We are almost 5 years into this console generation, and by most estimations, there’s only a year or two left until we move on again. It has been a massively successful generation in terms of sales figures. The PlayStation 4 has already outsold its predecessor and could well go on to claim a spot in the top five selling consoles of all time. The Xbox One may not have done so well but it is hardly a failure and still has time to add to its install base. While this generation may be great in terms of sales figures, creatively it hasn’t been so good.
The most successful game of this generation is most likely a remaster/rerelease
The game that has been breaking sales figures this generation is Grand Theft Auto V. Rockstar’s epic (by all metrics) keeps appearing in top 10 sales figures each month, and this is a game that first launched almost five years ago. While it’s difficult to find out how many copies of the game have been sold on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One the total number of sales (across all platforms and generations) is more than 90 million. The game’s success is not just powered by game sales though, thanks to GTA Online the game sells microtransactions to players who seem only too happy to keep dipping into their pockets. It’s estimated that GTA Online alone has brought in more than a billion (with a ‘b’) dollars. That’s an insane amount of money when you realise that it doesn’t even include any game sales revenue. Rockstar has been very good about continually adding new content to the online component of their game. These updates have always been free and keep players engaged.
Where are the new classics/franchises?
There have been some good games in the eighth console generation, but we haven’t really been blessed with new classics or great new gaming franchises. The seventh console generation brought us amazing series like Gears of War, Mass Effect, Bioshock, Portal, Left 4 Dead, Assassin’s Creed, Uncharted, the Batman Arkham series, Borderlands, and many more. The sixth console generation gave us the Halo, Forza, Fable, Splinter Cell, and God of War franchises as well as amazing titles like Half-Life 2, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, and the rebirth of the Grand Theft Auto franchise with GTAIII. I’m unable to think of any games that really hold a candle to these games, or that will create their own legacy. What games will this generation be remembered for? Possibly Cuphead, Rocket League or Overwatch, but this is a bit of a stretch.
Sequels, sequels, sequels
Most of the games that would be considered as the best of this generation are sequels. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Fallout 4, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, and Forza Horizon 3 are all fantastic games, but from a publisher point of view, they are all safe bets. There’s nothing wrong with sequels, it’s great to get more of a good thing, but only having sequels leads to a dull marketplace. Where are the new ideas, blending of genres, and outlandish ideas so crazy that they are genius? If you want to try something new you have to move away from the AAA arena and venture into the world of indie games.
What will this generation be remembered for?
With a lack of truly classic games in this generation, it’s difficult to think of what future gamers will see as the main things of this generation. For better or worse, one of those things may be the rise of loot boxes, microtransactions, and ‘games as a service.’ I don’t think any gamers think of publishers as altruistic organisations but the greed they have shown over the last few years has been staggering. Star Wars Battlefront II may have been the title that drew the ire of the media, but it was not alone. Games like Middle-earth: Shadow of War, Need for Speed: Payback, Call of Duty: WWII and many others were all equally guilty. Microtransactions in free-to-play games are one thing, in full price games they have to be reasonable and transparent. Adding small content to games like costumes, skins, and new vehicles are great ways to incorporate microtransactions. Making people buy a virtual currency that you can use to buy a box of random items skews far too close to gambling.
Will Battle Royale be the one creative success of this generation?
Two of the biggest titles around right now are Fortnite and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds. These games are the best-known proponents of the Battle Royale genre. I have heard various people suggest that this is the next big thing for video gaming. Many publishers obviously think so as the new Call of Duty and Battlefront games are set to include the mode. There’s no denying the success and influence of Battle Royale, but I wouldn’t describe it as a creative masterstroke. At the end of the day, all it does is tweak the established multiplayer shooter genre. Hats off to PUBG and Fortnite for their success and giving many gamers numerous hours of fun and enjoyment. If this is the most creative thing we’re getting this generation, though, then it just goes to prove that there is something of a creative black hole this generation.
As much as I love my Xbox One, PlayStation 4, & Switch, and have enjoyed many hours playing great games on them, I can’t help but feel this generation has been a disappointment. Whether it’s because we were truly spoiled for riches last generation or that publishers are just so risk-averse that they have largely avoided investing in new IPs is difficult to say. What I do know is that as gamers we should demand more. We should insist on more new ideas, concepts, and blending of genres. If we remain silent, then all we can expect in 2020 are the likes of Call of Duty 17 and Assassin’s Creed 13 (yes, that’s how many of those games we will have had assuming one more each year). To get change then we need to vote with our wallets, comments, & support and then pray that publishers take notice so that the next generation is a lush, creative wonderland.