Another Big 2014 Video Game Is Ditching Last-Gen Consoles. Cool.

Another Big 2014 Video Game Is Ditching Last-Gen Consoles. Cool.

Today, Warner Bros. announced a new Batman game, called Arkham Knight . It's got some exciting features: An open-world Gotham City! A drivable Batmobile! And equally exciting, it's only coming out on PC, PS4 and Xbox One.

In other words, there won't be a PS3 or Xbox 360 version of Arkham Knight, nor will the game be coming to the similarly-powered Wii U. This inevitably happens at some point when transitioning to a new generation of consoles, but ever since the announcement of the PS4 and Xbox One, the question of when it would happen has lingered. This fall? Next spring? Would we still be seeing Xbox 360 and PS3 ports of current games in fall of 2015?

So far, most cross-platform (or, non-platform exclusive) next-gen games have come with a last-gen counterpart. Watch Dogs will be at its best on next-gen consoles and PC, but there'll still be versions on PS3 and Xbox 360. Titanfall will shine on Xbox One and PC, but Xbox 360 owners will get a version, too. Thief came out on next-gen consoles but also on last-gen. Ditto the upcoming Dragon Age: Inquisition, Shadows of Mordor, and on and on. The Witcher 3, Evolve , and Ubisoft's The Crew are some of the only 2014 cross-platform games not to include a last-gen version.

It makes sense to release a last-gen version — the PS4 and Xbox One are both selling well, but they're still miles behind the massive user bases of either the PS3 or Xbox 360. In 2014, it's a substantial — if decreasing — risk to release a game without a last-gen version unless you're a first-party developer making exclusive games for Microsoft or Sony.

So, why is it good news that Arkham Knight is leaving the Xbox 360 and PS3 behind? The thinking goes like this: If a game is designed to run on last-gen consoles, its next-gen versions are necessarily going to be held back from reaching their full potential. Developers can add a lot of cosmetic shine to next-gen versions, but by and large, the game's maps, AI and core design will remain unchanged despite next-gen consoles' superior horsepower.

For example, Assassin's Creed IV looks and runs great on PS4 , but it's still fundamentally the same game as the PS3 version. Thief has better lighting on Xbox One, but it's got just as many loading screens as the last-gen version. What would it have been like had those games' developers not been hobbled by the now-ancient mid-2000s tech running the PS3 and 360? Remember: The Xbox 360 came out in 2005 and the PS3 in 2006, a year before first iPhone. Technology has come quite a ways since then.

It's a luxury to own a next-gen console, and I don't mean to say that I hope last-gen consoles stop getting good games. (Not that they would even if I wanted them to.) It's still expensive to move to next-gen, and it's always healthy to be sceptical that this game or that game will finally make the jump worth it.

Furthermore, good game-makers can still make technically impressive games on last-gen consoles, and both the Xbox 360 and PS3 will continue to get good games for some time to come. I've recently been replaying Grand Theft Auto V on Xbox 360, and I'd wager that game's at least as technically impressive as anything released so far on PS4 or Xbox One. Considering that Persona 5 isn't coming until 2015, I'm guessing I'll still have my PS3 plugged in for a good long while, and although Nintendo's still-pretty new Wii U has similar specs to the PS3 and Xbox 360, it's a safe bet that it'll be getting good games for a long time, too.


What would it have been like had those games' developers not been hobbled by the now-ancient mid-2000s tech running the PS3 and 360?


But as time goes by, it's hard not to start wanting to see what game developers will do when set free of the memory and processing restraints of the last generation. It's something PC gamers have felt for a while now — sure, we kept getting the best-looking versions of cross-platform games, but what might they have looked or played like if they were PC-only?

It's also nice to see this kind of thing happening with established series like the Arkham games, which have done so well on last-gen consoles and whose publishers are doubtless a bit loath to leave all those players behind. I don't blame them, but all the same... how big and detailed can a game be? How beautiful can art and animation get? How smart can our opponents be, how surprising? What new experiences might we have, what new worlds might we explore?

This fall, Arkham Knight will leave last-gen consoles behind and focus on what's next. In so doing, it'll join a small but growing cadre of games that are jumping into the future with both feet. We can hope that as a result, the game will feel bigger, smarter, and fundamentally different from its predecessors in exciting ways. Leave it to Batman to take us one step closer to the "next" generation of gaming becoming the current one.


Comments

    But, I'm still working on last gen >:

    and, announced today?

    The biggest 'next-gen' feature announced thus far for the new Arkham game is More Polygons. And a bigger map. At this point I'm still skeptical, but I look forward to the announcements of gameplay related things that the 'next-gen' has allowed, like more sophisticated AI leading to a more seamless experience, instead of this-is-a-brawling-room or this-is-a-predator-room. Fingers crossed.

    So with last gen starting to be left behind does that leave the Wii U in a position of exclusives only? Exclusively exclusives?

      Yep, which is how it was always going to go down. The Wii U by design is one of the most short sighted developments in the console space in a really long time.

      They straight up built and released an old console.

        But Nintendo arguably did the same thing with the original Wii and it was their most successful home console ever.

        Nintendo's problem was expecting lightning to strike twice with a gimmick people could get on their iPads and tablets, a gimmick even they themselves seem to be neglecting like the failed experiment it is appearing to be.

        Nintendo work best when they take risks and lead the crowd, not follow others.

          In a way, however with the Wii U specifically one of the key "selling points" that Nintendo soap boxed about near release is that you would finally be able to play all the great multi-platform titles coming out on the Xbox 360 and PS3, which even at the time sounded insane as a lot of development on those platforms was already starting to wind down as focus was starting to shift to prototyping for the XBO and PS4 which were all of 12 months away.

          While they were hoping to grab the casual attention with the touch pad, the machine itself was built to compete with the 360 and PS3, not the new machines. At least with the Wii they were trying to forge their own path and even that did damage in the software attach rate side of things.

    But even on PS4 and Xbone they'll still be running on 'now-ancient' tech.

      Difference between lower spec and ancient. They're both still running GCN architecture GPU's and the Jaguar CPU runs on current x86 spec, they're just not the most powerful breeds of either.

      Yes, but while you're sitting around in 6 years wondering why fan no. 3 on your custom built gaming PC isn't working we will have machines that games are specifically optimised for. If you're a sad person with lots of empty time in-between grooming your filthy neck-beard and staring at pictures of women on the internet then yes, you can spend time tinkering to get your gaming machine working while everyone else has better things to do than worry about frame rates and AA filtering vs resolution vs consoles.

        Ah yes, because all people who prefer PC's are "filthy neckbeards" with no lives or romantic prospects...

        Go away.

        Last edited 06/03/14 2:04 pm

          In my experience it's more likely to be people who build custom gaming PCs and argue about the philosophical implications of the narrative structure of their DnD game on the weekend that are the ones with with dwindling prospects. I have met a few trust me. I'm not saying everyone who play PC games is that way. However having worked with, employed and then fired a lot of these kinds of people I leave my statement as is.

            Man, this arguments been hilarious. So many stereotypes from you both... so silly...

            Honestly - 80% of the adult's I know who build PC's would be considered catches. I suspect because there is a cost to entry (so they make decent money), but also because they're the handier types that also know about cars and how to lay deck or whatever.

            Obviously there are neck beards too.

        wondering why fan no. 3 on your custom built gaming PC isn't working
        You mean the fan I can easily replace for $15 while the equivalent fan on your console dying will cause it to slowly overheat and then RROD?

          Free with an extended warranty.

            My god, you're a retailer's dream. Do you get your car serviced at the dealership too?

              Yes, I don't want your run of-the-mill Kmart service staff working on, and trying to order parts for a Porsche.

                Yes, I don't want your run of-the-mill Kmart service staff working on, and trying to order parts for a Porsche.

                If someone has to order parts for your Porsche, there's clearly something wrong with it or the wool is being pulled over your eyes. You might want to reconsider taking it to that dealership mechanic and find someone else.

                Outside of regular maintenance/replacement of short life cycle parts and liquids (think oil, brake fluid, transmission fluid, coolant, drive belts, gaskets, spark plugs, ignition leads, oil filters, air filters, brake pads, tyres etc), there should be no need to replace parts on any car. Just to order those parts you need a VIN which means there's no chance of a mistake when ordering the part.

                With the most basic know how you can even do those most of those things yourself. Of course, if the vehicle is under warranty then yes get it serviced at a dealership or by an approved mechanic but as soon as the vehicle is out of the warranty period, find someone else to do it because you're simply getting ripped off.

              MS gave all early adopters free extended warranty.

        And you know what I'll do when I realise that fan no. 3 on my custom built gaming pc isn't working?

        I'll unscrew it, remove it and replace it with a $10 replacement, all done in 5 minutes flat, not have to sit on the phone with MS/Sony for an hour to get a trained monkey with a script to guide me through troubleshooting before determining that I actually have a problem, and qualify for a warranty repair (that will almost certainly take weeks)

    Excluding a combined install base of +100 million last gen consoles in favour of +10 million current gen is a bizarre business decision. I give it 8 months before a last gen port appears. At least Kojima could cater to both worlds and let the consumer decide.

    Last edited 06/03/14 12:24 pm

      Yeah, just like how excluding the tens of millions of SNES and Megadrive owners is insane! Obviously we will soon see a SNES port of this game, too.

      Its not a bizarre decision from a business standpoint but a calculated one. Previous gen will hobble the game reducing sales on current gen consoles and there's also the competition to consider, there are fewer games available solely for current gen therefore you'll be playing in a smaller sandpit and have a better opportunity to dominate it.

      Let's face it, they're only going to sell a few million copies at most no matter what generation the game is released on, I know I'd rather have a few million sales on a 10 million install base than a 100 million install base. Besides by the time the game is released that install base will be far higher if current trends continue.

      How many of the 100 million are likely to buy this game new on day one though?

      Of those who will buy on day one, how many also own a PS4/Xbone/PC? Of those who don't yet own a new console, how many are likely to buy one before the end of the year when this game is released?

      For customers who will wait for the game to hit bargain bins, how many are likely to buy a new console by the time that happens?

      Looking at the market penetration of the new consoles today doesn't tell the whole story.

        @patrickbateman - straw man much?

        @other posters, I remain unconvinced by your arguments. Arkham City sold 4.6 million copies first week of release. Highly doubtful Arkham Knight will match those numbers and considering the higher production costs involved it is a bizarre choice to be next gen only.

          I'm curious about where you got the 4.6 million number. Taking the global stats from vgchartz.com, there were ~ 1.8 million copies sold for PS3/X360 in the first week (it wasn't available on PC at that point). 2011 sales total 5.54 million for the three platforms.

          If the PS4/Xbone install base sits at 10 million, then I would be surprised if they hit that total since it would mean roughly one in five console owners bought the game. But these consoles have only been out for four months, and this game is most likely at least six months away. If we look forward to this year's Christmas sales period (when this will still be a fairly recent game), the install base is likely to be much larger.

      Developing for previous gen and current gen increases the development massively. PS3 and 360 are totally different which is why there were so many crappy ports last gen. Add into that the two next gen consoles, and PC's, and you're building and optimising the same game five times!

        @patrickbateman - ?

        @james - apparently WB own press release:

        http://www.comingsoon.net/news/gamenews.php?id=83509

        @dknigs - yet this hasn't stopped many other cross platform titles before

          And then look at everyone whinge about how poor the next gen versions look because they haven't taken the time to optimise them enough.

          The quote in the article says it is 4.6 million shipped. Perhaps that's where the difference comes from (presumably most stores would order more than one week's stock on release?)

    You know what - it's a ballsy decision and one I'm on board with - I don't have an XBO and probably won't for quite some time but I'm totally on board with what Rocksteady are doing. Sometimes you've got to be brave and push the boundaries with the next iteration of hardware.

    Ff they play their cards right the current install base of both next-gen platforms might ALL pick this up as it'll be developed with their hardware in mind, the best of what the consoles in their early development phase can do. Could even sell a couple of systems too.

    I wouldnt want a game to be held back by the limitations of last-gen. I know it sucks for people without a PS4/XBOne but who cares; the devs wanna make something bigger and I want to play it! Win win.

      Really there hasn't been a gen in a long time with this low an entry pricepoint. Sure not everyone can afford to drop $500 on a new console, but a hell of a lot more people can afford it than $1000 for previous gen.

    They were working on this next gen game while the other studio made Origins which was just for last gen. I don't really see the problem. It's about time they embraced next gen and made games optimised for the hardware. We're never going to see true next gen games until they stop making games that have to be scaled down for ps3/360

    Last edited 06/03/14 11:07 pm

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