Video game consoles are changing before our eyes. It’s a weird, exciting time to be a gamer. Many previously held assumptions have to go away, and we’re in a field of unknowns. In truth, the change began years ago when the previous generation of game consoles started to live longer than anyone expected them to. Now, with the announcement of Microsoft’s Project Scorpio and the official acknowledgement of PlayStation 4 Neo, things are getting real.
Everyone from gamers to developers and publishers are going to have opinions on this change and while we won’t know how things are going to truly go down until next year, everyone is already starting to chime in.
To get the story from the big publishers, GamesIndustry.biz talked to executives from Electronic Arts, Ubisoft, and Take-Two. The overall impression from the publishers is positive, and the reasons match up pretty well with what a lot of gamers would say, too.
“I actually see it more as an incredibly positive evolution of the business strategy for players and for our industry and definitely EA,” said Electronic Arts’ global publishing chief, Laura Miele. “The idea that we would potentially not have the end of a cycle and beginning of the cycle I think is a positive place for our industry to be for all of the commercial partners as well as players.”
Miele pointed out one of the biggest advantages for gamers. By taking on an upgrade system more like the mobile world, older games stay compatible with hardware and networks. There’s no need to introduce backwards compatibility piecemeal, as it’s already built in. If you’re still loving a multiplayer game you have on the current console, you don’t have to leave it behind, but you can stay current with the newest games. You can even skip a hardware revision without missing out on games.
Ubisoft’s head of EMEA Alain Corre added that the change “will not split communities.” Just like people on low and high end PCs can play shooters together, someone with an Xbox One can play with someone with an Xbox Scorpio.
“We can take the best of the next console but still have super good quality for the current console without breaking the community up,” he said. Corre went on to talk up Ubisoft’s internal development teams. The teams, he explained, love breaking in new tech and supporting technology early on, so this is something that the men and women creating the code and art see as a net positive as well, in his eyes.
Finally, Strauss Zelnick, CEO of Take-Two, backed the previous statements about communities, likening the continuity between machines as being more like televisions.
“When you make a television show, you don’t ask yourself, ‘what monitor is this going to play on?’ It could play on a 1964 color television or it could play on a brand new 4K television, but you’re still going to make a good television show.”
Zelnick also said that he sees the rate of hardware advancement slowing down.
“We will get to the point where hardware becomes a backdrop. And sure, constantly more powerful hardware gives us an opportunity but it would be great to get to a place where we don’t have a sine curve anymore, and I do see that curve flattening but I’m not sure I agree it’s going away yet.”
The new systems have a lot of potential for gaming. Even if this first generation isn’t quite so popular, it’s the start of something that’s not going to change. Even if lots of people skip the Scorpio and Neo, they’ll likely end up picking up whatever comes next. The Pisces or the Trinity or whatever. Whether the hopes the big publishers have for the new systems will pan out completely is, again, something we won’t know for a bit, yet.
We’re expecting Sony to say something about PlayStation 4 Neo at Gamescom or Paris Games Week later this year, and then the picture might start to get a bit clearer.