Cross Generation Video Game Releases: Are They Good for the Industry?

In case you haven’t heard the news, Sony was planning on not offering directly free next-gen upgrades for people who buy Horizon: Forbidden West on the PS4. After outrage from the community Sony was ultimately bullied into offering the free upgrades for everyone who buys the game on PS4. Additionally, for future upcoming split generation releases like the next God of War and Gran Turismo 7 it was announced that there will be a $10 digital upgrade option from PS4 to PS5. I want to add that this $10 upgrade fee is only for Sony’s first-party exclusives. Games like Call of Duty or Grand Theft Auto will not be affected, it will be up to each game’s publisher to make the decision of offering free upgrades or not.

On its face this news isn’t as earth shattering as many are making it out to be, but most are upset because they are saying that Sony went back on a promise they had previously made to their users. They are of course referring to a Washington Post article by Gene Park from September 16, 2020 in which they interviewed Jim Ryan, president of Sony Interactive Entertainment. In this interview Ryan was quoted saying:

“The PS5 versions of those games are built from the ground up to take advantage of the PS5 feature set, and we have an upgrade path for PS4 users to get the PS5 versions for free. It’s about people having choice. I’m really quite pleased about the situation.

Ryan is talking about whether or not developing games across generations restricts the technological ambitions of a game, specifically Horizon: Forbidden West and Spider-Man: Miles Morales. He more or less says that nobody should worry. According to him the PS5 versions of these games are developed separately in order to take advantage of the technological advancements made between the two systems.

Nothing in This World is Free

Everyone sees the word “free” in Ryan’s quote and immediately think that he’s saying all split generation released games are getting free upgrades then they proceed to get upset when that’s not true. He literally says exactly what was going to happen in the quote everyone is using to get mad at him about. “We have an upgrade path for PS4 users to get the PS5 versions for free.” While it may be a perfect example of corporate politics at work dancing in and around questions, it still is what Sony initially was offering with Horizon: Forbidden West. Their “upgrade path” was just by purchasing the deluxe version of the game on PS4. With it you also received a “free” PS5 digital upgrade version of the game.

Now I am forced into the position of being the guy to defend some corporate suit trying to justify why you can’t get free things just because you’re mean on the internet. Say what you will about him wording it just vague enough to allow Sony to rationalize ways to make sure you pay for the upgrade in some way, but it is kind of his job to do that. You also have every ability to actually read his quotes with context, and use critical thinking to figure out what this means for yourself rather than getting upset because someone is charging you money in order to use a product that they made themselves. Stuff isn’t free after all as much as we would like it to be.

“Just because you are making $9 an hour stocking shelves at your local grocery store and you hate yourself for it, doesn’t give you the right to bully the people who have succeeded in life into giving you free stuff.”

If what Ryan is saying happens to be true, and each split-gen release is actually being developed separately for the PS5 versions then that changes everything. This would allow them to take full advantage of the better tech in the PS5, ultimately making the game better in a lot of ways. If that is the case then I feel like we should absolutely be paying some amount of money extra for these games even if we choose to purchase them on the PS4 first. You surely wouldn’t drag yourself in to your depressing 9-5 job if you weren’t getting paid. Why should we expect Sony to offer their work to us for free?

The funny thing is I bet everything I have that you’d say “well, because they’re already worth $132 billion, it won’t hurt them anyway”. Well, let me ask you. How do you think they got to be worth $132 billion? It surely wasn’t by giving out free upgrades for all those VHS players every time they came out with a better model. Just because you are making $9 an hour stocking shelves at your local grocery store and you hate yourself for it, doesn’t give you the right to bully the people who have succeeded in life into giving you free stuff. I’m sorry, but that’s not how this works.

If that was the case than why the hell would I still be having to pay money for the 10th anniversary edition of Skyrim after I’ve already bought 3 copies of it on different platforms. What’s even more funny to me is that Bethesda is essentially doing the same thing with it as Sony was with Horizon: Forbidden West. If you buy the Skyrim Special Edition on PS5 or Xbox Series X/S you will be offered the three Creation Club additions for free. That game is 10 years old and they’re doing the same thing you were outraged at when Sony did it! Where is your outrage now? More importantly why are we still buying copies of Skyrim?? It’s 2021 people can we find some better causes to funnel this rage towards. I bet if we looked really hard we could find a few better directions to go in.

Enough Cross Generation Game Releases

I think I know where we can start. Why don’t we just stop with the cross generation game releases. Commit to the next generation of gaming, and then maybe we wouldn’t even be having this conversation. I get that we have an unprecedented situation with shortages of building materials for these consoles, but it can’t be that bad if throughout the first 6 months the PS5 has already outsold the PS4 if you mirror the two consoles sales numbers following each ones release. Sony is clearly more than just getting by despite the hard times. Scalpers have obviously escalated the problem for some people as well, but again this is nothing new. The issue we keep coming back to can be traced back to one thing, and that is split generation releases.

Companies need to stop catering to the older console generations for extended periods of time after releasing a new console. You see them do it for far too long trying to release games for both systems many months, and a lot of times well over a year after a new console is released. Obviously, you don’t want to cut support entirely for the older consoles, but that doesn’t mean we have to keep staggering video game releases in order to coddle the ones hanging on to their older systems. If a company feels that it is time to move on to a new system then they need to truly commit to said system. That means new games releasing after the new system is available for purchase need to be strictly for the new system, and the new system only.

I can’t see this being a popular opinion with too many, but I don’t see what holding onto your console for six or seven more months of gaming is going to help you gain. Why would you even want to purchase a throttled version of a new game specifically made to be able to play on an outdated system anyways? By all means feel free to replay the classics of the passing generation, but just know technology is moving forward. It is always advancing, so don’t be shocked if you get left behind. We don’t have to wait for you, technology does not need your sign off before it is allowed to advance. You are simply not that important.

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No nonsense foresight into the future of gaming, tech, and entertainment, even a dash of my own personal mindset from any given day.
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