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A Gamer’s Plea to Next-Gen
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: we’re in that weird, quasi-twilight of the current-gen console’s lifespan, when it grows old and is getting ready to retire to Florida for a life of golfing and prune juice. So naturally, the industry is turning its attention to the future, and rumor after rumor of “leaked info” and tech reveals from conferences are giving us a glimpse of what we can expect to see from next-gen consoles.
But with every announcement and every new reveal, I can’t help but feel like our focus is slowly departing from what makes up the core of our industry: the games.
I don’t care if I have every media program that ever existed on my console. I don’t care if I can surf the web and watch old episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer on Netflix while on my 360. I don’t care if I have a fancy tablet that will give me a look at my HUD or help me see exactly where Game of Thrones is taking place when I’m watching it. I don’t want a machine that has apps, checks my facebook, shows YouTube clips, rents movies, cooks pizzas, and lets my dog out when I’m away.
You know what I want out of my next-gen console? I want better games.
Not to say that games now aren’t good; in fact, it’s quite the opposite. Games now are the most well-developed and creative productions of interactive media available today. We have beautiful games on the market with fantastic writing, great animation, clever gameplay, and fantastic graphical fidelity.
So naturally, with the promise of improved technology, I want to see games that build on the amazing leap we’ve made in the past 30 years.
Now, I know it’s not the console manufacturer’s responsibility to create games. Their job is to stifle competitors and come up with ways to find their niche within the market. However, I’d like to know what companies like Microsoft and Sony are doing to encourage their first party developers to create new and innovative IPs that will demonstrate the muscle of the promising tech we’ve got coming down the pipeline. I want to see a new Halo or Uncharted-type game that comes along and changes things.
Of course, it will also ultimately fall into the hands of third-party devs and publishers to deliver on the gaming front as well. But what do they need to do to succeed?
In a recent interview with Gamasutra, Take-Two Interactive Software CEO Strauss Zelnick sounded off on this very subject. Being the chairman of the company responsible for publishing Grand Theft Auto and BioShock, Zelnick says that the key to next-gen development success falls into four categories: owned intellectual property, top-tier technology, top-tier development talent, and a strong balance sheet.
He discusses the fact that new console launches can be the testing ground for companies with the most staying power and innovation, saying that “[New console launches] separate the winners from the losers,” and finishing by citing his confidence in Take-Two’s ability to be one of those winners.
Mentioning the idea of new IPs, he also says “I don’t want to minimize the challenge of creating titles for new technology or the economic challenges of doing that, but if you get it right, it’s a terrific time to launch a new IP.”
And he’s absolutely right. With the promise of more power at your fingertips, there’s nothing more exciting than sitting down to a new IP and seeing what it can do with the power of a new system.
Continuing his flow of wisdom, Zelnick condemned the idea of annualized IPs, discussing the fact that Take-Two is trying to create “permanent IPs” that feel fresh and different with each release. “I don’t aim to annualize our non-sports titles,” he says, “because I think you run the risk of burning out the consumer, even if it is a very high-quality product. Some of our competitors have had this trajectory where they extract a lot of value and the IP goes away.”
Again, Zelnick’s point is hard to argue with. Annualized IPs make a game difficult to refresh, often feeling like a recycled version of the original. If developers continue to do this into next-gen, they’d better find a way to harness the new tech and give us something unique while staying true to the conventions that made the series so beloved in the first place.
So, as a gamer, I’m extending this plea to the next generation: give me great gaming. Sure, new features and hardware are interesting, and many of the media apps are a convenience I’d love to see return. But don’t forget about what made you what you are today. I want great games. I want new games. And I want gaming to continue to evolve into something even more incredible than it already is today.