What Defines “Next-Gen?”

Recently, Kotaku released an article regarding the definition of next-gen from the perspective of a PS4 developer. The developer is one working on The Order: Dana Jan. When asked how he defined next-gen, he essentially narrowed it down to these things: Ram, CPU, and story. You can read his full answer here.

The more I thought about this, the more I felt was left out of the answer to that question. If next-gen gaming was narrowed down to just those aspects, then console gaming wouldn’t need to exist anymore; PC gaming would be the main source for gaming needs. Many console games are also available on PC (ie – Titanfall and Watch_Dogs), and run better with more responsive controls. So, one would have to ask, “Why would I spend $400-$500 on a console when I could spend $900-$1,000 for a top of the line gaming PC that plays many of the same games – but much better – and can do so much more than gaming?”

On the other end, he speaks about story and character being a definition of Next-Gen. This isn’t true either. One of my favorite game franchises of all time, the Metal Gear Solid series, proves this. Metal Gear Solid may have been graphically advanced for it’s time with an over-the-top storyline, but both are secondary to the next-gen aspect. Yes, the story was outlandish and definitely a part of the overall game. Yes, the graphics were “really cool” for it’s time. But, what made that game next-gen? It was the way you played. There had never been a stealth game that played like it before. There was mature content that resembled more of a movie than just a game. There was the usage of orchestral music rather than a full midi game score. Graphics and story were a part of the gameplay, but not a definition of next-gen. The overall experience felt next-gen.

So, what defines next-gen?

  1. Power – Technology is a fleeting thing. Technology is obsolete the moment it hits the shelves, and the next technical step is always in production. So, this would lead to technical power in a console system having a role defining “next-gen” – it needs to have the latest tech. Games are constantly upgrading visuals and processing speeds, giving more immersion in our gaming. Can you imagine playing a game like Super Mario 3D World 20 years ago? How about playing Titanfall only a decade ago? The processors and power fuel the 4 player multiplayer madness in SM3DW, and the massive online capabilities of Titanfall. Without power under the hood, the system will never advance to newer types of gaming.
  2. Exclusives – Can you play Mario Kart 8 on an Xbox? How about inFamous: Second Son on a PS2? Exclusives define the latest consoles that manufacturers create, and help to define the “next-gen” experience. If I were to ask you why you want/own a PS4/Xbox One/Wii U, your answer would most likely resemble something like this: “I want to play game on console because I can’t play it on my current console(s).” Software defines the “next-gen” experience just as much as the hardware does.
  3. Gameplay – This is the most important aspect of defining a next-gen system. How we play games has evolved just as much as technology has over the past 30 years or so. Manufacturers should search for the latest and greatest technology to put in their consoles in order to expand on gameplay and make their products more appealing to consumers – whether or not the system sells well is besides the point. We, as gamers/consumers must ask, Why should I buy this new system, and what separates it from the others? The gaming companies must answer.

These 3 aspects must be met in order to define “next-gen.” Is the PS4 next-gen? It’s got power, exclusives on the way, and VR may be an actual reality sooner rather than later; my answer is yes. How about the Xbox One? It also meets the criteria above: plenty of power, exclusives like Halo and Forza, and Kinect offering a new way to play), so my answer is yes. Finally, what about the Wii U? It does have more power – just not to the degree of the other two – and it has plenty of exclusives. As for gameplay, this is where the GamePad comes into play (though Nintendo needs to utilize it more to create new ways of playing games): my answer is, again, yes.

Next-gen cannot be defined my graphics alone, nor by story (story rests under the umbrella of software/exclusives). Power, exclusives, and new gameplay define next-gen consoles; otherwise they are just dumbed-down versions of PC gaming.

What do you think defines next-gen consoles?




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