Console wars are won with content

The_Binding_of_IsaacIn the wake of E3 2015 many are weighing in about what games are the best graphically and which are the most anticipated. Some point to the impressive graphics of a handful of the titles announced for the PS4 while others look to the exclusives and fan favorite releases on the XBOX One.  In an interview with GamingBolt prior to E3, Hussain Sheikh said some things that I think are going to be key to the future success both for game companies as well as consoles. He concluded his thoughts about both the XBOX One and the PS4 having sufficient computing power by saying that the console battle will, “not be won through graphics, but actual gameplay and content.” I have written about this topic before, but it seems more relevant after so many games have been announced that may or may not deliver the goods.

How to Sink a Ship

I have referenced The Order 1886 before, but it bears revisiting the issue here. The game has received almost unanimous criticism, ranging from harsh to mild, about its lack of depth and content. Without fail, almost every review gave consistent and high praise for the graphics and visually stunning nature of the game. So how can there be such a sharp juxtaposition? And why is the lack of content or length of play the primary focus of the negative criticism? A beautiful next-gen game was successfully launched with no major game breaking glitches or problems, and yet the main reason for consumer dissatisfaction is that the game wasn’t long enough. My theory is that when development teams have to spend so much time building, polishing, and then wrangling with graphics that push the bounds of what a game engine or console can do it ends up pulling away from content creation. So, in a way, a lopsided emphasis and focus on graphics can drag a game down and “sink the ship”.

Smooth Sailing

Part of the challenge for game companies is that the marketing and consumer expectations have been set. Events like E3 and cinematic reveal trailers consistently draw in would-be buyers with impressive graphics and promises about “pushing consoles to their limit”. It is going to take new titles that blend graphics and content outperforming the graphically focused games to change the trends and culture. Now there are exceptions to the rule like The Witcher 3, which is a graphically strong game while offering a massive amount of content and free DLC. But you can see the consumer expectations in the reviews that complain about graphics not being good enough on XBOX One when compared to PC. When you look at reviews for The Order 1886 and then the gripes about the graphics in The Witcher 3, it can start to feel like game companies can’t win. If another game like The Order 1886 comes along, players should make their dissatisfaction known and maybe realign their expectations. When a game like The Witcher 3 comes along, players and game companies need to be patient, because as time has gone on the game has received regular high praise. Gamers need to help and avoid the right games with sales as well as player engagement, DLC sales, and reviews. If a game isn’t delivering or keeps promising that things will get better, walking away may be the best thing for the industry in the long run. If profitability moves in the right direction with games that focus more heavily on content and experience then publishers may lighten up on wanting to see bigger and better graphics and allow development to be a smoother and more expansive process.

Not all Whales

Gamers need to realize that not every game can achieve what CD Projekt Red has pulled off with The Witcher 3. Video games will consistently come in different shapes and sizes, which is why the industry is so ripe for growth. Who can say what will trend and become popular? Look at the surge of interest in games like The Binding of Isaac or other graphically simple games like Minecraft. In other words, not every game can be a white whale, so enjoy the vibrancy and differences instead of getting lost at sea looking for another fabled big fish.

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