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Will The Next Generation Of Consoles Be The Worst Ever For Gamers?

I think it’s hard to argue against the last generation of consoles being the best that has ever existed. A huge range of games from big and small developers, a vast technology leap over what came before, and a sense that new ground was being broken regularly.

The worrying part is, that I think gaming as a hobby may have peaked in terms of what we, as gamers, can take from it. There are several very worrying signs on the horizon, which, if all true, could make the next generation the most un-gamer friendly ever:

1. Banning / Restricting Used Games

This one has been rumoured for a while. There are reports that the new Xbox will tie discs to one machine, and while Sony have said second hand games will be playable, they haven’t answered if this will require an additional charge.

For me this whole policy is ludicrous, the whims of publishers with board level executives that have no idea how the gaming market actually works.

As someone who has worked on behalf of a major gaming retailer, I’ve seen how important trading in games is to new game sales. If people can no longer trade in, they won’t be buying as many new games, simple as that. Do publishers really think that people keep every year’s edition of FIFA? Of course not, they trade it in each year towards the new one.

What they really want is for us all to have download only machines that allow them to get maximum profits by keeping purchase costs as high as possible. How wonderful for us.

I’m pretty sure this kind of restriction is forbidden under European Law, but they’ll be hoping no one notices. Why are games publishers so feebly incapable of working out a royalty system where they get a small payment from retailers when games are traded. That would increase their income, prevent sales dropping due to lack of trade-ins, and help prevent retail stores from going out of business (I can’t see GAME surviving without pre-owned sales).

If this happens it will be a direct cause of a big increase in piracy.

2. The Horrors of Free to Play Come Home to Roost

That's just for a new design for your sail...

That’s just for a new design for your sail…

EA have just announced that they now want to include micro-transactions with ALL of their games. What joy for gamers. Now every game we ever buy can be custom designed to force us to Final Fantasy levels of inane grinding to complete it without paying extra.

Publishers could simply do what Gearbox have done with Borderlands 2 and produce outstanding, highly-profitable add-on content that people will be happy to buy. Yeah right, just ruin the games AI and mechanics and charge people £2.99 every time they get fed up.

These mechanics ruin the charm of games, they dampen the fun, and they destroy the atmosphere of the game by forcibly reminding you that this is a game, and the publisher wants more money please. If other businesses treated customers in this way they’d go bankrupt. Think about why we hate Ryanair EA, think about it.

The day that Nintendo includes these kind of micro-transactions is the day that gaming dies forever.

3. Enter the Fanboy

It appears like the specifications of Playstation 4 and the next Xbox will be relatively similar. Plus both will have a camera/movement device included. This means we can expect a whole new level of juvenile insulting and trolling as those with no sense of reality fill gaming forums across the world with the minutiae of hardware details in order to win an un-winnable war against each other.

4. Bunny Hop Specs

The problem with console specs is that as they develop, the perceptible improvements in graphics diminish over time. Although what we have seen of Playstation 4 looks nice, it is nowhere near the visual leap that took place with Playstation 2 or 3. Plus the rapid pace of PC hardware development means that by time it launches, a high spec PC will probably blow it out of the water.

Barring new technology that we haven’t heard of, no hardware leap is ever likely to feel as important as the ones we’ve already had.

5. Higher Prices

In addition to squeezing money from us in micro-transactions and trying to prevent us trading in our legitimately owned games, it’s expected in many quarters that prices for games are going to step upwards. We’ve already seen it with the Call of Duty series and many WiiU games.

While I think we have become a little too attached to game price points set back in the 1990’s, the expanded market for gaming means too sharp an increase is a bad idea.

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Rob is an advertising strategist and author of 'The Ad Pit' blog. Rob has been playing games for 25 years - which makes him feel very old. He used to have a victory ratio of 40:1 in Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo, but that was a long time ago! #dogyears

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  1. @FamousRob That if consoles don’t evolve rapidly we could have a “lost generation” like the 3DO, Jaguar, CD32, CDI era had occurred to me.

    • @alexhardy I don’t think it’ll be quite that bad, but the lack of customer consideration in micro-transactions and used games is astounding

      • @FamousRob Any company with a relevant brand/ecosystem could enter and disrupt the big three. Apple, Samsung, Amazon, Valve…

        • @alexhardy problem is gaming on apple and valve ecosystems suffer from the same micro transaction and you can’t trade downloads

        • @alexhardy though valve did make a good step towards used games

  2. I don’t know if it’s all doom and gloom. I’m pretty excited about Sony and the PS4 but, if I’m honest, I’m increasingly cynical about Microsoft – even beyond their console business. I agree that we’re going to see more IAPs etc but think that it will level itself out somehow. Some developers and publishers will take the piss (Real Racing 3?) but they’ll be loathe to risk pushing people too much with the kind of overheads that a AAA title generates. I think what we’ve seen with Apps is a testing of the water on largely throwaway products and development costs. 
    Vote with your wallets, people, and all will be well.

    • @Luke Martin VA I hope that publishers who push it too far will suffer in bad reviews and game sales… I just worry about them creeping it in – in a way that people will get used to it.
      We need gaming reviewers to step up and call the practice out where it affects the game negatively.
      Mind you – it would lead to a huge increase in the popularity of indie games, and might help spark new indie publishers. So not all bad.

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