We're at a crossroads. The install base for existing consoles is high and, commercially speaking, developing for the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3 is as attractive a proposition as it has ever been. But next generation consoles are close to release and people want new games to play on their brand new box. How do you juggle these different demands? Do you develop solely for existing platforms or be first to market on the shiny new platform?
Why not both?
We recently checked out Dying Light, Techland's promising first-person-survival-horror game that harnesses all the buzzwords. It looked great. Sizeable in scale without sacrificing detail, it looked like a proper next generation video game — but Dying Light is also being developed for current gen consoles. We asked Tymon Smektala, a producer at Techland, how this affected the game's development. Does creating a video game with both console generations in mind change the end goal? Does it affect the game? Is it frustrating when certain aspects of the game have to be restrained?
"No, it's not frustrating," said Smektala. "We are happy developing games for PC, PS3 and 360 and we think that Dying Light plays well on these platforms.
"But then when you work with next gen consoles, the amount of processing power that they have, you really see there is a new frontier. It is a little bit disappointing that you aren't able to use that power in the current gen consoles, but the gameplay isn't affected."
According to Smektala the gameplay isn't affected because most developers are still focusing that added horsepower on visuals upgrads. The advances in gameplay, he says, will come later.
"I think the games you will see over the next 12 months that appear on next gen consoles, you will only see the difference in terms of graphical fidelity — maybe some different things being done with the AI systems. I don't think we will see the real advancements in gameplay systems until after that. Developers have to learn how to use these platforms smartly; they have to learn what is possible beyond just graphics.
"We have lots of ideas about what we want to do on next gen, so I think in two years we will see some really exciting stuff."
Two years. That's a long period of time. There's already a sense that people are tempted to sit out next gen's grand opening, won't the fact that many of next year's big hitters are appearing on current gen consoles slow that process?
"I think for developers it's easy to use next gen consoles and for gamers it's easy to see the difference in visual," explained Smektala. "And these new consoles aren't that expensive, so I think people will buy them in the beginning just for the crispness of the graphics. Just for the better experience. Then they will start to demand more. It will slowly build up."
Assassin's Creed IV, Watch Dogs, FIFA 14, Dying Light — plenty of big 'AAA' titles are set for release across multiple different consoles — does that change your enthusiasm for next generation consoles? Let us know in the comments below.