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. Disc Locked Content.

    • The greatest innovation of this generation.

  2. Legacy of this generation for me, without a doubt, is Demon’s Souls.

  3. Lets see now

    User Genarate Content
    Poor hardware (M$ Only)
    Motion Controls
    Reply Retro on youtube
    Sub HD Graphics
    Patches
    Sonic The Hedgehog 2005/6
    The Elder Scrolls 4/5
    Blu-Ray
    Wii jokes
    Casual Gaming
    2011 PSN Hacking Scandel
    GT 5 5yr Wait
    Fans bitching about FFXIII being crap and not enjoying it
    Ken the father of Playstation retiring
    Mario Galaxy 1 & 2
    Wii Fit
    Companies ripping off gamers
    Broken online (COD)
    COD MW2 airport massacre scene
    GTA 4
    HD Remasters
    Lack of 1080p games

    I hope the 8th generation of consoles start off new legacys for us gamers to “fondly” remember.

    • Time for a new hobby?

    • didn’t we get sub hd graphics in previous generations as well? ^_^

  4. Interesting title.

    Im going with : The Birth of the MegaMoney Sequels and the slow death of Innovation.

    This generation has stuck around for so long now that my eldest son was conceived/born/started playing peggle entirely within its confines.
    Think about that for a second, my son is 6 and the PS3, 360 (and thankfully) PC are as ingrained into his mindset as the telephone is to ours.
    This generation has been milked so hard for so long that gamers like myself who use consoles as their second gaming machines were thoroughly bored of this generation a year and a half ago, some of you are hardened console gamers but you still suffer from general apathy.
    And who could blame you?
    The natural order has been messed with and chaos results, the PC no longer pushes game graphics or AAA development at a pace that requires updates every 2 years, the console market has branched into a new mobile market and extended its lifespan forcing you fine people to put up with antique hardware for longer.
    Its had its success and fine games of course but does it have any more than previous? Is that what itll be remembered for?
    Or will it be for introducing the iterative, yearly AAA blockbuster produced by overworking devs on a forced production line?

  5. all these comments seem to be ps3 orientated
    lets not forget the poor old xbox 360 which in my opinion is still the greatest console to date *sinks into the sumptuous graphics and story of halo 4 * and lets not forget this is the granpappy of consoles now!
    cant deny the sluggish poor performing overated overpriced internet ready bluray player’s feeble attempt to topple the old guys mantra..is second in place ha ha next gen SONY maybe?

  6. Lots will say patches in a bad light, but for me it’s patches in a good. Having that connectivity where a game can be fixed, I’m fine with that.

  7. Honestly, when history looks back at this gen it’s only going to remember one thing. The thing that was always in the headlines. The one thing that every single video gamer has an opinion on. The one thing that separates the community. The very thing people wait in lines for… CALL OF DUTY. Video game systems ultimately get remembered for their games, atari- pong, sega- sonic, NES, Mario. PS2- GTA. How many people can actually tell you the features or tech of the 2600 without running to google. Or how many accessories the NES had without using Wiki. 20 years from now nobody will remember the lack of Skyrim DLC on the PS3, or how much RAM it had or that it was hacked to pieces. They’ll only remember CoD, and might even whisper it on their death beds, like the name of their childhood sled…. “call of duty”.

  8. Consoles that break.

  9. Patches,day-1 DLC, DLC that is either content cut from the game in order to be sold back to us or things that used to be unlocked in the game by playing it, pay to win, pay to unlock everything,online passes, overpriced games on a certain store,massive patches that are bigger then some games,rushed games, games that have been dumbed down etc..

    This generation has seen the rise of online gaming due to the 360 and PS3 introducing it to the masses. Before, it was only available to those with a decent PC and decent net connection. But it’s seen the rise of some things that seem to punish the gamer for buying it brand new. Such as DLC that was blantly cut from the game, i’m looking at you Bioware and patches. I don’t mind patches if they are small but when they are a GB that takes the cake. We’ve seen some half completed or what seems to be half completed games get released and i wouldn’t be surprised if we had to start paying for the privellege of having a working game next generation. And then there’s the overpricing of games on the EU store. I understand that the publishers set the pricing but did they really believe someone would rather pay £50-70 for a game that could take a few days to download.

    And then there’s releasing a game every year in order to make cash instead of letting the developer take as long as they need to. I wouldn’t be surprised if RPGs were released on a yearly basis and turned out to be crap next generation as a certain publisher have tried releasing a RPG that was developed within a year and it cost them half of the fanbase of that franchise.

    Personally, i believe there is very little that this generation will leave aside from the obivous improvements to gaming tech.

    • I have pretty much sum up the 7th generation and now the 8th generation is coming I would like to see companies release hardware that is easier to develop for, that can run games at 1080p@60fsp in 3D, have between 16-32 GB RAM, have more replay value and content, more charm and finally for the games to be cheap for the consumer to afford.

      P.S The consoles should be hack proof and cheaper then they were this generation.

      • Nothing is hack proof. I would refuse to get a next gen console if the 3D was mandatory as i’ve played a 3DS with the 3D on for 2 minutes before getting a bit of a headache. :O I doubt they will have 16-32GB as it will be unneccessary. Currently, the average PC gamer has 1-2GB of ram. If the next lot have 1-2 GB, then we should see games that won’t crash if you play it for a 100hours+

        Releasing a brand new console that is cheap is suicide for Sony, MS and Ninty as chances are it cost them a lot to make per unit and they need to recoup the cost. If they can stick to the £300-350 limit, then that is acceptable imo. Oh and can we have less focus on Multiplayer unless the main selling point is MP? As some games with mp do have some average to poor single player. :-/

      • They don’t need that much ram ;)

      • Won’t Sony need that much RAM for cross-game chat? ;)

  10. PlayStation 3 will forever be about Uncharted and LittleBigPlanet to me.

    I will also fondly remember the day when I got my first HDTV and started playing games with an HDMI cable too. Could never go back now!

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