Titanfall 360 and Borderlands Pre-Sequel illustrate that we're not ready to let go of last-gen yet
Titanfall on Xbox 360 is great fun. It's not as sharp as its Xbox One sibling, nor is it as impressive in terms of framerate, but at its core it's still the same fast-paced, exhilarating experience that we've come to find on the other platforms thus far.
Put simply, I'm not entirely sure that the difference between the Xbox 360 version and the Xbox One version is worth forking out £400 for.
We're nearly five months on now from the release of the Xbox One and the PS4, and we've seen prices fall a little in that time, but I'd still posit that there's little reason to invest in the advent of this new generation of video game consoles, and the Titanfall situation perfectly illustrates why: we're not ready to let go of last-gen just yet.
We speculated that the delay of the 360 version, and the fact that no-one had seen or heard anything much about it until a couple of days before release, might have been because it was crap. That's a fairly tried-and-tested strategy in the games industry: if you have a crap game it's either vertical slice time (hello Aliens), or you follow that old adage of if you haven't got anything good to say, don't say anything at all. It's all helped along by the fact that 2014 has seen some of the most hilariously overblown scrutiny of games and visuals and technical specifications and comparisons that a tiny, tiny, very vocal niche care about. As soon as you put something out there in the virtual ether, it's going to get torn apart, and so we often jump to the conclusion that no news is probably bad news.
But in this instance it would seem that the reverse is true: that the Xbox 360 port is good enough to have probably posed a challenge to the more expensive, pleasebuyaconsoleforthis Xbox One version of Titanfall, and that says much about the fragility of this first year of next-gen gaming. With third parties going for an expansive approach, and hamstringing the potential of current-gen versions to allow for feature-complete last-gen games, the exclusive big hitters matter more for Sony and Microsoft, and it makes sense to try and make things as easy for the likes of Titanfall and inFamous: Second Son as is possible. Given the choice between forking out forty quid for a really enjoyable version of Titanfall on Xbox 360 and ten times that for Titanfall on Xbox One, many might have gone for the former over the latter.
Going back to that point about third parties, the new Borderlands game, officially unveiled by Gearbox earlier this week, tells the story of a younger Handsome Jack and his henchmen, and is only coming out on PC and last-gen consoles. Why? Well, it's because the fanbase is larger on those platforms, according to Gearbox. It's the easier option, the safer option -- you're more likely to find a house with a PS3 or and Xbox 360 in than a PS4 or Xbox One.
"It's not free to build a game for next-gen," said Gearbox's Randy Pitchford, chatting to Eurogamer recently. "So when we decide where to spend our resources, we want to spend all of the attention we can on the game itself.
"If you try to image the set of Borderlands players who have already upgraded, that's not 100 per cent. But if you try to image the set of Xbox One or PS4 owners who do not have an Xbox 360 or a PS3, the difference there is so close to nil you can't make a business rationalisation around that."
"We're making other games, too," Pitchford continued. "I don't think I would have to stretch far to suggest there's probably a lot of demand for more Borderlands. That demand lives on the Xbox 360, PS3 and PC. We don't know to what extent it'll live on the next-gen. I imagine over time - maybe by the time we get to the third or fourth Christmas - there will be enough of an install base.
"Currently there is [sic] - between PS3 and Xbox 360 - over 150m installed units worldwide - probably 170m is more realistic. There are fewer Xbox Ones and PS4s than we sold copies of Borderlands 2. But because Borderlands 2 did so well there's obvious demand there, and we have not been able to serve it sufficiently with just DLCs. And we've consumed all the memory there is to consume to add more content to Borderlands 2."
So what does all of this mean for the wary consumer who didn't buy into the new generation at launch last year, but is maybe thinking of dropping some post-Christmas cash on a PS4 or Xbox One? Well, I'd still preach caution. There are more games out for those consoles now, but very few that distance this generation from the last one. The fact that the term "current-gen" can easily stretch to cover two generations at this point in time given the install bases is worthy of note, and illustrates just how far we've come. Which is not very.
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.
It's funny, we said (and are still saying) much the same thing about the Wii U.