If you want to send PlatinumGames studio head Atsushi Inaba to sleep, just sit him down with the respective teams at AMD, Sony and Microsoft dealing with the design of the next-gen PlayStation 5 and Xbox Project Scarlett. They are, in his opinion, “hard to get excited about.”
Both Microsoft and Sony have now laid bare the technical foundations on which they are building their next-gen consoles, with AMD’s Zen 2 CPU, Navi GPU with semi-custom ray tracing, and ultra-fast SSD – catch our speculative comparison here – but you can practically feel Inaba stifling a yawn as he talked to VGC at E3.
“It’s OK. And by that I mean, I’m sure that things will move faster, graphics will be better and maybe it will be easier with less wait times. That’s good for the consumer, but it’s more of the same, quite frankly, compared to previous generations. It’s nothing that’s disruptive or super innovative, if you ask me.”
The big change is that while they’re tapping up AMD’s semi-custom teams to pick and choose technologies and components from AMD’s current and future technologies, there’s nowhere near the same kind of custom work that went into designing the PlayStation, GameCube or even the Xbox 360.
“Game hardware used to be about custom chips that you couldn’t do on PCs,” he explained. “Now you look at it and they’re just grabbing stuff that already exists.
“The Switch, for example, is a Tegra which already existed and the other consoles are using very similar chips and graphics cards to what you see on PCs, but maybe slightly updated. None of it seems unique to that hardware anymore.”
For that reason, he’s finding the dawn of video game streaming services to be much more interesting. “Things like cloud platforms represent innovation and something very, very different – they’re platforms that excite me and where I feel there is a lot more innovation happening.”
Inaba is absolutely right, of course, that these hardware changes aren’t inherently exciting. They are almost known quantities and an evolution over current hardware in so many ways. For developers, they should provide a steady and stable basis to continue to develop on without the upheaval of previous generations that meant developers grappled with the esoteric designs of the Emotion Engine and Cell processors for half a decade.
The Switch might be based off the Tegra mobile part, but it can do some great things with motion control if that’s the kind of game you’re looking to develop – Bayonetta 3 is “going well”, by the way, but probably won’t lean to heavily on that side of the Switch. For next-gen, a dramatic reduction of loading times could do wonders for other types of games, while the breaking down of barriers to let you play on practically any screen you like with streaming services is a whole other kind of potential revolution… but guess what? Google Stadia being built with semi-custom off-the-shelf AMD parts just as much as PlayStation 5, Project Scarlett and Project xCloud are.
Anyway, are you excited for a new generation of console? Or are you going to be hitting snooze come November-ish 2020?