The reveal of the Playstation 4 has caused quite a stir among publishers and the developers that work for them. Pretty much all of it has been positive, but only in terms of how the PS4 can show off their new physics engines and how well the new Playstation Store can market their games. It seems that many game creators are relying solely on hardware manufacturers to spark their imaginations, instead of focusing on how to create better games that provide intuitive gameplay rather than gimmicks and particle effects. Sure, these eye-candy games will continue to sell, but more and more gamers are getting tired of these bombastic titles that are all style and no substance.
In a recent interview with MCV, Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot said something quite telling:
“It’s easier to be a creative person with new consoles, because after four years of people using all the capacity, it’s harder to be innovative.”
Guillemot was speaking about the current generation of consoles lasting for seven years, as opposed to the typical five. He’s of the opinion that more powerful hardware naturally causes more creativity to occur. If this belief reflects the current mindset of major publishers and developers then it’s clear that they are doing it wrong. Faster, better, more powerful hardware does not in effect lead to a boost in creativity. What does bolster imagination is developers and publishers willing take ambitious risks with the hardware that they have available and not sitting around waiting for the next “innovation.”
On the other hand, indie developers seem to understand that paying attention to gameplay is key. Jonathan Blow’s The Witness appears to be an exploration of how gameplay and storytelling can mesh together to craft a wonderful experience that champions gaming. His belief that everything about the game should matter is seen in his game Braid, and The Witness seems to take this concept even further. I’m not saying every game should be like The Witness or Braid, but Blow is an example of a developer that knows that risks and true creativity can move video games in bold new directions. This is the risk the industry needs, and so far they haven’t been willing to step up to the plate.
For as many issues I have with Nintendo, I will say this: they still know how to make a game. They were able to utilize motion control gimmicks effectively with many of their franchise titles, and the craftier third-party developers were able to do the same. However, the Wii U failing to meet expectations is a possible sign that focusing on more motion control and “second-screens” isn’t what sells systems, the software does. I’m certain that many exclusive titles for the PS4 will be good, and will cause millions of gamers to buy one, but many of them could suffer at the hands of these convoluted “social” features and some even possibly requiring a Vita or Tablet to get the complete experience.
I’ll admit, during the initial moments of the PS4 press conference I was intrigued by what I saw. However, as the show went on it became obvious that what Sony is doing is more of the same but packaged with more “features.” Their primary concern seemed to be with developers, and not the “gamers” they spoke so fondly of. Most of the games displayed were just showing off visual treats to highlight the PS4′s processing power. It’s clear that the major publishing houses need to change their priorities, especially if they want to remain relevant and actually progress gaming. Perhaps at E3 Sony and other companies will change my mind, as well as the minds of others. After I all, I doubt they want to be viewed as Chaucerian frauds.