Just in the past few days, there have been several announcements of games being delayed. Ubisoft delayed a few of their titles, most notably Watch Dogs Legion and Rainbow Six Quarantine, while Sony has also found itself in a similar situation with The Last of Us Part II and Ghost of Tsushima likely receiving a similar treatment. While I do not doubt that part of the reason for these delays is to polish these upcoming titles even further, the other, more business-oriented side of me, can only think there is an ulterior motive at play: developers are getting ready for the next generation of consoles.
We have already seen what developer kits for the PlayStation 5 look like and are already aware that both Sony and Microsoft are working on their next generations of consoles, so it should come to no surprise to consumers that developers are planning for these new machines as well. However, this current generation of consoles, when launched, did something we typically didn’t see in past generations by creating games that were both made for the new generation of consoles, as well as the past. This multi-generational idea resulted in games like The Evil Within, Watch Dogs, and even Wolfenstein: The New Order that were developed not only for multiple platforms but also for two different generations. If you wanted to play these titles on Xbox 360 or Xbox One, you could, you just had to buy the appropriate version.
Now when developers did this, these older generation versions were not without there issues, especially when comparing the features from the older generation to another, with Watch Dogs being perhaps the most notable. Outside of just the noticeable differences like resolution, lighting, and graphics, Watch Dogs for the older generation of consoles also contained fewer NPCs and cars (important in an open-world game for multiple reasons), along with multiplayer having a reduced player count. While it certainly is not the worst compromises to make, they are more involved than just graphical changes and thus impacted gameplay. For this upcoming generation, I would wager developers will likely want to avoid this issue entirely and plan for their titles to have the same gameplay across generations.
Unfortunately, we in the general public don’t know what the PlayStation 5 or the Xbox Two will be capable of; they may be distinctly different consoles with different enough architectures that porting games over to this new generation might be a requirement. The opposite is equally possible, having an architecture that is scalable and compatible with the previous generation of consoles. This would enable what we have seen with the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 4 Pro as well as Xbox and its respective consoles by having a more fluid generational jump and only requiring only a few graphical variations (much like PC games) between the consoles rather than needing to strip items out that that affect gameplay on the past generation.
Developers, fans, and publishers alike don’t want to have titles restricted to specific platforms during a console generation transition. Traditionally, new console generations are a time of starting over. Consumers look at what new console to purchase and are no longer as tied down to their past purchases and might swap to a different company. Others may choose to wait and see and stick with their current console choice until they are ready to make a decision and purchase their next. Companies want to be able to provide their product to both these groups during a transitional period (within reason), and gamers want to be able to still play new titles coming out even though they may not have upgraded to the new generation of consoles.
Regardless of the reasoning behind any of the groups involved, this all still results in one single thing, time to prepare. Developers won’t be able to prepare for these changes overnight, and from what it seems, developer kits for some have only recently been acquired by developers—even then—changes are likely to be made. So to be ready to provide these titles across both generations so most consumers can enjoy and developers can have the largest market they can, delays are going to happen.
I suspect that the few we have seen so far are just the tip of the iceberg, and many of the games that were planned for early 2020 will be pushed even further to be ready for the next generation of consoles. This may result in one of the slowest years of this console generation, but hopefully, this will result in one of the best new-generation launch line ups by having developers prepare for both.
The crickets are certainly going to be louder at the start of 2020, but the end of the year should hopefully end in a bang. In the meantime…
It’s already starting to get a little quieter.