Next Gen – And They’re Off!

Yup, it seems development on next-gen games is now well and truly starting to take hold.

Today, both Bethesda SoftWorks and Lionhead Studios have been advertising positions for “next gen” titles openly, suggesting that the research and development stages are well and truly over – now comes the very real march of getting titles out to the market when the machines hit it.

Epic Games are also due to unveil their latest Unreal Engine, UE4, next week. Before people get all excited, it probably won’t show examples like the fabled one from last year – with the touted minimal increase in power it means it is likely this new engine is a very heavily stripped-down version of it, capable of making games tailored to the stalled pace of technological change. This is not coincidental timing either – I don’t believe in coincidences. Epic are absolutely aware of what the next-gen will actually be offering versus the PC market, and will naturally position themselves with the middleware solutions that save time in getting games out to the market faster. Business. Gotta love it.

Nintendo are of course already well underway for the next-generation, with the Wii-U set to launch at the end of the year. Lionhead Studios is owned by Microsoft, so that is as much confirmation as you need that Microsoft have indeed settled on a hardware model for the next-gen. And Bethesda – as a multi-platform developer – is a good sign that even Sony are if not ready to go live with the PS4 completely, at least have some technical specs floating about as a teaser.

Of course, what this really means is the next year or so will see a glut of games that have taken some years to make, and then we’ll slowly see transitioning towards the new platforms as the older hardware is rendered last-gen. With Nintendo due for this year, and likely a new X-Box sometime in 2013 (and a PS4 sometime in 2013 too I’d wager), this generation is finally, as many would put it, over.

I’ll do a lamenting post in a bit about what this generation will leave behind as a legacy. But for now, it really is amazing to think that once again, we’re headed within the next 18 months into a brave new world – new consoles, more expense and inevitably, tighter controls and DRM locks designed to keep new titles that cost way over the odds from being pirated.

C’est la vie. Now I’ve got to worry about how much my pocket will be out by the end of 2013… my savings account is going to feel totally violated in the next year or two.

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