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Daily Reaction: Why the PS4 and XBO are More Innovative Than You Might Think

June 21, 2013 Written by Dan Oravasaari

Evolution

News about the PS4 and the Xbox One can be found on almost every site reporting about gaming, but a portion of the market claims to be unsatisfied with the direction the industry is taking. With that, the Daily Reaction crew of Seb and Dan discuss the need for home consoles to evolve at a slower pace and not rush out unfinished holodecks that don’t work, simply in the name of innovation.

Dan: As we near the beginning of the next generation of consoles, the familiar sting of fanboys trying to downplay the speed of progression have begun to swirl around the internet. Comments about how the PS4 and the Xbox One are little more than supercharged versions of our current cycle of gaming consoles show that some fans want a bit more innovation as we step forward – but is that what they really need?

Based on the current sales figures for the PS4 and Xbox One, it is easy to see that simply improving a system’s prowess to handle things on screen is more than enough to satiate the gaming market. Fans that have been hoping for some future tech like VR glasses or the highly sought ‘Minority Report’ interface need to understand that the real world simply doesn’t work like they want, as polished versions of that tech take decades.

Gaming consoles are best suited with simplicity at heart, and robustness in variety, not lengthy setups that pigeon hole the market down specific paths, which is the problem we have been seeing with motion gaming. The Kinect and PS Move are feats of technological advancement that many thought would usher in a new era of futuristic experiences, but sadly we’ve all realized that it did little more than let people talk to their TV or spend more time syncing devices than playing games.

Graphical power, while something that usually gets a bad rap, is one of the driving forces of immersion in video gaming. This is not to say that ‘story’ is of any less importance, but when it comes to technology, we just have not found an intuitive way to improve the experience without segmenting out a significant portion of the gaming demographic.

The Wii U is the prime example of a system that forgot about the market it was built off of, as they designed the system without paying attention to the visual evolution the industry was taking and forced ‘innovation’ over simplicity. A similar thing can be said about the 3DS, a handheld that tried to drive mobile 3D into the market, but ultimately has to treat itself as a more powerful DS, basically forgetting its ‘innovation’ for what the market really wants – viable gaming.

Seb: Exactly. Right now, you’re seeing a lot of fanboys and people who think being contrarian makes them cool saying that next gen consoles are too similar to current gen consoles, just with beefed up specs. That’s the point.

A console was always meant to be a box you plug in and play games on with a good ol’ controller. We have mobiles, PCs, tablets and portables for other things, but the console is meant to be where we can simply play games without having to jump through hoops.

Hardware innovations are coming, like with the Oculus Rift, but consoles have historically not been the place for radical, untested hardware ideas – just look at the Virtual Boy for why. Nintendo managed to pull off the impossible and make a relatively unknown innovation successful with motion controls on the Wii, but it was terrible for core gamers. Now, with the Wii U, their desperate need to find a way to innovate, and appeal to a core that doesn’t want pointless hardware innovation, has led them to create something that serves no real purpose.

Sony and Microsoft stuck to controllers that actually make sense for core gamers, only bringing in small tweaks such as the tiny touch pad.

But it’s downright stupid to say that the next gen is home to no innovation. More powerful hardware doesn’t just mean prettier graphics, it means better AI that can act smarter, it means more diverse gameplay options that we can’t even imagine yet and it means we can run 2,000 player shooters like PlanetSide 2 that force gamers to learn to work together.

Online worlds, while off-putting for many, will help reinvent existing genres, and indie self publishing will bring forth waves upon waves of unique content.

Innovation is all around us, but because Killzone and Call of Duty took the main headlines, naysayers are proclaiming complete stagnation. For the last few years, the industry has mostly been in a rut, bar a few exceptions (Heavy Rain, Journey), but finally there is a chance for widespread change.

Just because you don’t have to shake some new ‘immersive’ peripheral, just because the boxes look similar to this gen, just because a lot of the early games are based on existing IP doesn’t mean innovation can’t be found.

This reminds me of the very first Daily Reaction we did, where we downplayed the hype that sites spread about Ouya (which, again, they did to be ‘different’ and ‘cool’). Now Ouya’s chief executive Julie Uhrman has told The Guardian:

[Next-gen consoles are] exactly what I thought they would be: more features and functionality, but their business model hasn’t changed: it’s still onerous on the gamers who have to pay $60 for a game before they even know they enjoy it

There was a lot of talk about processing power of the devices, how many polygons they can put on-screen and how good the graphics are, when all the developer cares about is how fun the games are. But it wasn’t a surprise to me.

This is exactly what’s wrong with how a lot of people view next generation consoles. F2P, PS+, 1hr game trials are all new experiments that aim to (or at least claim to) put more power into the hands of the consumers, changing how games are developed entirely.

I love all the processing power, I wouldn’t be willing to shell out hundreds of dollars to get it otherwise, but the innovation that these online-focused consoles will bring is what will truly make the next-gen so different.

Are you happy with the evolution of the next-gen consoles? What feature do you wish was included with the PS4 to make it different? Would you really use a Oculus Rift headset if it came to home consoles? Let us know in the comments below, discuss it with us at DailyReaction@PlayStationLifeStyle.net or tweet us your pointless moaning at Seb and Dan.