A new PlayStation and Xbox have arrived, but next-gen gaming isn’t about better graphics says Ben Sillis – it’s about whole new ways to play
This month, both Sony and Microsoft will fire their next salvos in the console war, with the eagerly awaited PlayStation 4 and Xbox One going on sale around the world, within a week of each other.
The next generation of consoles pack faster processors, better graphics and even voice control as standard, but a new game for their almost decade-old predecessors, Grand Theft Auto V, has proved that new hardware isn’t always what matters.
Released in September on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, Rockstar’s blockbuster crime adventure sets a new standard for gaming as a medium, with stunning graphics, more missions than most players have free time, and a massive open world to explore that measures 49 square miles across – more than twice the size of New York’s Manhattan Island.
It’s an astonishing feat, as well as a timely reminder that the next generation of gaming is about much more than having yet another black box to plug in under the TV. It’s about how you can play, and when. The explosive rise of the smartphone and the tablet has forced giants like Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo to rethink what a player wants in 2013.
Gaming anywhere, any time
What gamers want is convenience and imagination and absolutely no compromise on either aspect. Players don’t just expect a new ‘shoot’em up’ now, they want a service that provides everything, from a social network to communicate with friends who play the same games, to new titles that are only possible due to new technical breakthroughs.
Microsoft’s new Xbox One, for instance, comes with an advanced motion-sensing camera called Kinect that can let you play games without even using a controller, or even order a pizza just by talking to it. Your phone can now do everything, so the console has to as well, and then some. As do the games themselves: we’re seeing a new genre emerge of games that take advantage of the power of the cloud to generate a persistent world that continues even when you’re not there. The creators of blockbuster Xbox series Halo are now working on Destiny, a jaw-dropping “alive” shooter in which players can keep tabs on activities even when they’re away from the TV using a smartphone app. And yep, you guessed it, it’s coming to PS3 and Xbox 360 as well as next-generation consoles.
As if to underline the point, in September Sony announced its own mini PlayStation, the PS Vita TV, to go alongside the souped up PS4. It costs just US$95 and lets you play PS Vita handheld games on your television using a regular PlayStation controller, but it can do so much more besides, from streaming video to even entire PlayStation 4 games. With a web connection, it can even act as an extender for another PS4 in the house, letting you play a game that’s by the TV downstairs on one that’s upstairs. All from a tiny little device that sits in the palm of your hand. Next-gen gaming isn’t about better specs, it’s about everyone playing how they like, when they like.