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There’s no need to believe in generations – and luckily Microsoft and Sony agree

In an ideal world, launch games would be generation proof right out of the gate. We’d have Last of Us 2 quality games to play on day one, developer experience be damned. That’s not the real world though. In the real world, generations are mostly bluff and bluster, and there’s no reason to force people to upgrade.

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Since it was revealed that Horizon and Spider-man will be cross-gen games last night, some have declared it the death of next-gen. Developers behind these games will be held back by the PlayStation 4, and so the PS5 version will offer better graphics and little else.

It’s a fine concern, especially after months of fear and disinformation about Microsoft’s own cross-gen policy. Here’s the deal: these games will be just fine on PlayStation 5, and PS4-only players have the advantage of checking them out as well.

For the Players

The biggest surprise of last night was probably news that Horizon 2 and Spider-Man: Miles Morales were coming to PlayStation 4. It was a surprise because Sony had denied it just a few months ago. They even went as far as developing a marketing slogan for it: “We believe in generations”.

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PlayStation global marketing head Eric Lempel said: “As we’ve said many times, with PlayStation 5 it’s a brand new generation, and we believe in generations. So we want to evolve every part of the experience.”

It was an idea they used several times over the months that followed. What was mad is, nobody but the most hardcore would have cared if they’d just said “sure, Spider-man and Horizon are cross-gen.” If they’d have said it right from the start.

If a game can play on older consoles with a bit of graphical scaling, maybe some slower web-swinging, that should be fine. Sony wins, because more people buy it. Players win, because they’re not forced to buy a console to play the latest and greatest games. Everybody wins.

Except the people who want games to be artificially cut off from those not interested in upgrading. Imagine that – a new graphics card comes out and those that buy it moan about other people being able to play the same game as them.

If Spidey couldn’t possibly run on PS4, that’s different. But it can – and frankly it was always obvious it would. Not because it’s ugly, not in the slightest. But because it’s an expansion.

Upgrading the wheel

I’ve said before how the definition of next-gen is blurred this time around. PC games are already next-gen. Hell, there are current generation games that feel next-gen to me.

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The harsh reality is that generations don’t bring new features with them anymore. Technology just doesn’t move like that, and when it does we see it in the PC space first. The best graphics are always going to be on PC, years before new consoles come out.

Faster loading is next-gen. Raytracing is next-gen. Having access to 4k/60fps is next-gen. These are not things that will be held back by previous consoles.

Now granted, some people have imagined flying on giant robots and the like. Guerilla wanted to do that in the original Horizon, but technical limitations meant they couldn’t. I wonder whether that’s still their stance now. Time will tell.

The full move to next-gen shouldn’t be a smooth ride, but it shouldn’t be a closed door either. It shouldn’t take seven years to figure out how to perfect these devices, and create something impossible to run on PS4 or Xbox One.

But, equally, if your game can run on Xbox One, why the hell wouldn’t it? What possible advantage is there in pandering to a minority who believe exclusives are the be all and end all? You’re not showcasing the next generation, you’re artificially cutting off your customer base.

Changing direction

There will come a time when games can’t run on PS4 and Xbox One. I can’t wait.

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That day isn’t today. No amount of wishful thinking can change that. That should be something to celebrate. These great games, these masterpieces of interactive art, will still be playable to tens of millions of people around the world. Not those lucky enough to get a pre-order, or those lucky enough to live in a country where you can afford the latest and greatest. Everybody.

And when everybody gets to play, the community is better for it.

So why upgrade? I’m upgrading because I value better graphics, but don’t want a PC. I value raytracing and faster loading times. More than anything, I enjoy playing games, and while I don’t believe in generations, what I do believe is that fanboys are a cancer on this industry. Play what you want where you want. You’ll have a better time.

Demon Souls will offer a (temporary) port in the storm for those wanting a next-gen experience – until it inevitably comes to PC despite Sony’s innocent “mistake” of announcing it. When it comes to PC, it’ll probably play on devices not far from equivalent to the PlayStation 4, and we can, once again, have a good laugh at the idea of generations.

Conclusion – Belief in Generations

Belief in generations is like believing in Superbowl commercials. It’s like believing in hastily replied statements from those responsible after an environmental spillage.

You should believe in games, and games don’t have generations. Games have recommended specs. They have minimum specs. Developers make things possible that shouldn’t be possible every day – just look at Last of Us 2.

And when they stop being able to pull a rabbit out of a hat, that’s when you get a bigger hat. That’s when you demand people upgrade their hardware. Anything else is just bad marketing.

 

Article By

blank Mat Growcott has been a long-time member of the gaming press. He's written two books and a web series, and doesn't have nearly enough time to play the games he writes about.

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