The debate about which platform is best for gaming is one that has been going on since the dawn of LAN parties. As someone who started on consoles, moved to PC, and then switched back to consoles, I can say it ultimately depends on what a player values. What tends to happen is a person finds their expectations met in a platform and then they become an avid fan, constantly advocating for PC, PS4, or Xbox. The reality is, we all need each other, and something CD Projekt Red’s co-founder said recently really enforces this.
Big games cost big bucks
When discussing the graphical differences of The Witcher 3 on the various platforms, Marcin Iwinski the co-founder of CD Projekt Red basically said they couldn’t get the budget and funding for the game to be as big as it is without developing and delivering it as a cross-platform title. So yes, they could have made it PC only, cranked up the visuals, and had consistent and impressive graphics, but then the game would have been much smaller and may have run the risk of being unprofitable, cancelled, or poorly received by players. In fact, he went even further and said they could have gotten more consistent graphic performance out of the game had it been developed for just one platform because it allows for more focused development. In other words we need to accept that whether we like it or not, as gamers we all need each other.
Why can’t we be friends?
Graphical comparisons and console loyalty tribalism is not helping the industry. People are motivated to buy one console over another because of graphical processing power, but do we need to keep revisiting the same tired debate? Yes, games are going to look different on the various systems, but we perpetuate a disproportionate focus on graphics with the continual discussion and comparisons between the systems. And obviously many in the gaming community have bought into this mindset because they buy a game like The Witcher 3, which looks incredible, and then they gripe about how it doesn’t look as good as they thought it would. Sure, they showed a trailer with slightly better graphics, but this is not another Watch Dogs scenario, not by a long shot. As gamers we set ourselves up for disappointment when we focus so heavily on graphics because we end up with games like The Order 1886 where there is a lack of content, or we get a massive game like The Witcher 3, and we gripe about it not looking good enough.
If you think about the act of playing a game, any game, what typically keeps you playing and coming back for more is the experience and the content. The graphics may have drawn you in and impressed you, but eventually you settle into the game and just start playing it. Yes, graphics affect the experience, and there were times in Skyrim and even The Witcher 3 where I would just stop and take in a sunset or the lush landscapes. But graphics are starting to hinder the experience due to too much development focus like in The Order 1886 so you end up with an empty game that is jam packed full of cinematics and QTEs. Or there is too much hype and expectations set on the graphics as we can see with the community already criticizing The Witcher 3.
Content over graphics
The reality that CD Projekt Red faced when developing The Witcher 3 is exactly why I will continue to advocate for content being valued over graphics. No, we don’t need every game to look like Minecraft, but it’s clear that you can’t have massive games with large amounts of content and innovative experiences if you try to push graphics to the limit with every new release. And this is especially true if a game is cross platform, which according to CD Projekt Red, is the best way to having the budget for a huge game (This reinforces my excitement about Titanfall 2 being cross-platform). I know publishers want to see the graphics hype and demos that blow people away, but experiential innovation and new forms of content delivery are just as exciting and hype worthy. And if we are honest, the graphics hype marketing is consistently causing more harm than good. I hope games like Battleborn, Overwatch, and Gigantic start to prove that you don’t need otherworldly mind-blowing graphics to deliver a solid game with a fun experience. Yes, their graphics look clean and polished, but they aren’t focusing on that in their marketing and trailers, and you can tell just by the way they are designed that graphics were not the primary focus. With E3 around the corner I hope more games emphasize content, innovation, and experience, instead of “better” or “amazing” graphics, because we would all be better for it. And remember, we need each other if we want more games like The Witcher 3, so be a little more charitable with your fellow gamers who may not share your platform. We share a common hobby, which is far more unifying than your platform of choice.
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