Alex Phillimore: (alex.phillimore-deleteme[at]-deleteme-direman [dot] com) 2013-07-25 17:41:37
Is it time to go next-gen?
As I read more and more media coverage about the Playstation 4 and the Xbox One, I often find myself asking the same question: is it time to go next-gen? Of course the graphics on these new systems will be better and the hardware may be more powerful, but at the moment I don't feel as if the jump is necessarily one worth taking, at least not at launch.
I remember when I saw the graphical potential of the Playstation 3 before the system came out. I recall speaking with my peers about how the graphics were 'almost like real life' and how the system would likely last a long time due to its incredible visuals. While the Xbox 360 is now showing its age (bigger games such as L.A Noire come on multiple discs) the Playstation 3 isn't necessarily struggling in the same way. A game as massive as GTA V is releasing on the system on a single disc, and the console supports a game like Journey, which looks absolutely fantastic by any standard, without a technical hitch in sight.
Whereas when the Playstation 2 reached the end of its lifespan it looked like a dated system (the graphics felt pretty nasty by the end), I don't feel as if the Playstation 3 is experiencing the same problems yet. I could see myself happily playing the Playstation 3 for several more years before it starts to feel out of date - expansive games like Final Fantasy XIV are supported by the system and titles such as The Last of Us look fine. Sure, you could get better graphics from a high-end PC, but for the purpose of the games I wish to play and the time I get to spend with them, I am absolutely content with the strength of the Playstation 3's visuals to the point that I feel as if the jump to next-gen isn't quite necessary at this stage in the game.
It doesn't help motivate me to buy a Playstation 4 when a lot of the launch titles for the system are also going to be on the Playstation 3. I don't plan on buying Watch Dogs or Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, but if I did, why would I buy them on the Playstation 4 when the Playstation 3 is clearly powerful enough to run them? To me, there doesn't seem to be an incentive to go next-gen by the year's end if we're only concerned with graphics. When playing some of the best-looking Playstation 3 games, I've never once felt as if they need to look better to satisfy my urges as a player (once again, Journey comes to mind as an example of the technical brilliance of the Playstation 3 - that game looks gorgeous and will remain gorgeous for many years to come). I don't feel as if the games on the current systems will look particularly dated for a while yet; clearly, Playstation 3 blu-ray discs can hold a lot of information.
So what other reasons are there to go next-gen if current-gen graphics are still more than adequate? The Playstation 4's share button, perhaps? It would be a cool feature to have, but I'm not sure it's something I'll be using very often. The idea of being able to stream games to other players in an easier manner is cool, but I can only imagine that it will lead to an influx of 'Let's-Players' playing games that I could just play myself. What about the Xbox One's ability to watch a movie at the same time as playing a game at the same time as searching the internet at the same time as ordering a pizza online? It's technically impressive, sure, but I have never once had the desire to multi-task in that way - when I play games, I want to focus on the game, not a film or a web page. How about a Kinect that is allegedly 10 times more powerful than the existing Kinect? To me, that just makes it a 10 times more powerful gadget that I'll be switching off, making me feel short-changed that I had to pay for technology I don't even plan on using in the first place.
Both the Playstation 4 and the Xbox One will likely experience teething issues at the start of their launch as well, making it all the more unappealing for me to invest in a next-gen system. At the moment I primarily get my gaming experiences through my Playstation 3, my PC and my 3DS. These three systems accommodate just about everything that I would want to play. When I play the 3DS, I don't care that it doesn't look as good as the Vita; it has better games, and I honestly couldn't care less if a game like Animal Crossing could be made to look better on a different system. I have never booted that game up and pondered to myself that it could look better. Graphics, I believe, only get you so far, and the graphical increase from this generation to the next doesn't seem to be great enough to justify a purchase at this stage.
So no, I don't believe that there is an absolute requirement yet to go next-gen. There are still plenty of great Playstation 3 titles coming out (Tales of Xillia and its sequel; Beyond: Two Souls) as well as multi-platforms like GTA V, the likes of which looks as next-gen as anything I have seen and yet will be running on the 'dated' Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 hardware. Early Playstation 3 games were games that a Playstation 2 couldn't have run in its wildest dreams - you wouldn't be able to play MotorStorm or Resistance: Fall of Man on it if you tried. I look at some of the launch titles for the upcoming systems and I can't help but think they would be able to run on the existing hardware. Naturally this won't always be the case, but I don't see that same level of graphical improvement between Playstation 3 and Playstation 4 as I did between the Playstation 2 and the Playstation 3.
I do believe the Playstation 3, and, to a lesser extent, the Xbox 360 are still perfectly capable of sustaining incredibly rich and detailed games that meet our expectations without trouble, and the future still looks bright for both systems for at least a few more years. I do see myself buying a Playstation 4 one day - perhaps in 2016 or something - when my Playstation 3 starts feeling old and clunky. As it stands, though, the Playstation 3 remains a great console with plenty of life left in it. So great, in fact, that I don't see any reason right now to buy a next-gen system.