Xbox One And The PlayStation 4: Weirdest. Console. Transition. Ever.

Xbox One And The PlayStation 4: Weirdest. Console. Transition. Ever.

Is it just me or is the current transition to ‘next-generation’ consoles extremely, extremely weird?

On Kotaku today: news that a new, updated version of The Last of Us, previously a PlayStation 3 exclusive, is en route to the PlayStation 4.

In stores today: an Xbox 360 version of Titanfall. A video game experience that was recently heralded as one of the first ‘true’ next-generation games. A game that, thanks to some incredible technical wizardry on the part of Bluepoint Games, is near indistinguishable from the supposedly superior Xbox One version.

Officially announced today: a brand new Borderlands game. A ‘pre-sequel’ currently in development at 2K Australia that isn’t appearing on next-generation consoles at all.

In my house today: two next-generation consoles that haven’t been turned on once in the last month. An Xbox 360 that I continue to play: Dark Souls II, South Park: The Stick of Truth.

In January the most significant next gen release was a port: an updated version of Tomb Raider. My most played game on the PlayStation 4 so far? Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. A game that was released months earlier on the Xbox 360 and PS3.

This generational transition is weird. I can’t remember another one like it.

I can’t remember another transition that has felt so half-hearted, so conservative, so burdened by a reluctance to place proper, major bets on new technology.

There’s a real, tangible fear surrounding new consoles. I first sensed it during E3 2013; game after game. Available on Xbox 360, available on PS3. A strange lack of commitment. Almost every new game I played, even large scale titles (especially large scale titles) were being made available on as many platforms as possible. Despite the fact that the Xbox 360 and PS3 had been at the forefront of one of the longest generations I can remember, there was the sense that no-one had faith in the next generation of consoles.

Everyone was in a secure, definitive holding pattern.

Now the situation has changed dramatically. The PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One have been selling in far greater numbers than anyone had any right to expect. The PlayStation 4, in particular, is flying off shelves faster than Sony can physically build them. So we’re now in a quandary: that nervousness has evaporated. Now we have millions of new console owners with brand new boxes in their homes and nothing to do with them.

Because development is long term game. It’s a big arse ship on the open sea and it takes an incredible amount of time to make an about turn. We’re seeing the results of that today: no major next gen games on the horizon, johnny-come-latelies like the new Borderlands game. The end result of publishers who had too little faith in new consoles. It’s a reality that we might have to struggle with for the rest of this calendar year.

And then there are the publishers scrapping for the short term wins: high definition, ‘definitive’ next gen versions of games we’ve already played is part of that strategy, at attempt to squeeze extra dollars from an audience that many publishers didn’t expect to exist. It’s a sign that – for the near future at least – things aren’t going to get much better. Releases like Tomb Raider Definitive Edition and Naughty Dog’s new The Last of Us port are emblematic of publishers with very few big next gen titles on the horizon. They need something to plug the gap, they need something to pay the bills. This is their short term solution.

The danger, of course, is that sales of next generation consoles will slow in the meantime. That this lack of foresight from publishers, this ‘fear’, will result in a self-fulfilling prophecy: the consumer interest in next generation consoles will drop during this period, and publishers will miss the boat.

The reality is probably less dramatic. Console sales will most likely slow as the next gen gaming drought continues, but will pick up when the promise of big titles draws near. But the dynamic has become all the more transparent in this process. Games sell consoles, but publishers have been less willing this time round to really go all in on the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One and we’re currently facing the consequences of that decision. I suspect we’ll be facing those consequences for the remainder of 2014.


  • yeah, that’s on the publishers fault, and really, it IS a result of them having no faith. that being said, I’m just proud of 2K Australia actually working on something pretty big 🙂

    • I was under the impression that 2K Australia had been quietly shuttered last year, so I’m proud of them for just existing.

      • 2K Australia is still there, I live in Canberra and occasionally run into some of the guys at lunchtimes. I’ve had a few friends lose their jobs there in the last few years though (audio engineers), but they mainly just get palmed off the extra grunt work for the bigger games.

  • How is it any different then previous console transitions where they were only worth picking up at least one full year after they’re released?

    • Though it’s early days yet, there seems to be a lot more cross-gen releases happening this time. Last gen there was a clear line where they said “that’s it, this game is new console only. Suck it, old console.”. The only real cross-gen releases were sports games.

      • I remember Ubisoft had cross-gen games last time like Splinter Cell Double Agent and Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter, but the Xbox/PS2 versions would be completely different from the Xbox 360/PS3 versions.

    • From memory, Uncharted was a PS3 launch title and exclusive. That alone was worth the price of admission IMO.

    • Both companies should have treated their launches the way Microsoft treated the original Xbox launch. They had everything to prove and that hunger translated into an incredibly strong console launch both with the hardware specs and launch games. They had the definition of a killer app in Halo: Combat Evolved, the game you’d go over to your friend’s house to play and understand in an instant why you needed that console.

      Sometimes I wonder what kind of people they have running these companies. As Mark put it, it really is a case of a self fulfilling prophecy. It killed the Vita, it killed the PSP before that, it’s currently killing the next-gen consoles. You can’t succeed without taking risks in almost anything, and people don’t buy consoles to watch f**king television, every other device in the house does that. They want games, and they want ones that make them say “This wasn’t possible before, this is why I paid $400+”.

      It’s like all these executives come from other industries with dollar signs in their eyes, don’t have any intention of staying in the gaming industry for long, and only see it as a stepping stone in their climb up the corporate ladder. That can be the only logical explanation why they are completely ignoring the long game. I mean, nobody can be that stupid, right?


  • I’m pretty happy with my decision to steer clear of next gen for a year or so. I just cant justify dropping the cash on release when it will only get cheaper. Especially with the lack of games on either console. All I’ve really heard about is inFamous and Titanfall.

  • So @serrels, what happened to the XB-ONE commanding your living room for Skype usage??

    BTW, what is the current release line-up of XB-ONE and PS4 ‘only’ titles?

    This is probably why last-gen Microsoft did the (then seen as a dick-move) thing of cutting development for the older XBOX immediately.

    Is it really a case of devs not trusting the new consoles, or that it is tricky to come up with ways to make new games better? Graphics were already very good.

    • There’s actually a story behind that.

      My parents really only want to skype to see their grandson (my son) but because Kinect recognises me, it just follows me around the room instead of focusing on my son, which is who they want to see!

      So I’ve stopped using Kinect to Skype with my parents and just use my macbook pro or my phone, because it’s easier to follow my toddler around.

      • Interesting! You were so smitten with it, I thought something must have gone wrong to have it leave the console cabinet.
        It show how easy unforseen features can break stuff in actual use.

  • “Is it just me or is the current transition to ‘next-generation’ consoles extremely, extremely weird” I think it is just you…. but each to their own.

  • Since the release of Don Bradman Cricket 14 on PS3, my Xbone hasn’t seen any action at all. 😉
    *cue penis joke*

  • The publisher’s are just doing simple economics,: the games currently sell more copies on the old platforms, or both!

    Got to give it to infamous: second son, they’ve sold that game in droves because it is stunning to look at, (even though the story is mediocre) however it still probably won’t hold it’s own against multiplatform, less impressive titles.

    • Randy Pitchford said to Eurogamer: “we sold more copies of Borderlands 2 than there are PS4/Xbox One owners”

      He suggested that after the ‘third or fourth Xmas’ penetration would be where he’d want to see it – now given they released the original Borderlands in 2009 after the PS3 had 3 xmases on the market – that makes sense.

  • Well, it’s tricky to say, because most of the previous generation was backwards compatible… at least on the Wii and 360 side (and for a short time on the PS3 side), so cross-gen wasn’t an issue. The new console could handle it all.

    But padding an incomplete catalogue with old titles (or remakes of old titles) is a very Nintendo thing to do, and they’ve been doing it since the good old days of SNES (Mario All Stars).

    • 360 is back compat with Xbox games …? Or did you mistake it for PS3 launch console?

      • I know it was (read sort of). It was a feature that was added shortly after launch. You had to use an actual MS branded internal hdd (the emulator was built in, so no buying the cheap chinese knock offs) and it only worked with a few sepcific games. And you couldn’t use the guide to access party, friends or run background music over the top like you can currently (still mad I have to snap music on my x1, so I don’t use it at all) while emulating.

        They also offered some titles (around 50 or so, im not home, so I can’t check) via the Games on Demand, but I guess you couldn’t call that “true” backwards compatibility because you can’t just shove your disc in the drive and go. Gotta buy it again. And GoD isnt cheap unless it’s on sale.

        I still have my 360 elite original hdd to swap out just to play San Andreas every now and again.

        Cant remember if this was the exact stats but MS announced very quickly into the program they wouldn’t be making any more games backwards compatible because according to their xbl data < 5% (could be lower, it was years ago and my memory isn’t the greatest) of x360s were used for backwards compatibility for more than half an hour. In the xbl accounts life.

        • The first release of the PS3 (US only) had hardware compatibility with the PS2, and so much better compatibility than the 360 with previous-gen titles.

          European and Australian consoles switched to a software compatibility solution, much like the 360, and in much the same way it was not compatible with all titles.

          A couple of years later (mysteriously, not too long before HD reissues became A Thing), software emulation was also dropped.

      • It is, not 100% but I played Kotor 1&2, Doom III, Outrun 2006, Conker’s Bad Fur Day, Morrowind and Jad Empire all on 360 because I never owned an Xbox

    • Exactly. If I could have played all my PS3 games on the new console on Day One, I would have dropped my PS3 console and grabbed a PS4 already.

      • THIS a hundred times, THIS!

        The only reason I ended up with a next gen console (XBONE) is because I had two 360’s at home, so trading one in for credit and still playing my old games wasn’t an issue in that case.

        However, months later, I still haven’t picked up a PS4 (despite really wanting one) PURELY because I can’t play my old PS3 games on it. Add to the fact that the 360 next to the XBONE is starting to frustrate me a little, I’d have gone full next gen, and had games to play while I waited for the currently lackluster next gen catalouge to fill out without complaint if they had just added backwards compatibility.

        • What steams me is that the digital games (you know the games we’re stuck with) won’t play in the new machine.

  • I think too many peeps in charge of things payed too much attention to hyperbolic mobile gaming stats and internet articles and forgot why people buy games and consoles in the first place – to play awesome fun stuff on a big arse TV.
    That market is never going to go away and is completely different to the mobile market. Also why the Oya failed – completely missed the point of both types of gaming experiences.

  • I’m getting a little feeling deep in my gut that says: the true, “next” (current) gen knock you out of the ballpark awesome games will probably start landing in Q4 of this year. Almost like they are weaning us off the old-gen consoles, ready for the big slew of new titles at the end of the year.

    What caused that delay, though? Was it that the dev’s didn’t get enough time with the new generation development kits? Was it because of too many existing contracts to deliver games for the old gen, so they haven’t had the lead time to begin harnessing this gen’s hardware?

    Do we know how long the big development houses had access to the Xbone and PS4? Is there somewhere I can see a timeline of this? (I tried google – nada.)

  • Could it have something to do with development cycles running longer and costing more than ever before?
    I think there’s several titles that have come out over the past year or so which came out later in the last-gen cycle than were intended. I wrote a similar post about this earlier today.

    GTA V for example, I think if it had come out in 2012 as originally planned it would have come out with a PC version. As it stands I’m pretty sure they’ve held off on the PC version and probably intend on re-releasing the game on new-gen consoles and PC sometime over the next year.

    Gran Turismo 6 is another game that ran late and will probably get ported to the PS4 long before we get GT7.

    When you’re looking at a 4-5 year development cycle it makes sense that if the game runs late into the last generation that you invest an extra years development and get it into the new-generation rather than start fresh with a new 5 year cycle.

  • It is tricky Mark, but surely you would be in a better position to answer this than most.

    Consider the length of time it has been since the last changeover, and how studios are now much more corporatised. The releasing of a game nowadays has much more of a burden to be succesful than to be a technical or innovative marvel. hence the flood of FPS’s and copycat games etc. Why not use your time to track the emergence of studios who are making games solely for consoles that wouldn’t be considered a port, freeware, shareware, or other smaller title. You may uncover an interesting trend.

    Likewise, although most devs still profess a huge love for the job to the point of working insanely just to complete titles. Is it now possible that their role within the organisation has changed over the last 20 years to the point where they have less influence and are not allowed to be as innovative when working for one of these corporates. Why not interview some straight shooting devs and asked them what would they be doing if they had the choice? Writing for the PS3 or Building something amazing for the PS4?

    And lastly everyone mentioned when last gen was released that they would be quasi media centres for the home. I think getting to grips to setup everything again on the PS4 is why my PS3 is still connected to my tv and network. I haven’t had time to migrate all my media and it’s a pretty thankless job. for people who aren’t changing platforms why not supply a crossover cable and have a simple app that will copy all your old information off your previous console onto your new one. this would include accounts, files, etc Doesn’t have to convert games ubt could queue them in the playstation store for compatible versions. you get my drift?

    I imagine the only reason this didn’t occur with Sony would probably be security fears and a lack of knowledge of what users do/go through when they update hardware on a on a more regular basis.

    Dig Deeper Mark!

  • My feeling is that the previous generation went on for maybe a year or so too long, so a lot of the games that would probably have been out on new consoles (GTAV, The Last Of Us, Tomb Raider, Splinter Cell, stuff like that) were too late in their dev cycle to come out on the new console. That bolstered the end of the last generation pretty heavily, and then publishers weren’t sure how the new generation would go so they hedged their bets – with things like Watch Dogs coming out for everything.

    By now, publishers had some idea of what the buzz was like, so they’re committing – Arkham Knight, for instance, is next gen (and PC) only, and I think we’ll see more of that in games that are coming out this year, which will push more people to next gen, which will push more publishers to release for next-gen, and so on.

  • I think it’s a bit of an interesting transition period with respect to previous launches. The lack of any backwards compatibility means the two consoles are basically starting from scratch, with porting being the only real option for anyone who doesn’t have a game already under development for the platform. With the focus being on next gen graphics as well, games have to be bigger, brighter, noisier than before and that takes a significantly larger investment on a studio’s part in terms of money and time.

    One thing I’m actually curious about is whether people are buying the consoles for the games at the moment, or the additional features (such as streaming).

  • EA Sport’s UFC might be a game-changer, for me anyway. I am holding off on the leap to next-gen but that game is going to be hard to pass up…

  • IMO its because it was the wrong time to launch a “new generation”. There was no major tech leap behind it!

    The only big thing that happened since the last generation of console began was DX11. But that was out in… 2011? And they didn’t do anything about it then. There is nothing special about this generation of consoles, thus all the problems both Sony and MS have had at conferences and that.

    Again this is my opinion, 2015 we’re looking at 128GB DDR4 RAM, Nvidia’s Maxwell chips, Intel maybe dropping Skylark CPU architecture by mid-year, affordable 4K technology and finally, rollout of the new-wave of VR.

    THAT (IMO!) is the next generation of gaming. 2015. (I just started a thread about this on WP haha, asking for educated opinions)

    • Except console gaming has never been about putting bleeding edge tech into the boxes, with the exception of the PS3 Cell processor. I think the real issue is that last gen wasn’t “done”. ND had really only started to reach the edge of the PS3’s capability, that sort of mark was hit a lot earlier in the PS2’s lifetime.

    • They should have at least waited until solid state drives got bigger and cheaper. Running games off one of them would cut load times right down and that would be the main thing consoles could do to rip me away from this here PC.

      • They could easily put a solid state drive in any hardware revision without impacting the overall platform

    • Prediction: The next quantum leap/next generation of hardware will land in 2015, developers will drool and wish they could do something with it, but publishers will whip them back into the slave pens and demand that they focus on making those new games next-gen console-compatible, so the PC ports will suffer from all the design decisions those restrictions impact. (Level size/design, loading screens, save system, number of moving parts/number of enemies, etc.)

  • Two problems.

    Firstly , this is the first change of console generation which is of almost no difference in the actual games to the generation before. The new Borderlands game mentioned above is a case in point. The difference between what you get to play on a $200 console and a $500 one currently is simply how pretty something looks – the experience isn’t that different. PC gamers have been experiencing this for years (cf. “a $200 video card with a $500 one”)

    Secondly, big publishers seem to have only really been dialling up the shiny and that costs a lot of money. Without the userbase, they will opt for the profitability of keeping things simpler, lower res, less animations, lesser physics and AI and so on. It’s cheaper, and it allows for a wider established userbase to be connected with.

    I would argue there’s probably not too many more frontiers for the big publishers at this point. Occulus might change that I suppose. That is, if it doesn’t make you sick or constantly poke you.

  • I got the PS4 when I did to play Black Flag on new-gen, and think it was worth it. Since then, I’ve played Tomb Raider on PS4, GTAV, GT6 and TLoU on PS3 and now Second Son. I was expectiing a soft launch and slow start for the PS4.

    One thing that’s mentioned above is media centre – I used to use the PS3 to stream media from laptop to tv, and use PlayTV to record. These days I have foxtel and I built a small server with couchpotato/sickbeard/plex, so most content to the TV comes from one of those. PlayTV gets used exclusively to record Formula One in HD (as I have foxtel via satellite so no OneHD via foxtel – no cable in my street).

    I think the weirdest thing for me is that the PC hasn’t been used that much since Mass Effect 3. I had a little burst of playing flight sims, but I have quite a few PC games that I’ve just not touched – DE:HR, far cry 3, max payne 3. It used to be I was happy sitting at the PC and gaming but the last ear or so I’ve really enjoying lazing on the sofa late at night after the Social Secretary has gone to bed and using the consoles. So from that point of view the PS4 has achieved something I previously thought unlikely – keeping me out of the study and in the lounge.

    The ports have been worth it, in my opinion. Both pan-platform releases that include all consoles and PC, and the recent updates of games to the new platforms to allow people who might have missed a game to play it for the first time. Introduce people to new gen without cutting of old gen. It seems to be working if we look at the sales!

    • See you were expecting a soft launch, (given the 360’s library from 2006 I concur also) why didn’t you wait until the console was $100 cheaper, $550 is a lot of money to play two games that could be enjoyed on existing hardware

      • Significant birthday present to self. Had the money. Wanted to play those games on the new hardware. As you say, could have waited ’til it was $100 cheaper. So I wait a year, and pay $450 instead of $550, and I wouldn’t have played the prettiest version of Black Flag or Tomb Raider, and I wouldn’t have played Second Son. And sure, Child of Light and Watchdogs will both be on PS3, but I’ll play them on PS4.

        It was worth it, in my view, given that I was going to get it eventually anyway. I’ve never bought a console at launch before, and I probably won’t again, but I have zero regrets this time.

  • PS3 was exciting for many reasons. Blu Ray, superior graphics, far superior games to previous gen, wireless controllers, HD graphics to go with big screen TV.

    All of that is lost with this new gen.

    I will buy a PS4. It’s just a matter of when. Right now I don’t see a need to – especially when the first party games (Killzone, Second Son) are getting mixed reviews and are generally regarded as not very innovative and pretty much more of the same.

    PS3 was way better than PS2. PS4 seems marginally better than PS3. From that, I can only have a marginal interest.

  • Is it not obvious? Money. There you go problem solved. The install base for ps3/360 is 10, 20x the amount of ps4/xbone? Give it 2 – 3 years when that gap closes before you’ll see much better graphics, of course there will be exceptions (platform specific exclusives – personally can’t wait for the next uncharted).

    • Mark addressed that, its chicken and egg. To close that gap you need to sell consoles, and consoles (beyond the first adopter wave) are sold by having compelling games to play on them.

  • No one makes special games anymore. We just get developers making the same kinds of game differently.
    Where are the new Tombis, Spyros, Team Buddies, Wild 9s, Rollcages, Treasures Of The Deep etc.
    Back in the PS1 days there was a constant stream of games that were different.
    Consoles seem to have been relegated to a bit of a ‘rehash world’, where mobile has drawn in a lot of creative hands (a lot of them ending up making apps instead of games) that would have ended up forming console game development studios in years of yore.

  • Just wait until after E3, I have a feeling we’ll see the generational guns firing at least semi-auto from then on, if not full-auto.

  • I feel so…umm…different.

    I’m loving having my PS4, I only own NFS and InFamous, plus the games released on PS+, and think they’re fantastic. Maybe I’m easily pleased, or maybe it’s just the lack of time I have to game these days, but even with the limited games available, I can’t see myself getting bored any time soon.

    Oh, and I love the glow on the PS4 controller.

    The fact that I picked up my PS4 for $500 makes it even sweeter.

  • It’s because of diminishing returns. Hardware has reached a point where there’s no real need for the new consoles, they just have more bells and whistles..

  • Why would they jump straight into current gen (something around 15mill sold if you include wiiU) when they can still make much more $$$$ from the combined 160 mill last gen consoles? You can see the point from the publishers side even if we gamers want to move forward while twirling endlessly.

    The good news is that the new consoles have sold very well and that means publishers should be more willing to start twirling with us sooner rather than later. Right?

  • I don’t think it’s ll that weird. Seems to me to be a very sensible approach.

    Regardless of the rate at which the next-gen consoles are selling, the total number out there is much lower than the number of last-gen consoles. By releasing the game in two versions, they get the sales numbers required to fund the games as well as the pull towards next gen that they need for a future sales boost.

    Why would they cut their sales by 90% purely for a theoretical future sales boost when they can have their cake and eat it too?

  • I agree @markserrels, it all feels a bit weird, but that’s mostly because games journalists appear to be constantly commenting on the fact that “Gosh, this is such a weird time and transition everyone!”. That’s not meant to be an insult, it’s just an observation.

  • For me, it demonstrates the madness at having zero backwards compatibility with the previous generations.

    Imagine if every time you upgraded your PC’s CPU, motherboard and GPU, *ALL* your previous games suddenly became unplayable. What impact would have one platforms like Steam, where you can buy some games that are over 10 years old, but still playable.

    The “new* consoles have basically thrown away an entire legacy of quality games that could have tied them over while making the “true” next gen transition.

  • “Now we have millions of new console owners with brand new boxes in their homes and nothing to do with them.” Really?

  • yep I’ve had the exact same problem. if you turn zoom off you get a huge area with tiny people, unless you are stupidly close to the camera. if you let zoom do its thing then it is unpredictable and focuses on the main user ie me not my daughter or wife.
    if there was a user configurable zoom then id be happy. it could be great but its not there yet

  • I was a day1 buyer of PS4 seing it was way ahead of Xbone. But the killzone finished in a day and i sold it with a $300 profit on top couple of days later (It was very limited at the time). Now im back to playing my pc and not thinking of getting another ps4 until it has so many great exclusives. Right now it only has, infamous,mgs gz and soon to be released the last of us(only getting it if its running at 60fps).

  • “A game that, thanks to some incredible technical wizardry on the part of Bluepoint Games, is near indistinguishable from the supposedly superior Xbox One version”

    What!! Look the 360 version is fine if you don’t have an XB1 but to say that the two versions are similar or the 360 is better, which is what you imply, is crazy talk. Go look at the IGN comparison video, overall the XB1 version is easily better but at the end when a Titan drops it looks like a a clay model made by a 5 year old compared to the XB1 and PC versions. The writer of this article is medically blind or hasn’t seen the comparisons.

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