Generational transitions seem to be getting longer. The crossover between audiences on different devices is becoming harder to ignore given the rising costs of development. Migrating the audience from PlayStation 4 to PlayStation 5 seems more difficult than generations prior. However, there’s one key factor that can be seen as determining a swing from one generation to the next: budget games.
The transition from 8-bit to 16-bit consoles was reportedly a nervous one. While Sega dived-in headfirst with the Mega-Drive (aka Genesis), Nintendo were a bit more cautious. Uncertainty as to whether consumers would be willing to upgrade their hardware and dismiss their old games every four-to-five years stuttered the design process for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES). So much so, that early concepts (pictured below) included ports for both Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) and SNES cartridges.
Once it had been widely acknowledged that gaming audiences actually welcomed hardware upgrades, things changed considerably. Fast-forwarding to the Xbox 360 debut, and we see the arrival of cross-generational games for the first time. While the Master System and Mega-Drive had both received Sonic the Hedgehog games, they were fundamentally different experiences. Here, we now saw the exact same game released on both Xbox and Xbox 360.
Gun, Need for Speed: Most Wanted, Tony Hawk’s American Wasteland and more saw simultaneous release on Xbox and Xbox 360. Arguably the only differences were high-definition (HD) compatibility, and a higher price tag. However, the transition occurred much quicker than by today’s standards, and cross-generation releases ended soon after launch. In the modern day, we’re over a year into the current generation. Yet the vast majority of releases still appear across PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S.
As stated above, this is very obviously due to install bases. Would Elden Ring sales have exceeded previous ‘Souls’ titles had it been limited to PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S and PC? Highly unlikely.
But there is a change in the tide coming. As stated above, a determining factor in whether or not we’ve passed the peak of a generational transition is the shift in the release of budget titles by smaller publishers. Once we see low price family-orientated titles making their way onto new hardware, it’s safe to assume there’s a belief that the audience size is enough to warrant shifting investment to the newer hardware. And we’re not talking about ‘Platinum’ re-releases here; we’re talking about publishing brand new titles at boxed retail with a lower price point.
On the horizon, we have the likes of Instant Sports Paradise, Panda Hero Remastered and 3D Mini Golf Remastered coming exclusively to PlayStation 5. With retail prices going as low as $15 USD for these titles, it’s hard to argue that sales volume isn’t the essential component in the retail proposition. The fact that publishers such as Merge Games and GS2 Games view the PlayStation 5 as a viable platform for such titles is most certainly a swing in the right direction.
That’s not to say they expect the core audience to lap up these titles. More likely that they expect purchases for younger family members to co-exist amongst the Horizon Forbidden West and Elden Ring adoption. Specifically, for those gamers who have children – did you purchase a new game for your PlayStation 5? Does your son or daughter want to play with you? Well, here’s something a little more their speed than Evil Dead: The Game.
2022 is the year to get a PlayStation 5. The console is going to see a dramatic shift. And the same could be said for the Xbox Series X|S, too. Bringing in younger audiences and family entertainment to the new generation of console hardware can only be a good thing for all gamers. Even if the games leading the way may not be designed for your own tastes.