There is a hubbub on forums everywhere decrying the end of the current generation every time a rumor teases details of the next Xbox or PS4. “The current generation isn’t maxed-out,” say fans. Others chime in with the common, “fancy graphics don’t make games better, gameplay does,” argument.

Are these assertions true? Absolutely. Do they offer up a reasonable argument to delay the next inevitable generation of consoles? No, and here is why:

The Law of Diminishing Returns

The idea that a console can be “maxed out” is a fallacy. The fact is, while the console is static, the programs the box runs are not. In other words, the more time a developer spends working on a platform, the better they become at telling the hardware how to run the game (that’s the “engine” we hear so much about in the gaming industry). Since the engine is just a program, there is no limit to the tweaks and adjustments that can be made to improve it and make games run better on current hardware.

So why not keep the current generation of consoles running forever if the programs they run can be endlessly improved? The answer is found in The Law of Diminishing Returns. As defined by Wikipedia, the law states, “in all productive processes, adding more of one factor of production, while holding all others constant, will at some point yield lower per-unit returns.”

In layman’s terms, forever improving game engines on the same old hardware will yield increasingly smaller gains. Eventually, all the engine improvements and tweaks in the world have only the tiniest effect on gameplay, physics, visuals, etc…

Want to see proof right on your home console?

Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune and Gears of War launched two incredibly successful franchises. Uncharted 2 and Gears of War 2 notably improved the gameplay, mechanics, and visuals launched by their respective first installments. The jump in gameplay, physics, and visual fidelity from the second installments in these series to the third, however, weren’t nearly as pronounced.

Simply put, Uncharted 2 was a huge leap over the original Uncharted, but Uncharted 3’s tweaks and improvements over Uncharted 2 were far less noteworthy. This is true even though Naughty Dog worked just as hard as ever to make the title as awesome as possible. Expect an even lesser jump if Uncharted 4 appears on PS3 rather than a fourth PlayStation console.

PS4 concept. (Image from

Better Graphics May Not Matter, But Better Physics & AI Sure Do

Those that say, “gameplay is more important than graphics,” are absolutely right. That is also exactly why we should be thrilled to move on to the next generation of gaming. More processing power means better, more complex physics and AI options that open new worlds of interactive gameplay.

In an age where destructible environments are still limited in scope and (generally) to select genres, imagine a world where any game that wishes can use this great feature without sacrificing things like frame rate, draw distance, and player count.

Imagine your favorite sports or racing games with physics ten times as advanced as anything we see today. Imagine competitive AI that learns as you play and always poses a challenge based on your play styles.

Envision sandbox titles where animations are more lifelike than ever before and offer draw distances that approach real-life vistas. Imagine more dynamic, moving interactions with NPCs than current-gen gaming can ever hope to achieve. Imagine that dragon actually destroying a city and not just attacking it!

These are the types of things that will change and grow with the increased processing power offered with the arrival of next-generation consoles.

More Freedom for Developers and Gamers Alike

We are in the seventh generation of consoles and have been since late 2005.  Yup, your Xbox 360 and PS3 are now running on hardware designed over seven years ago.

With the above in mind, how often is a game “dumbed-down” so it can run on current consoles? Even more common, how regularly do ambitious storytellers and developers need to change their original visions because of the technical limitations of their medium?

If standard processing levels were raised across the board, ideas that could never see the light of day in the current gen would be allowed to flourish. Why? Because with the launch of each new generation the lowest common computing average jumps forward by a large margin.

For a brief time the capabilities of the most cutting edge gaming PC is virtually on par with consoles rather than leaps and bounds ahead.  Suddenly the entire industry is looking at a new level of high-end gaming capability that translates into more creative freedom, better AI, better physics, better gameplay, and even better visuals.

You, the consumer, are then free to experience these advancements that wouldn’t have been possible before.

I know you love your PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and Wii. I do too. All I’m saying is that, rather than a tweak here and slightly better render there, the time is almost right to see the new worlds a new generation will bring. You deserve it, my friends. You really do.

Agree? Disagree? Do you desperately want to point out the ugly economics behind launching a new console on both the developmental and consumer end? (As if that should stop you from expanded horizons!) Am I the worst person alive for thinking up this garbage? Let us know in the comments or tweet in our general direction @GameJudgment

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  1. DrDread says:

    Its just like movies, they make movies with $300 million dollars nowadays with small countires behind the development but I find myself watching Star Wars Episode IV on Bluray over anything modern and I play Atomic Bomberman or Clash Of Heroes and not Battlefield 3.

    Draw Distance and supporting 1 million players in the same game doesn’t make it good.

  2. Hugh Jorgan says:

    People keep saying that they don’t see Powerful PCs doing anything that can’t be done similarly by current consoles. What they are failing to understand is that the biggest reason behind that is the consoles themselves.

    Consoles are more profitable (generally) to make games on than PC. Therefore, the bulk of PC games are also on console and so need to be made console “compatible.” In other words, PC games aren’t “wowing” (beyond better textures, draw distance, etc…) because games are being, as the article so aptly put it, made for the “lowest common computing average,” aka consoles.

    The point the author is making is that by raising the average via a new generation, the whole field takes a major leap forward at once, thus finally allowing devs to maximize their ideas on every avaialbe platform (for a while, anyway, before PCs again leave consoles behind).

    • Meh says:

      That’s funny to claim , when most gaming pc still can’t run the most demanding games with its max settings .

      Games on pc where always made with “lowest common computing average ” aka low and entry level pc machines . Stop pretending otherwise and that along the way , console made such a big change to that trend .

      If anything , there used to be one or two studios like Id software always pushing for the power house pcs , but that was ages ago … now there would be only barely crytek doing that .

  3. datdude says:

    I really don’t want or need new consoles until what is possible makes in unfeasible to continue on current consoles. I don’t see anything on pc, handhelds, or tablets that makes me say, wow, I’m really missing out. If you want me to shell out 400-500 dollars for a new console, it better damn well be spectacular. I don’t see spectacular being available till maybe 2014, at the earliest. The industry would be doing itself, and gamers, a huge disservice to rush new consoles to market for 2013 christmas rush. I just don’t see the massive improvement that needs to be made before the next gen next gen becomes available. When I see it, I will be the first to jump on board. Til then, I’m happy with games like ME3, Uncharted 4, Deus Ex, Arkham City, etc. Also, can we please stop with the 6 hour gameplay single player experiences next gen? Give me more content for my dollars.

    • Yankee Doodle says:

      Look at Bubbabigboys comment above yours. I was gonna say something along those lines, but he beat me to it.

      Game on.

  4. Malike says:

    VGames Consoles were interesting when companies were really investing in R&D programs involving proprietary chips etc…but finance and economics recalled them now that building a console out of a PC can be a “smart” choice from a cost perspective. Microsoft building a shitty console waas easy, take a PC and disguise it. Sony instead put efforts on “building” the hardware and mainly a new architecture, that makes it a fascinating machine…The only way to build a VG system that would be better than a PC today, will be to develop an innovative platform with custom built high-end processors (a variant of the Cell processor would be awesome I believe as most developer know ti already) that can be scalable for next generations. I thought the CELL was built with that in mind…I even read that SONY would build desktop with CELL processors once…it never happened, but they could have easily competed with Apple products. Sony is a great software company as well, especially in graphics, music and video…

  5. Khan says:

    I disagree, simply because the more a producer is familiar with a system they will be able to faster produce games.
    Better graphics and physics on a newer system will increase the production time of game. There will be more to program and to check, which will increase the profit they will have to make. Making it harder for new IP’s to arise.
    Also it can be viewed that gamers are looking for an experience based on gameplay rather than graphics and physics. Or else games like Terraria ,Minecraft, Braid, Bastion, Torchlight ect wouldn’t have been so popular.

  6. bubbabigboy says:

    I think there have been some great points made in the comments here:

    First off, saving $25 – $30/month isn’t hard for most people that visit sites like this, I promise.

    2nd,the points about Apple products are quite insightful. Peeps will pay $600 for a tablet every year but won’t pay (I’m guessing) $400 – $500 for a PS4/xbox 720 that will last them another seven years? Quit being babies. The comparative value for the money is phenomenally in favor of the consoles.

    Lastly, as I said before, nobody is forced to buy the next-gen at launch. Period. You can wait a year for the first price drop, or just a few months for a used product. Hell, you can wait two or three years and just keep riding the current gen until you feel like jumping forward for cheap! Remember, new people are buying PS3′s and Xbox 360′s every day…seven years into the current gen!

  7. W says:

    “In layman’s terms, forever improving game engines on the same old hardware will yield increasingly smaller gains. Eventually, all the engine improvements and tweaks in the world have only the tiniest affects on gameplay, physics, visuals, etc…”

    To have an effect, or to affect. Not to have affects. Just to point it out : )

    • Hugh Jorgan says:

      I don’t see how this is wrong.

      “In layman’s terms, forever improving game engines on the same old hardware will yield increasingly smaller gains. Eventually, all the engine improvements and tweaks in the world have only the tiniest affect on gameplay, physics, visuals, etc…”

      Affect = influence, effect = result. Technically, the sentence works. Just change the word affect to influence and see for yourself.

      “Eventually, all the engine improvements and tweaks in the world have only the tiniest INFLUENCE on gameplay, physics, visuals, etc…”

      Frankly, it’s awesome that you tried to grammar nazi the guy…but his use was actually right.

      And remember what Jim Gaffigan said, kids: “whenever you correct someones grammar just remember that nobody likes you.”

  8. John says:

    Yeah, I can’t wait for next gen. But after this gen I can’t choose PlayStation anymore. Too much shit happened around that brand and so much overhype that didn’t deliver. I’ll go Nintendo and MS XBOX next gen. Next to my PC that should suffice any gaming need.

  9. ray says:

    If you are saying you want to pay $74.99 (US) for a new release and still have companies like EA and Capcom nickel and dime you with passes and day 1 DLC. where if you want the whole game/experience you’d probably spend closer to $100. for a game that still is 5-10 hours with tacked on multi-player. being locked out because you bought a used game.

    so the people who benefit, aren’t the consumer but the developer.

  10. Ben says:

    Whar really gets me are the people who say a new console shouldn’t be released because they just got a 360/PS3/Wii and need to catchup on the games.

  11. Jdrm03 says:

    Hell ya i’m ready. I was ready 2 years ago.

  12. mike says:

    it’s incredible how people think.

    A new ipad, or iphone, they run and pick it.
    they smoke and drink, everything returns to the sky or the ground, but they still do it.
    people will go to a party, or pub, and spend 100$ on a bottle, that costs 5$ outside. but they still do it.

    and when it’s about their passion: games, they whine because they don’t have enough money.

    for all those idiots, stfu, everybody knows next ps4 or x720 will be here in 12-18 months. aren’t you able to save like 30$ each month, so when the consoles are released, you already have the cash for it?

    and 600$ for a ps4, isn’t expensive. i remind you, for that cash, you are buying a great piece of hardware, that you may use like a media hub, and will give you countless hours of fun, playing great games, for 5-8 years. a stupid ipad costs 500$, just like and iphone, and every year people buy a new model, that only adds a few new features.

    again, for the kids that whine all the time, save 30 f-ing dollars every month, from now on, when the ps4 is there, you just need to go to a store, and buy it. is it complicated to do ? even if you rely on daddy for your games and consoles, can’t you save 30$ ? if you have a work, can’t you save 30$ ?

    if people weren’t buying every single shit apple releases, they would have a lot of cash left. but well, using siri and using your phone plan, just to look smart and handsome, so the girls say wow, what a man, if that is more important for you, do it. we don’t need you as a gamer, don’t save, don’t buy a new console, just keep playing angry birds on your brand new iphone, if that makes you the happiest person in the world.

    • D says:

      It does beg belief that people are obsessed when it comes to Apple’s annual/bi-annual releases but are complaining about the console companies ‘only’ waiting 8 years to bring out their new product.

      It’s the people who don’t look at the big picture, and only look at what’s in front of them.
      You’re absolutely right that $30 a month from now will give you enough for a new console when they’re released, easily. Rumour is at the moment that the release dates will be around the holidays 2013, giving you approx. 19 months to save which will give you $570 when the time comes.
      Similarly when the PS3 and 360 were released people raved about the lower price of the 360 (and still do to a certain extent) however had everyone looked at the big picture they would have seen that Microsoft was working strategically. Everyone knows that online gaming is a major part of the current generation of consoles, and many people may think that $35 a year is reasonable, but work it out. PS3 price from launch $599, 360 price from launch $399 + 7 years Xbox live (Nov 05 – Nov 12) = $644.

      Price isn’t as big of an issue when you think about it properly and don’t just take everything at face value. Don’t wait until the consoles are out to go, “damn I can’t afford it” – get a head start now and be ready, $30 really isn’t too much to ask and you’ll thank yourself you saved when you’re able to buy the console you want, when you want it.

  13. Dan says:

    The people that are saying costs as a counter-point are retarded. $600+ price tag hasn’t stopped people coming out EVERY YEAR to buy the latest iphone/ipad. I think asking the consumer to upgrade his home console every 8 years isn’t asking too much. Every generation there are idiots like you that say it shouldn’t happen and it isn’t needed, and every generation you’re proven dead wrong. So do us a favor and shut up.

    • usrev2 says:

      the 360 at launch for the good version was only like $500.
      the PS3 was only $600 because of the cell processor… consoles will be cheaper next gen, for the base it will probably be $400 and the better version $500.

      everyone who cares about games wants the next consoles to come out, if anyone out there has seen what some games look like on PC then they understand.

    • A $600 price tag will most certainly stop me from purchasing the latest generation of consoles. I don’t have that kind of expendable income laying around.

  14. Pera says:

    We do not need a new consoles.PC is right now much more powerful than the ps3 and 360 but I do not see the pc games have advanced and better Physics & AI than games on ps3 and 360…This proves that the problem is not in hardware power,than in developer laziness.

    • D says:

      “PC is right now much more powerful than the ps3 and 360″.
      PC will always be more powerful. By the time a new console is released they’re already using old hardware compared to what’s available on PC. Hardcore PC gamers will upgrade their machine roughly every 3 years if not quicker to keep up, compare that to consoles which take double that if you’re lucky.

  15. keysy says:

    next gen come on? systems with a game and all the extras right now will set you back 4-500 easy. How much do you want to spend on consoles. really the pc can hold me over if i need to go ai and graphics crazy. The problem isn’t new systems proven by Nintendo this gen. The problem is lack of creativity and no one wanting to take a risk on something new. This gen could go three more years and everyone be completely fine ps3 just announced 2 games a month before E3. With the vita launch, twisted metal just coming out and other great games form third party (xbox included) and a new wii their is no need for a new next gen console. the games would cost way more to develop for. That ten year thing sounds reasonable, right now. The earlier the next gen comes out the easier it will be able’d to be passed up by the Ipad in the years coming unless the system cost like $1500. That not going to happen because consoles want to be relevant for 5 to 10 years.
    My suggestion is play something different let the console manufactures make some money and then release something worth $600

  16. tanto says:

    Heres why everything in this article is irrelevant


    An increase in cost leads to less freedom, less time spent on gameplay, and basically NO ORIGINALITY

  17. Sheldon says:

    I was ready for a new system in 2011. I mainly thought about that cuz of all the multiple disc games that have come out. There isn’t enough space on the Xbox 360 media. That’s only one reason for a new system.

  18. Abhishek Indoria says:

    Some really really good points up there. Well said, mate! One thing I am concerned about though, is the question whether the new consoles will be affordable. PS3 wasn’t affordable(At least not to me) when it was released. Let’s wait and see.

    • bubbabigboy says:

      That’s a great question. I think a reasonable answer is simply that nobody has to be an early adopter if they don’t wish to be or simply can’t afford to be. As happened with the PS2, games will be made for PS3 long after the launch of Ps4.

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