Developers Discuss Next-Gen Growing Pains

It's been six months since bouncing baby PS4s and Xbox Ones started landing on doorsteps, and things are still... transition-y. Titanfall runs great on Xbox 360, Borderlands is staying last-gen, and PS4 is getting a Last of Us port. What do you think? Are you optimistic, or are you regretting your purchase?

Personally, I think both machines are still in the throes of early growing pains. Both have seen their first big hits (Titanfall on Xbox One, Infamous: Second Son on PS4), but nothing about them screams fuuuuuuuuture yet. Meanwhile, it's tough for developers to justify going all-in on machines hardly anybody (in the grand scheme of things) owns, so they're playing it safe and releasing glorified ports. PS4, especially, is selling pretty well, but it still has a long way to go.

We've been here before. It happened to Xbox 360 and PS3 as well. But these are wildly different times, and the fact that it's business-as-usual in console land could be cause for trepidation, not celebration. Consoles are hardly the only show in town these days. Gamers of all shapes, sizes, colors, and creeds are getting their fixes on PC, mobile, F2P, and soon experiments like Steam Machines and Amazon Fire. Also I guess Ouya exists, but I kind of just want to give it a big hug and tell it everything's going to be okay (note: I would be lying).

The big issue that all this trans-generational piggybacking brings to the table is differentiation. At what point will the new consoles develop their own identities, and what technologies or features will they use to do so? Microsoft was obviously hoping Kinect would pave Xbox One's way into a motion-controlled utopia, but that clearly hasn't happened yet. Sony eschewed pricey peripheral tech to be slightly more affordable, but now it has snazzy looking virtual reality headset Project Morpheus on the way.

Developers Discuss Next-Gen Growing Pains

There are, however, many competitors gunning for Microsoft and Sony's joint living room throne, and the notion of a traditional console-style box is growing more antiquated by the day. It's not the best time for a slow start, in other words.

These consoles—with more powerful tech, solid (though not amazing) indie support, intriguing peripherals, and burgeoning game libraries—are different from their predecessors, but are they different enough? And are they different enough from each other?

All that in mind, I asked a number of developers how they think the new consoles are shaping up, where they think next-gen is headed, and how that affects their choice of where their games end up. Expect more dev responses soon, but here are a couple to kick off the discussion:

Daniel Vávra, project director on stunning-looking next-gen medieval RPG Kingdom Come: Deliverance:

"I don't think that its that much different from last gen. When you look at the games released in 2005 and 2006 when Xbox 360 and PS3 were released, the majority of them are also multiplatform titles running on PS2 and Xbox. It takes some time to create next gen game, so the best games start to appear during the second year of the cycle and in the meantime publishers are trying to fill the hole with (crappy) ports of old games and cheap B titles. On the other hand, I think that the first wave of games this time was good. New Forza and Dead Rising are better launch titles than Kameo and Perfect Dark. Ryse might be a simple game, but visually it's one of the best-looking games ever."

"What's a shame is the fact, that the ports are usually bad. When a game could run on Xbox 360, it means, that the Xbox One version is not even close to the potential of new console. There is no chance for example, that our game would run on PS3/Xbox360. Not only because of graphics, but because of all the stuff people could do: AI, physics, scripts running in the background and many other things."

"I would say, that the reason behind this is, that publishers thought the new gen will not sell, so they were waiting how will it turn out. Now that it turned out well, they don't have anything to release and all their games in development were created as previous gen with a possible cheap PC conversion - not next-gen."

"Luckily for us, there are still enough games like Witcher 3, The Division, Final Fantasy XV, or the new Assassin's Creed in the making. Some developers and publishers showed better prediction skills than others (especially Ubisoft). And there is another hope: indies. Seems that both platforms are pretty open for them (us) and we can expect a swarm of indie titles soon. Including our game. So since I like to play from the couch, I hope this gen is gonna be successful."

Speaking of, here's The Witcher 3's Tomasz Tinc:

"I think we'll just have to give it time. There are quite a few million previous-gen Xboxes and Playstations out there, and you just can't forget about that. Although Xbox One and PlayStation 4 are selling well, there's still a giant audience waiting for new games on older platforms, too. I wouldn't consider that out of the ordinary, it's normal and it's going to gradually change with time and market saturation."

"With The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, we've made a bold decision to embrace the next generation and not look back. We wanted to avoid a situation in which we have to either cut down on content or make compromises, because of being one leg in the past generation and one in the next—our main objective with The Witcher 3 was to set a standard for RPGs on the new wave of consoles and PCs."

What do you think? Have you bought a PlayStation 4 or Xbox One? Are you happy with it? Or is "next-gen" still too eerily similar to last-gen for your tastes? If you already own one of the systems in question, are you happy with it? Why'd you buy it in the first place, and what are you hoping to see it become?

Tough Questions is a recurring feature in which we ask both game creators and game players a big question about a seismic topic in the world of gaming. So chat away, discuss, share perspectives, etc. Developer, gamer, or something else entirely, you're an important part of the discussion, so don't be afraid to speak up.