With the sales figures out and with a good slew of (surprisingly) decent post-release titles out the door, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the media and the PS4 and Xbox One playing masses, delighted by the reality of next-gen gaming, would just, for want of a better phrase, get over it. They would get over the angry comment thread bickering and the next-gen console willy waving over whose favourite console has the best specs. But that hasn’t happened. Not in the slightest. However, as this newly reignited argument about framerates threatens to derail the front page of every video game news outlet and blog, there’s a very good reason why this is more than just a fanwar.
What people have failed to point out with the Tomb Raider next-gen fight (caused by Square Enix announcing that Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition runs at 60 FPS on PS4 and likely runs under that, hovering somewhere around 30 FPS, on Xbox One) is that it actually limits Crystal Dynamic’s ability, somewhat, to produce the best experience that they possibly could. The original game (just called Tomb Raider) has already been out on current gen (or do we call it last-gen?) for the better part of a year, so we already know that the grit, grime, dirt and brutal instances of Lara’s first wounds as the eponymous ‘Tomb Raider’ are as important as the story of that itself. When Lara gets a wound and we see her hobbling along with it, it makes us flinch because we can see how awful that must be for our virtual protagonist and by extension, the better the graphics can make that seem like reality, the more we flinch and the better the game gets. If the Xbox One can’t run the same graphics as the PS4 then an entire subset of people are missing out on that.
This isn’t an isolated incident either. Fan input was extremely detrimental to Mass Effect 3, the BioWare developed and EA published space opera and RPG, when fans were so vocal and angry at the game’s ending that they protested. These fans yelled and shouted and threatened lawsuits, before a petition brought BioWare to their knees, forcing them to release DLC to change the game’s ending, costing them time, money and most importantly, compromising their vision as artists and game creators. It’s because of these fanwars and online screaming matches that the idea of ‘games as art’ is being contested and that is something that is unfair to both players of video games and those who make them.
When it comes to multi-platform releases, the Xbox One vs PS4 graphics fanwar could have a detrimental effect to everyone’s gaming experience in the future, in which developers scrap resources otherwise set aside for the art team as they know that their art isn’t going to be portrayed equally on all (or at least on the two main) platforms. Furthermore, time otherwise spent perfecting a game’s plot could see the dev skip out on story for the sake of upping the graphics ante. And when the disputing of visuals causes this level of disruption, we have to ask; when will the fanwars end?