effects: Console generations are becoming longer and longer in part due to these graphical expectations, and we readily complain about how new but non-graphical features of a console just aren't system-sellers. The PS4's new host of features, including cloud-integration, personalization, and immediacy, are all forward-thinking next-generation ideas, but will they really get the casual gamers interested? Are these really 'must-have' features that will catch the attention of regular non-gaming Americans?


That said, hardcore gamers are now facing the fact that they will need to divert and transmute this intrinsic need for better graphics into other avenues, if they don't want to become permanent cynics of the industry. Some of this need has been redirected to the mobile and tablet markets, which are in a way a rebirth of the graphical cycle. No doubt in the next twenty years, the graphical power of iPhones and iPads will mimic, albeit at a slower rate, the graphical improvements that console gamers have experienced over the last twenty years. 

We'll also need to praise what might seem like secondary features more often. Maybe it's better-integrated 3D graphics, smoother motion controls, "cloud"-ier gaming, futuristic input devices (PS9, anyone?), or deeper online integration with YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook. Perhaps it's even turning the home console into a central hub that can play games, movies, music, TV, and video chat. We're already seeing this slow but sure transition of next-generation consoles include a full range of apps, with Netflix, Hulu Plus, Pandora, and sports channelsa one-stop shop for all your needs in the living room.

While the pursuit of technical perfection is admirable, critics and gamers alike should not confuse graphical stagnation with console stagnation. To weather this turn of the tide from graphical improvements to feature upgrades, fuller console experiences, and games that must innovate beyond eye candy, we must change our perceptions of what makes "the next generation" worthy of the name. To break down the barriers between the gaming world and the non-gaming world, consoles will eventually encompass much more than simply being gaming devices. Only then will gaming truly reach a mass audience, and nothing says next-gen more than conquering the world.


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