Are We Truly An “HD Generation”?

Insomniac’s long-awaited Ratchet: Gladiator launched earlier this week, finally hitting the PlayStation Network storefront after multiple delays. Even after the long wait however, a minority of gamers may still find the title to be completely unplayable.

The reasoning? That magical box of tricks to which your PS3 is connected: the goggle-box; your TV. You see, Gladiator’s store description holds the following salient piece of information:

“High definition display required. This game does not support standard definition TVs.”

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You what? I can’t play this game panned, scanned, and in full glorious monochrome on my 14” portable? Outrageous! I jest of course, I’ve a lovely LCD set, but the listing does pose some curious discussion about whether we’re equipped for not only HD ready, but HD reliant gaming.

Gladiator’s unexpected requirement – believed to be the first of its kind – led Blair and I to wonder whether an HD-exclusive future is on the horizon or whether we’re currently living in one now.

When the PS3 launched in late 2006 / early 2007, consumers worldwide were just starting to make the transition to ‘hi-def‘, but now with the next generation of consoles mere months away, HD is all but a necessity. Nintendo’s mid-gen release, the Wii U, still happily outputs via component cables or HDMI, but both Sony’s PlayStation 4 and Microsoft’s forthcoming Xbox One will feature a singular source of video output, and yep, you guessed it, that’s HDMI.

Come Christmas roughly a quarter of Western households will be entirely unable to join in on the likes of Killzone: ShadowFall, or Forza 5. The Broadcasters’ Audience Research Board estimates 26.8 million private domestic households (approx. 97%) in the UK own televisions, however data released last summer (July 2012) by the UK’s communications industries regulator, Ofcom, reveals that only 70% of UK households have a HD ready TV, which whilst a 10% marked increase on 2011’s figures, still leaves nearly a third of households – some 9million TV-owning consumers – potentially unable to partake in next-gen.

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If Ratchet: Gladiator is a sign of things to come, this SD TV owning demographic won’t be any better off sticking with the PS3 or Xbox 360 either. Those consoles may well be supported into 2014 and beyond, but their ‘legacy’ connectivity, however, is still deemed useless if the newly released content isn’t compatible – as today’s release surely highlights.

Research group Leichtman, Inc. conducted a similar study earlier this year in the US, whereby 75% of respondents claimed ownership of a HD TV. 38% of this sample had access to more than one HD capable television.

Interestingly, the Leichtman report also indicates that less than a quarter of all US homes, 23% in fact, had access to a HD TV in 2007, with UK figures for mid-2008 thought to be around 10m sets. Of course, a generation ago HD was still very costly, and the vast majority of people, myself included, felt they could, and potentially should, wait a while and ride out their trusty, undying CRT.

Nowadays, old fashioned SD TV sets are no longer found for sale in the mainsteam, and yes, those who enjoy games on more than a once-a-week casual level are increasingly likely to already have a HD set or two at their disposal – nonetheless, the figures are remarkably telling, and with so many households potentially still relying on the tried and tested box-in-the-corner, the next couple of years could be interesting for video-games.

Still, at least HD-only titles mean you’ll never have to sit with your nose pressed against the glass, squinting furiously as you try to make out some semblance of a weird Japanese game’s subtitled plot-line, eh?

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24 Comments

  1. It does seem like we been living in HD era for ages, I was at my nan house a week ago & she still has those tv with the phat bootay lol & I was laughing to myself thinking we came a long way now we here.

    I’m currently looking to get a smart tv seems like that’s the future but they ain’t cheap

    • I imagine a great deal of the 9m SD owning populous are elderly, and would have little interest in HD gaming and the inability to play R&C!

      As SDTVs are no longer on sale, I would argue we are living in an HD generation already. Sooner or later the old SDTVs will fail and cease to exist entirely.

    • I have a Sony “smart tv” and I don’t see what it gives you that a console or Google TV box doesn’t do better. Just as well I didn’t buy it for the “smart” features otherwise I’d have been sorely disappointed.

  2. I think that the gen having only hdmi makes perfect sense, as an HD TV is the most common kind available at stores and, truth be told, is an essential part of gaming. And the box tells you right away of its connectivity capabilities.
    I strongly disagree with this game release though: if you are making a game to run on a device that is made to let play on an old tv, then your game should be compatible with it. Killing that option on a software level is just dumb.

    • “if you are making a game to run on a device that is made to let play on an old tv, then your game should be compatible with it. Killing that option on a software level is just dumb.”

      This.

    • *like*
      awesome post!
      spot on!

  3. It’s not that surprising that there are still plenty of SD TV’s out there, it’s only been in the last couple of years that you can pick up a HD TV in Sainsburys or Tescos for sub £500.

    I’m actually not that bothered about HD though. Or ‘Full’ HD at least. For me, I’d much rather play a game at 720p rather than 1080p if it means 60fps over 30fps. It’s one of the main reasons I’m a COD fan compared to Battlefield (although I recently got BF3 on PC and it’s awesome), and it’s the main reason I’m not that interested in DriveClub. Yes the cars can look shiny, but I’d rather the game feels natural and sleek.

    So while we may not truly be a HD generation, I’d like to keep it that way. Or at least let’s have a HD Ready (720p) generation, provided games run at 60fps as a standard. Let’s leave the PS4 and Xbone to 1080p, 60fps, which hopefully will become the standard once Devs become accustomed to the hardware.

    • I actually think having both 720p and 1080p standards was a mistake from the outset, creating a lack of consistency and confusion amongst the masses between exactly what “HD Ready” and “Full HD” are.

      All content now should really be in 1080p where possible, and ideally there should be presets in console games to allow players to choose between the 1080/30 and 720/60 if 1080/60 simply isn’t possible all the time.

      • Yeah, it would be good for Devs to allow console gamers to make a choice similar to PC gamers, so you can chose for either pretty graphics or smooth gameplay depending on your preference.

      • I agree with the disparity between HD and Full HD, it should have just gone from SD to 1080p. A lot of people with poor eyesight etc… simply cannot see the difference between SD and 720p, especially tv’s/other inputs with a good upscaler.

        You can also get 1080p CRT monitors, and they won’t have hdmi ports so next gen is a no go for them.

      • Yeah, I never really understood why we have 720p, and calling it HD ‘Ready’ makes even less sense to me!

      • Marketing and bandwidth. 720p gave manufacturers an opportunity to slap on a “HD Ready” sticker, even tho early TV’s didnt even have HDMI outputs, they just did 720p via DMI. Which of course pissed off a lot of early adopters (including myself) but hey, marketing. Also, HD TV channels output at 720p, not 1080p as, I believe, 1080p requires a lot more bandwidth.

      • Ah, thanks for the info!

  4. No offense guys, but your sign in process (wordpress??) is archaic…on point, anybody playing video games would surely have a HD compatible TV? i threw my CRT out 8 years ago…i mean, come on? (only the older generation are in these stats…and i’m bloody old, but not THAT old)

    • Our system is built around WordPress, we’d have to hard code in each article, comment and the sign ins otherwise. May not be noticeable, but it’s definitely helpful.

  5. I suspect a fair number of the non-gamers who have bought HD tvs don’t really care that they can display HD and have bought them more as a fashion statement or simply because they come with a Freeview tuner.. If you are not a gamer and don’t have SkyHD or a BlueRay collection there is very little HD content about to watch on it anyway ;)

  6. My Sony bravia hd tv doesn’t have a hdmi port. Bought it when I got my 360 in early 2006. I was surprised that the next gen consoles only have hdmi.

  7. I wouldn’t of thought it matters too much for those that game. I doubt the PS4 and One launch window buyers would be silly enough to think ‘lets get the best graphic consoles and put it on a non HD TV’. Perhaps in a year or so when the typically casual market get to buying them but more than likely they will have HD TVs by that time.

    As for the current generation of consoles, yes all games should be SD compatible. If they have the connections to attach to one then of course they should be.

    • Same here, fella. We’ve had an entire generation of consoles were most gamers can (and have) moved on to High Definition entertainment. Industries simply cannot cater for everyone and there has to be a cut-off point. The game in question is a strange one with its mandatory HD compatibility but the next gen consoles are a very clear sign of things to come.

      We’ve had 720p 32″ sets available in the likes of Argos as far back as five years ago! If you haven’t moved on to at least something like that (in a world of Blu-rays and HighDef gaming) then maybe it’s time to take up gardening and embracing a world of corduroy instead. :-P

  8. I think it’s a telling move that the supermarket I go to now has a smaller DVD section than blu ray. I think the developers are right to stop putting effort into SD compatibility at some point and seeing as the next generation is about to arrive now seems as good a time as any to do it. If you’re into games then you move with the times by saving up and buying the newest console when you can, I guess this will be one of those years where some have to fork out for a new TV to keep up with the consoles. Lets be honest, most of us were probably thrilled when it was time to ditch a CRT PC monitor for a slim, new, sharp looking TFT.

  9. People with SD TV’s this late in the day are still learning the remote control buttons sequence to get Coronation street up and running, so the thought of a new telly with futuristic sci-fi remote control with a new learning curve, missing a soap fills them with dread. :P
    Jeez, it must be like having chiller in the corner the size of a washing machine!

  10. I kinda forget that quite a few people still don’t have HD TVs when I bought mine in early 2009, about a year after I got my first part-time job (with a helpful 10% at Argos due to my Homebase job (and this job had also funded my launch-day PS3 purchase)).

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