What is really next-gen?


I’ve done a lot of thinking on things over the past week or so, and one of those things is the approaching next-gen thing that console manufacturers are hyping up the crowd about. I’m trying to figure out what would actually constitute a next-gen of games. As a late secondhand adopter of consoles from this last generation, I’m not the one who’s going to be championing the more common use of SSDs and raytracing, since those sorts of things have been in PCs for a while now, and even the former in consoles as far as aftermarket upgrades. I didn’t bother sticking an SSD in my PS4 though because I was more concerned with affordable space, so I opted for a 2 TB HDD at that time. I figured I didn’t want to go through the upgrade process again so I went a bit overkill, just in case I accumulated a larger PS4 library on the cheap, or if I visited the library more frequently to try out games before possibly buying them. I’ve yet to have the same problem on the Switch, which I have a 128 GB card inside of for now, also because Switch games are not as frequently discounted to such degrees. A large part of the used space is actually from demos I should get around to.

Now that it seems SSDs are going to be mandatory in consoles, and it’s to an extreme that the SSD is directly integrated into the console hardware, instead of the unusually consumer-friendly approach the prior HDD-using consoles had allowing upgrades. Instead, these additional SSD upgrades are going to require either proprietary or specific approved hardware expansions, so that’s not going to come cheap. Even microSD cards are common enough to be inexpensive for decent ones, as far as the Switch goes, but state-of-the-art SSD expansions are going to be a bit before they drop, but it’s a likely eventuality that they will. Again, I’m a late adopter of the latest technology. I even opted for an older PS4 for the sake of cost when things like the Pro were out. Even so, I still don’t really see myself getting one of these next-gen consoles even much later. The weird thing is I see myself more likely to get an Xbox Series X (or Sexbox as I call them) because I haven’t gotten an Xbox One (or Xbone), and the main thing that would push me is if there were specific games for it that weren’t for the regular Xbone, otherwise I’d just settle for getting an XboneS to play the one thing I’d play on there, which is of course Rare Replay.

Console exclusives are another thing I’ve finally been getting tired of, as getting specific hardware for specific games seems a bit much, especially for someone with an overflowing shelf of consoles and their games already, but this goes more so for anyone on a budget. That’s why I at least admire the attempts of Microsoft trying to keep their whole Xbox line increasingly backwards compatible, though I’d still keep the old machines given I have a number of games that won’t work on later hardware. If they can keep a strong parity between what works on the Xbone and the Sexbox (which would of course exclude anything using Kinect), then I could get one console and play two consoles’ worth of games. That has been a thing before with regards to the PS2, as it’ll run just about any PS1 game, but when the PS3 hit, it was a bit all over the place given that only very specific older models would accept PS2 discs, and while they all would work with PS1 games, it seems a bit less accurate than the PS2’s approach. And then the PS4 cut off everything before it, and the PS5 still excludes those, but at least accepts most PS4 games, though the number rejected seems to be arbitrary at this point and more of a case of publishers not wanting to update games to work better on the new hardware, or in Konami’s case, trying to get everyone to forget that P.T. was a thing at one point.

Something to note about the advance of games is that VR seems to still be increasing in availability, even despite the industry’s best efforts to prevent it, with headset costs still being significant, and those that aren’t expensive sometimes coming with a bunch of weird account requirements so they can harvest data about where people live as well as their retinal scan data and possibly their own blood at a later date. However, as far as consoles, only the PS4 has really had a dedicated VR setup, while the Switch had a cardboard novelty approach as Nintendo may be afraid of VR being a thing to actually invest in again. Something weird about this is that the PS5 isn’t yet aimed to use VR in new games, and that it’s only being used as a backwards compatibility thing for PS4 games played on it, after somehow managing to obtain a camera adapter from their increasingly broken website, but at least they’re trying to not make people have to pay for those. I’m wondering if the raytracing hardware will actually stand up to VR usage or if it’ll skip the raytracing so games are playable. Because raytracing is such a big advertised feature at this point, they may decide to just focus on that instead of VR and risk that falling to the wayside as a novelty once again as they get customers to focus only on graphics again instead of gameplay.

As far as the direction of games, it’s increasingly weird. I’m not sure if games are heading toward an actual next-gen state, or if enough advancements have been made outside of the corporate generational structure that those terms are really just entirely marketing at this point. Of course, there are the big corporate games that just want to sell a game and then sell a bunch of microtransactions in the game just to give people who seem to have nothing better to do than open a bunch of virtual cards. Then there’s the visionaries who have a game they want to make, as weird as it can get, and will risk things to make the game match their vision for a unique experience. There’s also Nintendo, which does Nintendo things. Specifically, they seem to be bringing ideas to the forefront that are getting echoed in later unrelated developments elsewhere, such as their HD Rumble as they’ve called it, capitalized and all, taking on a new form in the PS5 controller. Even before then, the Steam Controller had some aspect of that, so maybe they’re closer to the source of the idea. As far as games, more games now are featuring approaches similar to Breath of the Wild, while that game combined ideas from previous games, how they’ve been combined is being seen in newer games like Genshin Impact and that Ubisoft game I wish they’d kept the name as “Gods and Monsters” which at least sounded like a short story instead of changing it to a somehow more generic name. Not that I really buy modern Ubisoft games, though, for reasons, the most recent being that Starlink thing on Switch so I could play Star Fox kind of.

There’s always indies, though, they seem to take the most risks as far as games because they might just be wanting to experiment instead of trying to make something that sells, or they really want to focus on a niche approach that they likely share. I really enjoy weird games of certain kinds, so looking at what indies are doing is fun. It even extends to the earlier days of games, when it was less of a massive industry cranking out yearly copies of a similar game, so publishers willing to take the risk would localize some of the most odd games to come from Japan in the rest of the world, but sometimes only Europe. Maybe some of those unusual games end up taking off and getting sequels, like Earth Defense Force and Oneechanbara, or the licensing ends up being scattered around under a dozen different names like the handful of Choro-Q games that were localized in some form. Even under licensed games there was innovation, like the bizarre case of Jurassic Park Trespasser. It’s an early PC game involving real-time somewhat realistic for the time physics and a strange control scheme that manually controls a single physical arm, as well as its attempt at a digetic interface involving counting shots and a heart tattoo. While that game got rushed out somewhat incomplete and not entirely functional, the likes of Half-Life 2 involved physics-based gameplay in an FPS, many parody “simulator” games have adapted manual hand controls, and not only games such as Peter Jackson’s King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie tried doing away with the HUD to try to immerse the player, but many other games at least tried to justify the presence of certain elements like spine-mounted holographic health bars in Dead Space.

Looking at how games evolved from other games, or at least ideas that were attempted but later refined, is part of why I have such an interest in older games. It’s probably also from how modern mainstream games just often feel a certain way that doesn’t entirely mesh with how I want to play games, which is at my own pace and not caring about multiplayer rankings or virtual card packs. I’m also not a fan of exclusive games, especially if I don’t want to use the thing that it’s exclusive to, or if they’re leveraging parts of the game as exclusive without any real justification. While Nintendo holds its own characters to its own consoles, except for the occasional mobile game, it at least sort of makes sense that the Star Fox aspect of Starlink is exclusive to the Switch version, and I’ll admit that got me interested in playing the game in general. Having things like random characters who are not exclusive to the console’s company or bonus experience or weapons or whatnot, though, is just weird and reads as not treating anyone with respect. Just like what seems to be happening with Call of Duty since they ditched the Xbox fandom because I guess they weren’t making all the money for them, and that’s what Activision’s about, naturally. It’s still amazing that quality retro remakes and revivals are coming from under Activision, though, even if they want to try to mess up the hard work of their developers by injecting random microtransactions at times, or force the games to only show up on certain PC stores. For the record, I don’t like when a PC game is made exclusive to any single PC store, including the ones I actually use, and particularly when the game is published by a third party unrelated to the one running the store.

So as far as next-gen goes, I can wait quite some time as I have a lot of past generations to play with. I’ll see how I feel when new games come around that have crazy innovations that aren’t just making shiny things look better. That’s already been perfected in car games as far as I can tell. I wonder if raytracing will also become a requirement for PC games eventually, if it becomes a focus on mechanics or if they really don’t want to bother making alternative graphics for those running without raytracing. That would be a concern, and I’d wonder about getting a raytracing card for my next modern PC, if it would be too outdated to run anything that actually requires it by the time that would happen. Really, though, I’d get the new PC set up just to run VR as smoothly as possible, because there’s a Half-Life game I’d really like to get to, and maybe the aspect of using VRChat in… VR. Of course it would have SSDs, though, provided I can get a good amount of space in some by that point. I really use them in PCs for stability because the HDDs I was getting in recent PCs were a bit sub-par, but speed is a bonus.