All over the internet gaming sites, I see complaints. That's par for the course of course, but one consistent comment that I've seen is that nothing next-gen has really appeared for the next-gen consoles, the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4 (sorry Wii U, but you're gonna be shelved with the 360 and PS3 for this discussion). Many cite games like inFamous: Second Son and Titanfall as evidence, and they're certainly right. After all, outside of graphical fidelity and certain controls, Second Son feel likes it doesn't do anything that the previous games could have done, and Titanfall came out on the 360 almost identical to the XBO version, making me wonder why it was so hyped up as an XBO game experience in the first place.
This got me thinking as to when previous consoles received their defining games, those titles that made you sit back and think "Dayum, this is what I got the Gamecube for!". I also wondered if PC gamers ever got this when a new graphics card or DirectX is announced, but as I'm not a PC gamer I won't delve into that one.
I recall the first gen I 'participated' in from the start, which was the PS3. I picked one up in mid-2007, and there was a dearth of games that truly interested me, my library consisting of only having Resistance: Fall of Man, skate. and Need for Speed: Carbon. All of them were good games, but it wasn't until near the end of the year with the release of Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction did I feel like I got the game that justified my purchase, about a year after the PS3's original release.
The Genesis had this delayed issue as well: the console was released in October of 1988, but it wasn't until two and a half years later in June of 1991 that it's first big title, Sonic the Hedgehog, was launched. N64 started with Super Mario 64 of course, but it took six months after the N64's launch for the second big game, Mario Kart, to be released and nearly a year for the third, GoldenEye. "Yeah, but what can you play outside of SM64, Kart and GoldenEye?" the PS1 defenders would probably say if they had the internet today.
For the PS2, it took over a year after the launch in mid-2000 for Gran Turismo 3 to release at the end of 2001. The Wii had to wait 11 months for Super Mario Galaxy, the first major title of that system. The 360's first big game, Gears of War, was released almost a year after the 360 launched (although the original Xbox was lucky enough to launch with Halo), and the NES didn't get Super Mario Bros. until four years after its original release!
The 3D Difference
I did mention the N64 in all of that, but I feel that it's the exception to the norm as part of the jump from the fourth generation of gaming (SNES and Genesis) to the fifth (N64 and PS1). This is because of the revolution that was 3D graphics being a viable option. It had been tried in games such as Starfox, but the 5th Gen was where it was truly feasible. No game represents this jump more than Super Mario 64, taking the formula established in Super Mario World and transposing it to depth and a third-person camera. Whilst rather awkward today, it was revolutionary at the time thanks to Nintendo's expertise, but it has an unfair advantage.
You see 3D is such a significant game-changer in the grand scope of things that you had to completely re-think your approach to gameplay design from the side-scrollers and top-down games that came before it. The jump from NES to SNES wasn't as big, and neither was PS2 to PS3. We're never going to get anything quite like the sort of evolution that was brought onto the world of gaming as 3D offered back in the mid-9os, and I don't know if everyone appreciates that.
The rate of how much you can tell the difference between graphical jumps will decrease too. In a way similar to increasing the colour range of an image, the higher you increase the range the more difficult it is to tell, until you get to a point that you have to be really pretentious in order to see the difference. A jump from four colours to eight colours is easily noticeable, but would you be able to see the difference between 12 million colours and 24 million?
So when will it happen?
I personally don't expect that we'll get the first big must-own, truly next-gen titles until one, maybe two years down the line, or even three given how long it takes to make games these days. The next GTA III, the next Super Mario Galaxy. They always have taken a while after release (N64 and Xbox being the exception), but the difference between now and then is that our world is more connected. It's easier than ever before to chat with friends and talk about this when we're used to instant satisfaction via the internet. Thus why only two or three months into the eight generation of consoles, people already began complaining about where all the next-gen games were.
I got my PS4 fairly soon after its launch, and so far I haven't been disappointed by it. I knew that, like the PS3 and PSP experiences I had before it, it would take a while until my library would feel significant and meaningful, especially since I'm rather picky about what games I play. I should probably expand my horizons to indie games though. I hear that's where all the real innovative gameplay is happening.