‘A fresh start is necessary’: Gaming correspondent on why gaming consoles must halt progress

Euronews Culture had a conversation with gaming journalist Jordan Minor about his latest publication and his perspective on why the gaming sector is emphasizing the incorrect aspects.
ADVERTISEMENTA notice from Rockstar Games recently declared that a teaser for their forthcoming title Grand Theft Auto 6 would be unveiled this December. This news stirred up the gaming community. Although it was just the announcement of a teaser, it indicated the initial official information about a successor to the extremely successful Grand Theft Auto V. Released in 2013, Grand Theft Auto V ranks as the second-best selling game in gaming history, and has accumulated over $8 billion (€7.4 billion) in global revenue. Highly acclaimed, gamers have been anticipating a sequel for an unprecedented duration. Between 1997 and 2013, Rockstar Games introduced seven titles from the main series, four expansion packs, and four handheld games. After the release of Grand Theft Auto V, activities stagnated for the series. Rockstar has introduced other titles, indeed, however, the general belief was that having produced the most substantial and successful open world action game in history, an appropriate sequel would require an extensive period to materialize. This is an issue that transcends the entire industry, asserts Jordan Minor, gaming journalist and the author of the new book ‘Video Game of the Year: A Year-by-Year Guide to the Best, Boldest, and Most Peculiar Games from Every Year since 1977’. Consoles have become increasingly advanced. Visuals are continuously improving. Game environments are progressively expansive and boundlessly explorable. However, all of this comes at a cost, both literally and figuratively. Studios expend immense resources in the development of major titles. The estimated cost of producing Grand Theft Auto V surpassed $210 million. Soaring expenditures and mounting expectations have led to a reduction in the frequency of new releases by studios. “Presently, developers are only able to release one game throughout an entire console generation, and the entire duration is required for its development,” remarks Minor. With fewer releases requiring larger budgets, studios have adopted a more cautious approach towards risks. Minor suggests that this is not an optimal working environment for game developers. In many respects, this mirrors a challenge that Hollywood is grappling with. Over the last decade, studios have been investing in substantial, high-budget productions. As the prevalence of risk-averse superhero movies with exorbitant budgets dominated the screens during the 2010s, mid-budget films were sidelined. Similarly, it appears that the craft of mid-budget video games has also been overlooked. Similar to the film industry, a different category of low-budget, experimental, and thrilling independent titles has begun garnering attention. For the 2010 segment of his book, Minor highlights Super Meat Boy. Originally developed on Adobe Flash within a span of three weeks, the game was released on Newgrounds for free in 2008, it was subsequently revamped and released for major consoles due to its immense popularity. Often celebrated as one of the finest games of all time, the 2D platformer serves as a perfect illustration of bigger not always being better. Minor has devoted considerable time to contemplation on the trajectory of the gaming industry. From its modest origins in arcades to the technological surge of 3D gaming (the chapter for 1992 is dedicated to Wolfenstein 3-D), Minor has observed a captivating, fast-evolving art form. “On one hand, we required the advancement of technology to provide designers with the liberty to express such a broad spectrum of ideas,” muses Minor, comparing the artistic attributes of Pong in 1977 with, for instance, Resident Evil 4 in 2005. However, “those dramatic changes have slowed down,” he notes. When focusing solely on visuals, there is a law of diminishing returns in technological advancement. The transition from 32-bit to 64-bit results in an unmistakable doubling of definition on screen. This is less evident at the levels reached by the current generation’s PS5 and Xbox Series X. Minor addresses other advancements in subsequent chapters. The exclusive Pokémon game featured in the compilation is Pokémon Go for 2016. “Pokemon is an extensive franchise, but I opted for this because it’s an exceptionally vital mobile game. It’s also significant as it’s an augmented reality VR-adjacent game.”ADVERTISEMENTWhere is gaming headed then? From our discussion, Minor appears to highlight three principal trends. The first is the continued sporadic release of sizable titles by major studios. Then there are the small independent titles captivating audiences. Lastly, there is the upsurge in mobile gaming and VR technology. While these trends are likely to persist, Minor actually anticipates something different. “At some point, there will need to be a recalibration of consumer expectations,” Minor contends. “Not everything has to be at the forefront of innovation.” Minor observes that games from a decade ago still boast commendable visuals and gameplay. He suggests that the notion presupposing that consumers exclusively crave increasingly intricate (and challenging to design for) technology needs to be abandoned. “Historically, the most popular console rarely turns out to be the most powerful one in any case.” He’s correct. The Nintendo Switch continues to post impressive sales figures, despite arguments from the gaming industry that it doesn’t belong to the current technological generation. Considering earlier times, one of the most successful consoles in history, the PS2, was less potent than both its primary rivals, the Gamecube and the Xbox. “The notion that things must always ascend endlessly is neither feasible nor sustainable,” remarks Minor. “Instead, the emphasis ought to be directed towards the quality of game mechanics rather than merely expecting progressively larger game maps rendered with increasing realism.” Another concern that Minor harbors is game preservation. “Numerous classic games are outstanding,” he remarks, “but companies are not fulfilling their responsibilities to ensure the games remain accessible for future generations.” Minor’s viewpoint may be in the minority when considering the stance of the actual developers.ADVERTISEMENTUnverified documents from Microsoft indicate 2028 as the targeted release year for a new generation console. Minor, far from being a reactionary, acknowledges that it’s natural for technology to continue progressing. The crucial aspect is to foster an environment that prioritizes exceptional games, as opposed to just exceptional technology. “I simply desire a more sustainable gaming industry,” states Minor.

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