Bethesda is skeptical of the next Xbox, PS4
A while back I made the case that the combination of the Battlefield 4 announcement for current gen consoles in 2013 meant that we may have to wait longer than most people think for the next Xbox or Playstation to hit store shelves. Right now the popular opinion is that new consoles from Sony and Microsoft will ship by the end of 2013.
There is a lot of evidence to support that and I personally think it will happen. However, there has been a high number of big budget games scheduled to come out in 2013. The flood of titles like Dead Space 3, Grand Theft Auto V, Tomb Raider, Metro: Last Light, Beyond: Two Souls, The Last of US, Battlefield 4 and others is a little unusual for what should be a dull year for current consoles as publishers prepare to release next-gen games.
Bethesda’s PR and marketing VP Peter Hines is also hesitant about leaping into the next generation of consoles blindly. The way he spoke to MCV about next generation consoles recently would make you question whether Bethesda is even preparing for new consoles from Sony/MS at all. Hines says that current consoles still have legs:
“I don’t think the current generation of consoles are holding us back. There is still plenty that we are able to do visually, technically and from a story-telling standpoint. And there’s this huge built-in audience now.”
Hines also talks about how difficult it is for a developer to make a game a new platform. Often you’ll build your game with one SDK in mind and the manufacturer (Nintendo, Sony, Microsoft in this case) can send out a brand new SDK that could change how you design your game entirely.
“For me the problems with new consoles are two-fold. The developers are trying to hit a moving technical target, because the platforms are being built. A new console doesn’t just show up a year before launch and is exactly what it will be when it comes out. It moves and iterates along the way. And introducing something like that to games that are in development is always a bit tricky. And that is obviously an element of risk.”
Hines finishes by discussing whether the reason most publishers leap onto next generation consoles early on is the right approach or not.
“It’s then a case of: are we just making it for the next gen? Or next gen and current gen? And how many people from the current gen that I’m targeting have moved over to the next gen? It does complicate things a little bit. Obviously the changes they are going to make technologically, in terms of the things we will be able to do, are exciting. But it comes at a price.”
He makes a good argument for current-gen consoles. It seems a lot of people initially think developing games for a new console with more horsepower is always a good thing but in reality it is a risky endeavor.
I believe some of Hines attitude reflects on the post-PS3 launch fiasco state of the gaming industry. Everyone and their mother thought the PS3, despite its price and relatively average library early on, was going to be a huge hit. The PS3 certainly has recovered and become one of the best video game systems of all-time and has sold very, very well.
But developers/publishers genuinely believed the PS3 would immediately be successful and that simply didn’t happen. It (and you can argue even the 360 in 2007/2008) sold a good amount of units but certainly slower than some expected.
Since then companies now know to be hesistant and skeptical of any platform, no matter how successful the previous product from that hardware maker was. There is quite a bit of skepticism over whether the Wii U will be nearly as successful as the Wii, the 3DS as much as the DS and so on.
While we could argue all day whether these devices will ultimately be successful or not is irrelevant. Fact is that next-generation consoles aren’t always the best investment for companies because none of them are without risk. And with how big video game budgets have ballooned to no new console is a sure thing. There isn’t that same level of naive “this will be successful coz its next-gen” that preceded the PS2 and the PS3.