Next Gen. Console Game Lineups Hint at Future Directions

Perhaps the most surprising thing about Microsoft and Sony’s next generation console game lists is that there were so few surprises.

ControllersBy December 31, Microsoft and Sony plan to release at least 23 and 33 titles, respectively. Based on sheer numbers, it would seem that Sony would have the upper hand, but a closer look reveals that the company might have been trying to boost its numbers: More than half of the titles are digital downloads, of which it appears that only four are exclusive to the PS4 (others may appear on the PS3 and many have already appeared on PC). That is not to undermine the indie title lineup.  There are some great games in there – it’s just that the majority of the gaming public doesn’t need to purchase a PS4 to get them.

Microsoft’s launch list might seem a little sparse but the company definitely seems to have made an effort: while Forza Motorsport 5 is not quite Gran Turismo, it still has a good number of loyal adherents. And besides, we’ll see GT6 on the PS3 well before it hits the PS4. The fighting game lineup for the Xbox One looks fairly ho-hum, with one notable exception: Ryse: Son of Rome. Until now, Crytek had been associated with first-person shooters – most notably Crysis and Far Cry – so it will be interesting to see what they can do with a big budget gladiatorial combat game. At any rate, there are a couple of big titles in the mix, and some of the others might surprise.

Sony’s exclusive content seems limited to maybes. Driveclub is pegged as being a Grid successor, and Killzone: Shadow Fall is coming out against Battlefield 4 and Call of Duty: Ghosts, which are both massive cross-platform releases. With that level of competition, while it looks like it might make an interesting first-person shooter, it will be hard for it to be anything more than an also ran. And there’s the rub. How many first person shooters can one person play?

The similarities in the architecture of the Xbox One and PS4 will mean that most big name titles won’t be exclusives. The Xbox One might get a sequel to Halo and the PS4 will get a successor to Yakuza, but we probably won’t see much outside the handful of games that Microsoft and Sony have managed to lock down. Don’t expect the latest round of console wars to be decided by the games – they have their hardcore fans but in the grand scheme of things, they’re not that big.

That being said, Microsoft does have a pretty big ace up its sleeve with the Kinect 2. While games like Zumba Fitness: World Party (also available on Wii U) and Powerstar Golf might not immediately appeal to the traditional Mountain Dew sipping, Cheetos munching, hardcore gaming crowd, they are precisely the direction in which Microsoft should be throwing its money. “Why?” you ask. Because fitness games and sports simulators can broaden the Xbox One’s appeal well beyond its traditional market. Nintendo’s first Wii hinted at what was possible, but imagine where things could go.

Speaking of the Wii, it sold over 100 million units, while the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 managed around 78 million apiece. Gamers weren’t picking up the Wii because of its exclusive content. They were picking it up because it made gaming a less sedentary activity — something that could be enjoyed by the whole family.

Don’t be surprised if we see a highly realistic fitness trainer or sport simulator hitting big in the not too distant future. Imagine the potential impact of a game that actually taught a golfer to improve his or her swing. Now apply that across the board to other sports and activities and you get an idea for the potential of the Kinect 2. Microsoft’s decision to raise the price of the Xbox One by $100 to package the Kinect 2 with every console indicates that the company will be devoting a lot more time and energy toward producing Kinect-capable titles.