While the current batch of consoles may be on the way out, their influence will be felt for years to come.
With the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 soon to join the Wii at the retirement home, it’s time to glance back over the past eight years and check our achievements. Maybe I’m getting soppy in my old age, but I’ll look back over this generation with a great deal of fondness.
It’s not been perfect. On the games front, franchises like Call of Duty have continued to churn out new editions year after year with very little innovation. Hardware problems plagued the original Xbox 360, most notably the infamous Red Ring of Death. The PS3 also suffered due to its high price, in no small part due to Sony pushing its new Blu-Ray media standard. The slow start meant it wasn’t a feature in many people’s living rooms for some time. The Wii, despite its incredible success sales wise, has been a virtually dead console for the last couple of years. That’s without mentioning its younger brother, the Wii U, so far failing to pump out the killer games you’d expect from a new generation.
Yet as the years have gone by, both the 360 and PS3 have blossomed. Their power has made games look better than at any other time. Of course a game’s quality isn’t based solely on its looks, but this power has allowed for games much grander in scale, such as Fallout and Skyrim. Stepping out of the sewers in Oblivion for the first time was a magical experience because there had been nothing quite like it before.
The anticipated graphical leap from this generation to the next is no longer so noticeable.
Comparing the graphics of games released at the start of the consoles’ lives to contemporary releases is startling. The longer than usual lifespan of the PS3 and 360 has allowed developers to really get the most out of each system. Compare the likes of Resistance: Fall of Man to The Last of Us. You’d barely believe they were on the same console. The anticipated graphical leap from this generation to the next is no longer so noticeable. Yes, games like The Division and Destiny look prettier, but it’s hardly like going from 16-bit to 32-bit or from SD to HD.
Games such as The Last of Us and the still-to-be-released Beyond: Two Souls show that the current generation isn’t dead just because a new version with more whizzy bits comes along. That the PS3 and 360 will be seeing the likes of Watch Dogs, Destiny, GTA V and Batman: Arkham Origins shows how much life is left in this generation.
Perhaps one of the most important phenomena from the last eight years is how gaming has become accessible to a wider variety of people. The popularity of the Wii meant that people who otherwise wouldn’t think twice about gaming soon found themselves waving a little white stick at the television and cursing Mario for shooting a turtle at their kart.
Perhaps most notable of all is how this outgoing generation of consoles has elevated gaming in people’s perceptions.
What sticks out for me is the number of quality single player games that have been released over the past eight years. I’ve yet to have a gaming experience comparable to what I got with the Mass Effect trilogy. Being able to take a character I’ve made – from the way they look to the way they act – and take them from one game to the next on a journey to save the galaxy is a unique experience. Combine that with other excellent single player games like Uncharted, The Walking Dead, Skyrim and Batman: Arkham Asylum and City and you have a rich resource to draw your lonesome glee from.
As well as the strong single player games that have been released, online multiplayer has exploded in popularity. This has helped to provide console gamers with an online community and promote the social aspect of gaming. Whilst this has been present in PC gaming for a long while now, online multiplayer really took off with the 360 and PS3. Xbox Live has been especially popular and thanks to Achievements and Gamerscore has bred the culture of maintaining bragging rights over your friends.
Perhaps most notable of all is how this outgoing generation of consoles has elevated gaming in people’s perceptions. As well as strong single player games with stories that beat many Hollywood blockbusters, we have a much more social view of gaming. No longer the preserve of spotty teenagers in dark bedrooms, it’s reached watercooler acceptability. That, to me, will be this generation’s legacy.
Featured image: cptcrash80 via Imgur