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Opinion: Launch games suck!

Like a lot of Gamr’s (see what I did there), I was caught up in the hype of the next generation announcements earlier this year. With the current generation of consoles being around for what seems like forever now, it was exciting to finally witness the birth of the next generation of gaming goodness.

First up was the Microsoft conference with the Xbox One/VCR hybrid. Watching the live broadcast on my TV, with snacks and a bottle of bud in hand, I waited in bated breath only disappointingly sigh as I listened to how I could watch TV on my Xbox... on my TV. Hmmm. There were few games in sight as Microsoft promoted its new console to the casual masses (and NFL fans), instead of the hardcore gamer.

Pushed as a the new media hub for the living room, Microsoft began digging its own grave as the gamers hit the twittersphere and the forums, venting their frustration on the lack of games and Microsoft’s concentrated focus on other forms of media. A huge focus of ever growing support for Kinect; that camera that no-one actually cares about, or wants! We gamers want to be slobbed out over the sofa, not jumping up and down, waving our arms in the air; I do that on a Saturday night!

Witnessing the abysmal Microsoft conference, Sony must have been laughing all the way to the bank. Shortly afterwards they revealed the Playstation 4 to the world, pushed as the true console dedicated to gaming. Sony learnt the lessons of Microsoft and fully concentrated their conference towards the hardcore gamer, as well as comically digging into Microsoft’s failings as much as possible. Watch “how to share games on Playstation 4” if you haven’t already.

Sony won me over. Excited, I pre-ordered the Playstation 4 the following day, titles like Final Fantasy XV, Destiny, Elder Scrolls Online and the inevitable arrival of a future Uncharted title, were all on my mind and then the launch titles were officially announced and the hype and excitement started to slowly fade away.

I knew I wouldn’t be playing the aforementioned games on day one, but was hoping for more exciting, innovative and original titles to be available than another Assassins Creed, Battlefield and C.O.D Ghosts, all of which would be available on the current generation anyway, with only a slight graphical hindrance compared to the next generation of consoles.

As Drive Club and Watchdogs got pushed back to the following year, the choices on offer became even less and I was dubious over Killzone, a franchise I had never bought into in the past. I slowly began to question whether I needed a Playstation 4 on day one. Then the horrible memories of my Xbox 360 came flooding back...

My 360 had been purchased on day one and my first night with my shiny new console was spent playing Gauntlet over Xbox Live! Yes Gauntlet! A game I first played when I was about 6 years old on my Commodore 64. Kameo, Perfect Dark and some other game that completely escapes my memory were the launch titles that I purchased. Kameo was pretty to look at in a cute cartoonish way, but I soon grew bored after several minutes of gameplay. Perfect Dark was rubbish compared to the N64 version, and that other game... What was it again? Playing a timeless classic over Xbox Live that night made me realise I should have waited. At least waited for something I truly wanted to play and would actually enjoy playing; that would later turn out to be The Elder Scrolls Oblivion.

Learning my lessons from the Xbox purchase I stayed well clear of the Playstation 3, which I remember having even more lacklustre launch titles than the 360 had. But I began to ask why?

The Playstation 3 got me thinking when they showed a tech demo of Final Fantasy VII running on the console. The introduction of that game had been completely remade to show off the potential graphics of the PS3. Suffice to say it looked amazing and for a very brief moment, Final Fantasy fans rejoiced as they believed this was an actual game that would appear at launch. It wasn’t of course, it was just what Sony said it was, a tech demo, but imagine if it had been a top secret project that had been in production for years, ready to be available on day one! Would I have bought a Playstation 3 then? You bet your arse I would! How many Playstation 3’s would have been sold on day one if that game had been a launch title? I think I can safely say a hell of a lot!

So I return to the question, why do launch games seem to be so dull? Surely having the big franchises available on launch day would sell more consoles? Not just more consoles, but make gamers align themselves to a particular console even earlier. Where is Uncharted 4? Where is Halo 5? I’ve got games like The Last of Us and Grand Theft Auto V, ending the life of the current generation with a big bang! But why not for once start the birth of a new generation in this way?

Fair enough developers are not used to working with the new hardware yet, so we’re not going to get games like The Last of Us that graphically push the current generation to its limits (my PS3 sounds like a tumble dryer while playing that game), but surely we can have the big exclusives on show? Sony and Microsoft both knew their expected launch days, so why not push the developers to have their big winners available at launch? If this meant, giving the developers early access to the hardware, then so be it; if it meant more console sales on day one then why not push to have the big guns on show!

They could have focused more on the indie developers too! Games like Journey and Braid have pushed the boundaries of gaming innovation over recent years. Why not have a game on this level on a small budget, available right at the beginning?

Perhaps the matter of the fact is, they don’t really care. Their consoles are going to sell no matter what and the hardcore gamers like myself will eventually end up buying both consoles anyway, enjoying the best of both worlds. But still, having some big names on offer would have created more of a buzz and created a better competition between Sony and Microsoft.

With my pre-order now cancelled, I’ll stick with my Playstation 3 just for a little bit longer. The future of launch games all comes down to the main players, publishers and developers, coming together with better communication and support. Offering earlier access to the hardware could really give a lot more potential for developards; who knows maybe several years from now, I’ll get my Final Fantasy VII remake with my Playstation 5. I can only dream.

Tom France

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