Why I feel that cross-generation game development needs to stop!

OK, keep in mind that this is a rant and all opinions are my own. With that out of the way, I genuinely believe that the games industry would be better off with cross-generation games, and I think that most gamers would agree. If you aren’t familiar with cross-generation development, the term, in a nutshell, basically means to develop the same game for both the next generation and the current generation. Or, in this case, making games for the Xbox One and PlayStation and the previous Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. 

So why am I so against cross-generation game development, and why do I feel it’s terrible for the industry? It causes a rift with console sales, and while it does help prolong replacing your trusty console, it also holds back any further development and progression for the next generation of consoles.

So here we go, folks, Rant Mode…. enabled!

Was Watchdogs the result of cross generation game development?
Was Watchdogs the result of cross generation game development

Why would anyone go and buy Destiny (or insert any title) for the PlayStation 4 or Xbox One if they can go pick up the same game for their current system? Sure it seems like a no-brainer to offer it to both generations, but then you hold off the true ushering of that lovely next-gen gaming. The new consoles are expensive, I agree, and I would also agree that they aren’t worth it yet, but cross-generation titles are a huge part of the issue. Why would you get a new system if it didn’t offer you that “next-generation” feeling? If you look at all the games available for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, you’ll see that a huge majority of them are cross-generation games and are also available on their older siblings.

  • Battlefield 4
  • Watch Dogs
  • Far Cry 4
  • Tomb Raider
  • Titanfall (Xbox brand exclusive)
  • Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare
  • Thief
  • Forza Horizon 2

That’s just a small list of titles that don’t include the upcoming cross-generation games such as Mortal Kombat: X and Dragon Ball XenoVerse.  On top of that, there is no cross-generation multiplayer action either. You don’t see players who play Battlefield 4 on both past and current generation consoles on the same server, do you? Not only did that cause a rift between gamers and even friends on different systems, but it also forced the company that decided to develop that game on two generations of consoles to two different server versions. Sure it may not seem like a big deal, yet it is. The newer consoles would have an upper-hand advantage with better visuals and frame rates (the better to snipe you with), better response times, and in the case of Battlefield 4, more on-screen players; PS3 only supports 24 vs. PS4’s 64 player support.

What’s the problem?

Cross-generation game development is simply holding back the natural progression. As long as this trend continues, we won’t be able to reap the benefits of our new shiny gaming systems. While it seems that some companies are understanding this and have stated that going forth, they will only make games for the PlayStation 4 or Xbox One. I feel that more companies need to follow suit. Even several hugely popular game engines have already axed the past generation of consoles, such as Epic’s Unreal Engine 4, or are developing cross-generation titles with another development team’s assistance; Mortal Kombat X is an example of that. There are still others that will work on the past generation of consoles, such as EA and Dice’s Frostbite 3 game engine. Which is still an issue as many of those games are scaled downed to the point that they will run on those consoles with respectable results; frame rate, graphical features such as moving foliage, particle effects, water and reflecting, etc.  Even Techland got the hint and canceled the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions of Dying Light, despite those versions being in development for months. Why? Too many compromises in the graphical department and Techland simply didn’t want to disappoint. To which, I congratulate Techland for making that decision, which pissed up scores of fans and left money on the table. Yet, it was the right choice for a number of reasons.

Far Cry 4 PS3 vs. PS4 graphical comparison – here
Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare PS3 vs. PS4 graphical comparison – here
Grand Theft Auto V Xbox 360 vs. Xbox One  graphical comparison – here
The Evil Within Xbox 360 vs. Xbox One graphical comparison – here

Sure it’s not a huge leap but imagine how big of a jump it might have been if it was strictly developed for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One (and PC). Wouldn’t it simply be better just to announce that they simply don’t want to penalize gamers by offering sub-par performance games and state that they will only support specific systems? Is that so hard, or is it more of a “We’re here to make money” vs. a common-sense decision?

An example of this would be Ubisoft’s past release of Watch Dogs. Do you honestly believe that if they had only focused on a PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One versions we would have been presented with a better version with better optimization across the board instead of the mess that we’re seeing now? I know some people would likely disagree with me, but last year’s Grand Theft Auto V seems to look and plays better than Watch Dogs. Was cross-generation development a factor in this? I’m inclined to say yes. And yes people I’m well aware that Assassin’s Creed: Unity was a strictly current-generation affair and how bad the game runs. All I can say to that is that it’s Ubisoft and their track record as of late hasn’t been a stellar one, that’s all I’m saying.

Now I’m not saying that companies need to stop supporting the past generation of consoles and drop them like a bad habit, but there needs to be a breaking point where it’s decided that going forth, if you want this game, you’re going to upgrade. It would be no different from what’s happening on the PC gaming scene. Most current and upcoming AAA titles are being developed with 64-bit operating systems in mind and where you can either upgrade or kiss those games goodbye. And trust me, my friends, that’s no small list as a growing number of developers are going that route as the benefits are there for the taking, such as more memory utilization and better hardware (CPU/GPU), all of which will provide the gamers with a better experience. Or at least, that’s the plan.

Sorry guys it will take longer to see your better sides unless cross generation development goes out the window

It’s a harsh reality and one that needs to be realized sooner than later if we want to see the silky-smooth 1080p and 60 FPS that we want to see and deserve to see. I want to see this happen, and regardless if you disagree with me, you know that it’s something that needs to happen. Both the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One have been out for a year now and other than a handful of games that actually scream current-generation, I’ve been pretty disappointed in what we’ve been given as of today. Thankfully, the gaming industry has been moving toward eliminating cross-generation games, but at a slower pace than I’d like to see.  Here’s to hoping the list of upcoming games will change this and I really have my fingers crossed here. I loved my PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, they gave me a bunch of enjoyable gaming moments but now it’s time for them to move over and let their younger siblings show us what they’re all about. That plus, I want to see some sort of investment of buying the latest and greatest consoles and not having them sitting on my entertainment system and only turning them on them every so often.

What do you think about the matter? Am I completely off-key here, or have you been thinking the same thing? Let me know in the comments or reach out to me on Twitter @Shadowhaxor.