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COMMENT | Third-parties must let go of last-gen at E3 2014

Matt Gardner
E3 2014, PS4 games, Wii U games, Xbox One Games

COMMENT | Third-parties must let go of last-gen at E3 2014

The hype train has left the station, E3 is so close that we can smell the Doritos dust and hear the radioactive pulse of the stacks of Mountain Dew already. Jon's delivered the timetable for the busy day of press conferences, surprise reveals, and endless name-dropping that kicks off the show each and every year. Our resident Sony clergyman Brendan has outlined seven ways that the PS4 and Vita can knock it out of the park in a few weeks' time. Microsoft have been clearing house and getting as many of their hardware and service-based material out of the way ahead of the start of the show.

It looks like we might actually see an E3 this year that's all about the games.

COMMENT | Third-parties must let go of last-gen at E3 2014

But I want slightly more than that from this E3. Last year's show brought us the new console hardware. This year's show needs to demonstrate a shift in focus from last generation to this one. If this year's E3 is to be all about the games, it's important that the majority of the demonstrative power on show is brought to bear on renewed focus for the Xbox One, the PS4, and (in slightly different fashion) the Wii U.

I wrote something back in April talking about how it's clear that we're not ready as an industry to let go of the previous generation:

Developers are still committed to serving the massive install bases of the previous generation over exclusively exploring opportunities on Xbox One and PS4, and until that changes and the focus fully shifts, or we get a greater degree of platform exclusives on the newer consoles, there's just not going be that impetus to jump ship. My PS4 has been playing the lesser fiddle to my PC, my 3DS, my 360, and even my Vita of late, and I'd quite like some compelling reasons to turn it back on. The only way that will happen is through more games like inFamous: Second Son and a shift in third-party focus.

A month ago, I used the likes of Titanfall and Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel to illustrate how pandering to last-gen hardware restricts what you can do on new-gen systems. That's not just in terms of graphical prettiness, although that certainly comes into it, but by striving to ensure that all bases are covered for last-gen versions you can't help but limit the potential for your game on new-gen hardware because you simply won't be leveraging absolutely everything you can from those new consoles.

It's time that changed.

COMMENT | Third-parties must let go of last-gen at E3 2014

Those hefty install bases for last-gen consoles are phenomenally attractive. But we should be reaching a point where developers are porting down rather than up -- a slight difference, but a crucial one. It makes sense from a business perspective -- delivering the best possible games on the newest systems, and further incentivising sales for new consoles. "Feature complete" is an admirable goal, but it's time to recognise that there's a significant gap between the capabilities of the Xbox 360/PS3 and the Xbox One/PS4. We need developers, publishers, and platform holders alike to be trumpeting that at E3. That next-gen console owners will no longer have to settle for marginally improved versions of cross-generational games.

It's a message predominantly aimed at third-parties who've been cautious about fully focussing in on the new consoles, and thus have not really explored the newer machines to their maximum potential. Obviously, that's also something that will come with time -- the titles that emerge towards the end of a console's lifespan are often much more technically impressive than those that came before. But it ties into design as well. Anyone who's played Dead Rising 3 will tell you that the scale of the game map in that instalment is unprecedented in the series -- it's not a game that could have been made for the Xbox 360.

COMMENT | Third-parties must let go of last-gen at E3 2014

And that's the thing, I want to see that gap open up at E3. "Definitive" versions don't display the potential that this new generation of consoles has to offer -- we've only just begun to scratch the surface, and that's largely due to purposefully hamstringing games thus far in order to reach the largest possible audience. Again, admirable but stifling.

This year's E3 needs to be about placing the new consoles front and centre, for all concerned. Not just for the platform holders themselves, but third-party publishers and indie developers too. The PS3 and Xbox 360 have glittering back catalogues, but it's time for the creatives and the businessmen to make the jump from last-gen to this one. Big names travel, but so do big ambitions. The PS4 and Xbox One will still feel fresh come this Christmas, but it's time to capitalise on that now. We didn't go out and get these new consoles for a bit of spit and polish on cross-gen titles, we got them because we wanted to see how studios might raise their performance to the next level, and what new delights could be sampled with greater power and potential. At this year's E3, it's time for those third-parties to deliver.

Add a comment2 comments
Crazy Jamie  May. 19, 2014 at 13:08

I couldn't agree more with this. You say that porting up and porting down are only slightly different, but I actually disagree. Porting up tends to show only minimal differences in practical terms between two generations of consoles. Porting down, on the other hand, is usually much more significant and offers are notable incentive to move 'up' a generation. I remember the differences between the FIFA titles on PS1/PS2 and PS2/PS3 being so significant that it left everyone in little doubt as to which version was notably superior.

The problem is, whilst developers are attracted to the large base that the current consoles have, the bases for the next generation consoles will get a shot in the arm until they have a reason for doing so. That means the developers leading the way, because it is they that need to provide the incentive.

Incidentally, I'm saying all of that as someone who sees no reason to buy either a PS4 or Xbox One at this point. The Last of Us Definitive Edition? I'm sure it's pretty, but I'm in the middle of playing The Last of US on my PS3 at the moment, and I'm not going to spend hundreds of pounds to play it again with slightly more detail and smoother edges. I actually want a reason to move into the next generation, but at the moment I simply don't have it. I genuinely hope E3 provides that reason.

stevenjameshyde  May. 19, 2014 at 15:21

Third parties will follow the money, and that's their prerogative frankly. It's up to Sony and Microsoft's in-house studios to provide the next-gen only experiences that drive install bases, and the third party support will follow. Nintendo would have done well to heed the same advice

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