Here at TweakTown we've hyped up next-gen consoles quite a bit. With the impressive 8-core Zen 2 CPU specs, high-end RDNA-powered Navi 2 GPUs, ultra-fast PCIe 4.0 SSDs, and 16GB of GDDR6 RAM, it's hard not to get excited. But it could be a while before we see proof of amazing third-party games running on the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X consoles.
Today's Inside Xbox event drove one point home for me: Developers aren't ready to show off their major next-gen game innovations just yet. And until they are, it might be harder to get totally excited about next-gen.
Every single game shown at the event came with a disclaimer warning consumers that hardware hasn't been finalized, and the footage wasn't actually captured on an Xbox Series X console. "Game and console in development, footage representative of expected Xbox Series X gameplay," reads the disclaimer.
Ubisoft's new Assassin's Creed Valhalla footage stole the show, but like every other game, it was recorded on a devkit or PC hardware that approximates final Xbox Series X specs. The truth is next-gen console hardware production is only just now starting en-masse. Sony and Microsoft will order the chips from AMD in Q2 and start ramping up for the 2020 hardware launch.
So ultimately it's hard for developers to deliver the kinds of details we want to hear because, well, they really can't. Ubisoft gave vague info on how Valhalla will tap next-gen hardware, assuring things like Smart Delivery and fast loading times, but those things are par for the course.
What's surprising is that indie studios like Ebb Software and Bloober Team have talked more about next-gen optimizations than major games-makers like EA, Bandai Namco, SEGA, or Ubisoft.
Ebb says their game Scorn will hit 4K 60FPS and they're targeting rock-solid frame rates, and Bloober affirms the Xbox Series X will allow seamless play with zero loading times in their new horror game The Medium.
The reality is that third-party games probably won't be the best showcase for next-gen hardware for a while. Like it or not, third-party is the prime move for game sales. First-party sells consoles, and then gamers typically spend the bulk of their money on big third-party titles like GTA V (unless you're Nintendo, where 82.8% of platform games sold are first-party). We need more transparent info to make an informed decision on why we should buy next-gen consoles--outside of first-party games, of course. And first-party reveals/showcases should be likewise as sparse due to backward compatibility on next-gen.
The devs simply need more time to get acclimated to finalized hardware. They can tweak the devkits and source PCs being used to make and test the games, sure, but it's not completely the same. We're roughly six months away from launch and we probably won't get huge tech demo-level showcases for months.
That's to be expected, I guess, because first-party is closest to the source and always does crazy things with new console tech--The Coalition, for example, has rigged Gears 5 to run at perf equivalent to an RTX 2080 GPU with Ultra PC settings, for instance--but it's still disappointing. We won't be getting granular details on how exactly titles like AC: Valhalla push next-gen hardware to its limits, no real resolution or FPS targets, no exact loading times or variable refresh rate details or even ray tracing info--all the parameters that get us truly excited.
And most importantly, there's not much info on how these current-gen releases will be upgraded on next-gen hardware. We outlined two scenarios: Native boosts as well as manual upgrades issued by developers. This seems like the most logical solution, but there's still a lot we don't know.
There's the Optimized for Xbox Series X badge moniker, but that doesn't tell us exact info, only that the game will run better on new hardware. And that's to be expected anyway, considering both the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X will natively boost any game you put into them to some degree (some are pushed more than others).
In short, it probably will be a while before we get enough info on third-party games hitting true next-gen potential.
There's way too many great third-party games coming out this year that could end up being major system-sellers. There's Cyberpunk 2077, Assassin's Creed: Valhalla, and even a handful of EA sports like Madden 21, the latter of which will probably get separate next-gen SKU releases.
SEGA is launching Yakuza Like a Dragon alongside next-gen systems, and they've barely said anything about how the game will run on the hardware.
There's a bunch more games on the horizon. Take-Two is working on its biggest historical slate of games ever, complete with new games across all of its labels including Rockstar. Capcom is ramping up for next-gen with a new Resident Evil. Ubisoft will launch AC Valhalla and Watch Dogs Legion this fiscal year, two of the biggest open-world games to date.
Also bear in mind engines are only now starting to get next-gen console support. Epic just now added PS5, Xbox Series X support to Unreal Engine 4.25 alongside real-time ray tracing.
We're betting EA is ramping up Frostbite's next-gen support, but again, it will be a while before we see EA games truly hit their stride on next-gen. EA is planning a big explosive next-gen debut with Battlefield 6, which may actually be exclusive to next-gen consoles.
We're not going through all of the third-party next-gen releases, but ultimately it could be too early to tell.
Then again, it's possible publishers are holding back big announcements and details in favor of other events. Today's Inside Xbox was only one of the upcoming streams and updates. There's the Summer Game Fest with Geoff Keighley, which will have lots of reveals and content, the IGN summer game show, and of course the Gamescom 2020 stream later in the year.
And whatever Sony is up to. I think they're planning something big.
I still think first-party games will be the prime movers with next-gen consoles, and we might not actually see all that many first-party games launch alongside the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X. Sony, however, is working on a few high-profile PS4 games that will certainly be boosted on PS5 hardware: The Last of Us Part II, which is already a technical marvel on PS4, and Ghost of Tsushima, a stylish samurai epic set in the heart of feudal Japan.
Microsoft also has some heavy-hitters planned for Xbox Series X, including Halo: Infinite, which will be the premiere release on the console in 2020, and a handful of other projects from its first-party studios like Obsidian, Turn 10, Playground Games, and the mystery project that The Initiative is working on.
Still, though, COVID-19 measures could interrupt things and somewhat mute what should be one of the most explosively loud moments in console gaming history.
Hopefully I'm wrong and now is just the calm before the storm. Hopefully third-party games will push next-gen consoles just as far as first-party titles...but today's event made me halt my crazy hype.
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