We are now 18 months after the PS5 and Xbox Series X/S life. The PS4 and Xbox One are officially next-gen, a fact that’s becoming increasingly clear to anyone who’s tried to play. Ring of Elden on an old console whose fan looks like a wind tunnel. Developers are also taking notice, and the recent cancellations of last-gen releases make it seem like the industry is finally reaching a tipping point where it feels comfortable leaving the PS4 and Xbox One behind.
One of the only big blockbusters left from the fall is Gotham Knightsbut as Warner Bros. Montreal revealed last week, the Batman Raider is now officially a current-gen exclusive. “To provide players with the best gaming experience possible, the game will be released on PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S and PC and will not be available on PlayStation 4 or Xbox One consoles,” the studio announced.
Last November, The Outsiders made a similar decision with their upcoming rhythm shooter, Metal: Hellsinger. The game has been delayed to 2022 and last-gen versions were quietly canned, “in order to meet the high expectations for the game.” More recently, Brass Token followed suit. Its psychedelic horror game Singing, previously planned for PS4 and Xbox One, will only arrive later this year on new consoles. “At this stage, we are focusing development on Gen 9 and PC to ensure they meet the highest quality standards,” a spokesperson told Kotaku. “News regarding Gen 8 releases will follow in the near future.”
There are many factors that make decisions like this as studios try to balance hardware resources and capabilities to bring their games to as many people as possible. There is a estimated 150 million PS4 and Xbox One there, compared to far fewer PS5s and Xbox Series X/S (some estimates place the combined number of new/current-gen consoles about 30 million). And in cases like Gotham Knightswhich has already missed a release date, cutting the last-gen version is one way to try to avoid further delays.
In some ways, a more definitive break from older consoles is expected, at least by recent industry standards. Batman: Arkham Knight was originally revealed and slated for release less than a year into the PS4 and Xbox One’s lifespan without last-gen versions. In the fall of 2015, Rainbow Six Siege, just cause 3, Assassin’s Creed Syndicateand Fallout 4 had all left PS3 and Xbox 360 behind. Compare that with 2022 in which Speak, Marvel’s Midnight Sunsand Hogwarts Legacy should all be cross-gen.
The pandemic has clearly been a major driver in stalling the transition to the next console cycle for longer than usual. In addition to console shortages that reduce the new install base, games that were originally supposed to arrive shortly after the launch of the powerful new consoles are now arriving years later. In fact, looking at how Sony and Microsoft have each handled the next-gen transfer shows just how derailed the transition has been.
You might remember a now infamous quote from PlayStation boss Jim Ryan given shortly before the PS5 was released. “We’ve always said we believe in generations,” he said. GamesIndustry.biz in May 2020 when asked to create proprietary cross-gen games. “We believe that when you go to the trouble of making a next-gen console, it should include features and benefits that the previous generation didn’t. And that, in our view, people should make games that take advantage of the most of these features.
These sentiments contrasted sharply with those of Microsoft, which had been loosely committed to cross-generation compatibility for at least a few years. “As our content releases over the next year, two years, all of our games, much like PC, will play on this family of devices,” said Xbox Game Studios head Matt. Booty. MCVUK in January 2020.
But then the pandemic hit, and by June Microsoft had started send mixed signals on what would and would not be cross-gen. With good reason, it turned out: Xbox Series X/S showcase games this summer like Declared, always wild, Forza Motorsportyou, Fableand State of Decay 3 were all years away. It’s now unclear whether upcoming Microsoft games will still come to Xbox One. Sony, on the other hand, shipped a last-gen version of Forbidden Horizon West earlier this year, and God of War Ragnarök remains set to come to PS4 as well as PS5 if it still makes its 2022 release window. That’s a big if, but one that completely overturns previous philosophies from Microsoft and Sony.
It’s also not clear if this is for the best. Shrinking projects has its limits and publishing to additional platforms adds more work. The PS4 and Xbox One versions of Cyberpunk 2077 were broken when they launched in 2020, and still aren’t great. In retrospect, these versions were a mistake. There are even rumors that the lower spec Xbox Series S has been a ‘painful’ thorn on the side of some developers. It’s a luxury to be able to buy new consoles, but with a few questionable exceptionsnor does it seem like any current-gen exclusive has made it necessary yet. Gotham Knights probably won’t change that, but the flood of exclusive games to follow could.
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