Are Launch Day Lineups Getting Worse?

Are Launch Day Lineups Getting Worse?

THIS WEEK IN BUSINESS | People are clearly excited for the new hardware, but are the games they'll actually play on it as interesting as they used to be?

This week the big news was Sony finally announcing the PlayStation 5 price and release date less than two months before launch.

A friend of mine was unimpressed with the expected launch day lineup, and asked me if it seemed like console launches were getting worse over the years. On the one hand, I see where he was coming from.

After all, this was the friend who convinced me to get a Dreamcast on launch day with a lineup of games including Soulcalibur, Power Stone, Sonic Adventure, NFL 2K, and House of the Dead 2, so I know has seen the pinnacle of launch day perfection. All other launches will naturally pale in comparison.

But he might have a point. Launch games often feel rushed out for a system's launch no matter the era, and given the increasing development time, scope, and cost of triple-A titles these days, perhaps it's just not feasible to pull off top quality launch games in the same way it used to be.

Add to that the fact that most launch titles for a system are multiplatform now—sometimes even with versions for past-generation systems—and the launches themselves feel less like a new generation than a new cousin in the same generation who's just a few years younger than the rest.

And, of course, we've long since hit the point of diminishing returns on graphics advancements. The difference between a Nintendo game and a Super Nintendo game was obvious, as was the jump to the Nintendo 64 and then the GameCube. But now the selling points for the PS5 and Xbox Series S and X are features like quick loading, 4K resolution most people's TVs won't support, and lighting enhancements that might not be as instantly understandable as the gains in previous generations.

It may not be that launch games themselves are any worse. It may just be that there's less to separate them from what we already know and have. And one of the most compelling reasons people might have for dropping so much money on a system at launch is the promise of the unknown, of playing and seeing things that haven't been possible before.

Judging by the furor over PS5 preorders, that promise is still compelling enough to have people excited for the next-gen. But it's a promise I think developers and platform holders are going to have an increasingly tough time fulfilling.

STAT | $399 - The cost in U.S. dollars of the PlayStation 5 Digital Edition when it launches in the U.S. on November 12. The version of the hardware with a disc drive will sell for $499.

STAT | $69.99 - The cost of Sony PS5 launch day games Demon's Souls and Destruction All-Stars. Sackboy: A Big Adventure will sell for the more standard $59.99, while the standalone expansion Spider-Man: Miles Morales will be $49.99 on its own, and $69.99 when bundled with the PS5 version of the original 2018 Spider-Man game.

QUOTE | "It would be naive to think [game development] costs would remain the same when you've got so much more power in those machines." - Codemasters CEO Frank Sagnier says that it's not just the end consumers who will be paying more for games in the new generation.

QUOTE | "The bottom line is that we haven't seen a front-line price increase for nearly 15 years, and production costs have gone up 200 to 300%. But more to the point, since no one really cares what your production costs are." - Take-Two chairman Strauss Zelnick talks about the price increase the company has put on the next-gen version of NBA 2K21, but adds that it's justified because the company is delivering far more robust experiences compared to 15 years ago when $60 became standard.

QUOTE | "PS5 pre-orders will be available starting as early as tomorrow at select retailers." - Sony, on Wednesday night, reassuring eager fans that they can wait until the morning to worry about securing a preorder.

STAT | 84 minutes - The time between Sony tweeting that preorders would begin tomorrow and Wario64 posting that preorders had already opened at Walmart.

QUOTE | "We are not going to go down the road of putting new releases titles into a subscription model. These games cost many millions of dollars, well over $100 million, to develop. We just don't see that as sustainable." - PlayStation boss Jim Ryan dismisses the suggestion that the PS Plus Collection, which gives subscribers access to 18 different PS4 titles including hits like God of War and Bloodborne, is a precursor to launching first-party games into a subscription service like Microsoft does with Game Pass Ultimate.

QUOTE | "We can confirm that the manufacturing of the Nintendo 3DS family of systems has ended." - Nintendo confirms the end of an era.

QUOTE | "We launched these emote modifiers today as part of our celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month but we clearly missed the mark, and we apologize. These were not an appropriate representation of Hispanic and Latinx culture, and we've removed them." - Twitch apologizing this week for "celebrating" Hispanic heritage by letting people put sombreros and mariachi guitars on emotes.

QUOTE | "We hear you. Our goal was to demonstrate the importance of allyship—a message we didn't make clear. Only by working together can we create a positive change." - Twitch in July, apologizing for running a Black Lives Matter video with popular streamers talking about the need to elevate Black voices, but featuring just one line spoken by a Black person.

QUOTE | [cricket noises] - The same week as the Black Lives Matter video was pulled, Twitch edited a Pride video to remove a suggestion that the "G" in LGBTQIA+ "also stands for gamer."

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Brendan Sinclair

Managing Editor

Brendan joined GamesIndustry International in 2012. Based in Toronto, Ontario, he was previously senior news editor at CBS-owned GameSpot in the US.

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