Opinion: What Will Be This Generation’s Legacy?

How will history remember these consoles?

This week’s news about PS4 dev kits wasn’t really shocking to anyone. Whether you want a new generation or not, and I’m still on the fence on that issue, new consoles are bearing down on us. Hell, before the month’s out Nintendo will have sparked the next generation with the launch of the Wii U. With that deadline fast approaching maybe it’s time to take a look at this generation and the legacy it leaves.

[drop]It seems to me that the games industry deals in legacies more than any other medium right now, perhaps because it’s the youngest by quite some margin. Regardless of what they do id’s legacy will always be first-person shooters, it’s what they brought to the industry and what everyone knows them for. Even if they came out tomorrow and released the greatest RPG the world’s ever seen, there’s no way they can change it – their legacy was secured twenty years ago when Wolfenstein 3D arrived.

You can say similar things about Infinity Ward and modern military shooters, or about Polyphony and sim racers. These companies didn’t necessarily create these genres, but they codified them and set off the spark that sent them skyrocketing. Although it might seem a little like typecasting these developers, only a handful of companies get to have this sort of legacy and it’s something to be proud of.

It’s not just companies or games that get to have this sort of legacy, I feel that consoles and generations do as well. Look at the third generation of consoles and the way they established 2D platformers. Yes, they’d certainly existed before the Master System and the NES but it was those machines that somehow caused an explosion of the genre, that pushed it to the forefront.

The PlayStation and N64 get similar credit for the way they established 3D console games. This wasn’t necessarily the best thing for the industry as it seemed to almost entirely destroy 2D games, I’d argue that they’re only really coming back now, but it certainly established a legacy for those consoles and earned their place in history.

The question I want to ask is what is the legacy this generation of gaming will leave us with? Perhaps it’s too hard to see it right now, that we’re too close to it still, but I’m finding it hard to pick just one.

Will it be the establishment of consoles as truly multimedia machines? Oh sure, the PS2 certainly sold a lot of units due to its ability to play DVDs but I feel this generation is where the consoles really exploded. Not only did the the PS3 manage to emulate the PS2’s success with the inclusion of the Blu-ray drive but the time was right for an explosion of streaming media.

It’s worth remembering that when the Xbox 360 launched YouTube was less than a year old, and was only 21 months old when the PS3 and Wii arrived. That’s how far streaming has come over the course of this generation, with the world going from close to nothing to an almost ridiculous variety of services over the past seven years.

[drop2]We’re all aware of the way in which consoles have capitalised on these services, and how they’ve used them to try and fulfil the promise of being the only box you need underneath your TV. They’re certainly not there yet, but the way things have taken of this them around must make it a candidate for the legacy this generation leaves us with.

Alternatively perhaps motion gaming will be what these consoles are most remembered for. Whether the memory of such games is positive or negative is still to be seen, but it does seem like a factor that may stick with us. When the Wii launched it seemed like a bit of a joke but now every console sports its own flavour of motion support, even if they aren’t always the best things in the world.

Even with the negativity that often surrounds Kinect or Move titles it seems almost certain that we’ll be seeing the next iterations of these technologies when new consoles launch. The real question is whether newer technology will be enough of a push to keep them as part of gaming for a few generations, something I think seems fairly likely. As long as they remain an option rather than the standard I think they’ll be accepted, and may ultimately thrive.

For me though I think it has to be online services that will be the real legacy of this generation. I’m bundling together multiplayer and downloadable games here as Xbox Live and PSN cover both under the same umbrella. These services really do seem like the main thing that will be taken forwards and expanded on in the next generation, and are probably the defining feature of the generation that’s been there since the off.

We’ve had endless debate about whether PSN or Xbox Live provides the better service but in the end it doesn’t really matter, we need both of them. The two services force each other to innovate and push them to be better, and hopefully the Wii U will see Nintendo enter into that fight as well. Regardless of how the services continue to grow though, it was this generation that really got the ball rolling on online gaming, even if the last one did make some steps towards it.

Ultimately whatever this generation will be remembered for I think it will be seen as a crucial point in the history of games. So much has changed since Xbox 360 launched seven years ago, and the sheer volume of innovation we’ve seen has certainly earned the current crop of consoles a legacy of some kind, the only question is what?

63 Comments

  1. firmware updates.

    • Updates, patches and “loading…”

      Ridiculous how long it takes to before you’re pressing a button in anger, after you’ve ran an install… performed an update or two and then waded through endless production and credit screen before getting to the games splash-screen and then everything still needs “loading…”

      Bring back cartridges! ;)

      • Bring back cartridges…but don’t let Sony make ’em! I despise the stupid Vita loading screen whenever you insert a game…

      • TBH I don’t really mind the updates and patches and endless installations. But what really grinds my gears is when Sony got rid of that little jingle when you started a game. I liked that. Also, why do trophies take so long to load even after all these stability updates? The mystery of the PS3.

      • I think we ALL sub-consciously resent Sony’s decision to remove that jingle; they shortened the opening orchestra tuning as well, I think :(

      • Now that I think about it, I reckon they did! I mean, the tune from when you turn on a PS1 still stays in my mind, that PS2 baaawwowoowwoowwwaaoa and hiss were class as well.

      • I miss the start up sound of the PS3. The PS1 had an excellent boot up sound as well as the PS2. Why not let the trend continue Sony? I would rather look at the boot up sequence then look at the blue HDMI screen.

      • ….The sound is still there?

  2. Patches :D

    • Same here. I answered as quickly and as naturally as possible when posed the question. Patches. It’s been a generation of ever increasing frequency, sizes and numbers of games with patches coming out. The lazy code which means that things are barely holding together with some titles. It makes me sick. Sure, I have the internet but some still don’t use their consoles online. Why are we even subjected to this? We’ve had generation after generation of games without internet patches and updates and the industry grew at a phenomenal rate. Sadly, it’s patches and DRM that taints this generation the most.

      However, if it’s game-centric legacies you’re after then Flower, Journey, Limbo, PSN, XBLA. A new world of small and medium sized games with prices to satisfy everyone at launch. Long may this continue. Long will I suffer the world of patches and crap DLC knowing that we get games like the above.

      • I absolutely agree about PSN and XBLA – from a personal point of view I genuinely believe that the smaller games from these services have had more impact on me than many boxed products in recent years.

        I think expanding on that, this being the first generation where digital distribution became a widely accepted and viable delivery method will be a huge part of it’s legacy.

  3. Consoles aren’t for kids or weirdos anymore.

    They’re common to see in the sitting room, they’re publicly accepted.

    Gaming is less stigmatised than ever before. Just don’t let the non-gamers hear about Leisure Suit Larry and we’ll be ok.

    • I think this one of the most important changes. Social acceptance has really made a big difference… is this due to the change in age groups gaming?

  4. DLC.

  5. I don’t think these consoles will have much of a legacy beyond the first jump into HD gaming besides PCs. Sure, there have been a ton of great and interesting games come to the market over the past few years, but I’ve found myself burning through around 3 times as many games than as I did with the PS2; this generation has focused far, far too much on the idea of graphics, pushing the boundaries of the processors and it’s just left a blank, cold space where we should just be enjoying games. As soon as E3 and Gamescom etc. streams became available all I’ve seen is the same talk of technical aspects of average games.
    I’m sure it was mostly the same during last generation, but it seems far more prominent in the mainstream media (not this site, of course) than ever before, and shows like E3 have left me bored and tired, when they used to excite and entertain.

    Rant over.

    • I disagree, games like Uncharted, dark souls, dead space, GTA IV, Battlefied 3’s online, borderlands 2, heavy rain, god of war 3, killzone 2…ETC
      all these games are one of my best experiences ever and they are all in this gen.

    • E3 indeed hasn’t been so exciting in some places but it still had some good reveals though maybe spoiled by leaks?, IMO Microsofts as been pretty weak since they started moving towards the casual Drivel market with kinect and Media but overall disappointing. The games haven’t been interesting much lately but I don’t know I guess its just age or the lust to experience something thats entirely different. Like I played through Uncharted 2 till the end but couldn’t bring myself to play anymore of Uncharted 3 I just didn’t like the shooting sections much at all. Probably because of Metal Gear Solid…

  6. Trophies.

  7. Online gaming, especially Call of Duty, wether you like it or not.

  8. Games that have great stories as well as great acting in them, previous generations just don’t come close to what we have now.

    Connectivity is one brilliant advancement, being able to see someone’s score within a game just makes it that much more competitive.

    The rise of the indie developer or perhaps more like the revival through downloadable means.

  9. Online Passes.

  10. I think it’s easy to forget that this generation brought multimedia machines to the living room. My PS3 gets used for films, series, music and photos just as much as games. I love it and unless the next machine does just as much then it’s here to stay… Until it breaks :p

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