Although the next console generation initially engendered a mixture of attitudes ranging from don't-want to need-it-now, E3 seems to have brought about a general consensus that it is a welcome step forward. Sony's consumer-friendly approach to the PlayStation 4, and well-received previews of exclusives and multi-platform games for the console, have created a buzz around the next-gen and the PS4 in particular. This is a generation that is necessary to keep console gaming alive.
I imagine some will think that because key PS4 titles Destiny and Watch Dogs that will be releasing on both PS3 and PS4, any claim that new consoles are needed to deliver a better experience is falsified. There is no question that the next-gen versions of the games will be visually superior, but what looks to be in doubt is that there will be any significant technical advantage. There has been no word that the PS3 versions of a game will have limitations in comparison to its next-generation counterpart. Destiny will particularly hinge on whether there are, as it is a socially-driven shooter in a dynamic world. If the PS3 is able to deliver on gameplay, then perhaps better graphics will not make that much of a difference when the current system already has gorgeous visuals.
To think like that is to believe that better graphics are a non-issue. If developers just focused on solid gameplay, would that be okay? Not for games that are trying to realistic, or at least as realistic as is appropriate for their style and themes. Would The Division have drawn half as much attention if the streets had been blocky and had a limited draw distance? No. Much of its appeal comes from the beautiful, near photo-realistic streets. Cartoon-esque games also require good graphics. Even if the art style is great, it needs certain aspects of realism well. Who wants muddy textures? The aesthetics of a game are important, as substance without style is nearly as bad as the other way round.
What must be considered is that progress takes time. Maybe some of the cross-gen titles, maybe even the first year's worth of titles, won't bring significant technical advancements beyond better graphics. But there will be the potential for developers that is not available in the current gen. No matter how much ambition a development team may have, the PS3's power has a ceiling, and not one that is made of glass. By harnessing the power of the PS4, developers will be able to make the artificial intelligence more intelligent, improve the physics to behave in a more realistic fashion, and be able to create worlds as large, and seemingly packed with places and content, as seen in The Crew. All of this will create stronger gameplay experiences.
Beyond all of the technical aspects of new consoles, they also encourage fresh ideas. The current generation has been staid for a while now, with games like Bioshock: Infinite and The Last of Us probably being spoken about so enthusiastically because there has been such a dearth of similarly high-quality releases. This is particularly evident in the genre BioShock inhabits, the first-person shooter. A new console raises ambitions, and that has been apparent at E3, in both developers and in Sony. Their particular strength has been to invest in the multi-player aspect of gaming, moving it beyond the purpose-built arenas too commonly seen as of late. It seems unlikely that this would have happened soon without the impetus to court existing and new players towards particular games and particular consoles.
No matter what, the next generation is coming, and with it comes a new breath of life for console gaming. The jury is still out as to whether it will live up to possibilities, but risk is carried with any step forward. I'm willing to accept that.
Are you looking forward to the next generation? Let us know in the comments section below. Head on over to our E3 hub to look back on this week's excitement