Brand New Games on a Decade-Old Console: Have We Lived Through Peak Gaming?

The recent European release (25th October 2012) of Pro Evolution Soccer 2013 (‘PES 2013’) on Sony’s PlayStation 2 (‘PS2′) – an ostensibly unremarkable event – made us think about the grand scheme of video games. For a long time, it seemed natural that in such an apparently technology-defined domain, more processing power and greater amounts of RAM would lead to a sort of gamers’ Nirvana as ever-more realistic graphics and sound delivered increasingly immersive ‘second lives’.

Yet the publication of a brand new title such as PES 2013 on a console such as the PS2 should, within this context, raise plenty of eyebrows: the PS2’s ascension to being an integral part of our contemporary cultural lexicon has obscured the fact that this machine had a release date of 4th March 2000. How is it that an entertainment device with a pre-9/11 release date is still able to capture the imagination of the global gaming community, despite the existence of a perfectly competent (and technically markedly superior) successor?

After pondering this question for some time, we propose the following reasons for this paradox:

1. Hardware Overkill. Contemporary consoles such as the PlayStation 3 (‘PS3’) are actually too sophisticated for the majority of software houses to cope with: faced with comparatively limitless processing capacity, games developers have reacted by attempting to stretch the graphical limits of seventh generation consoles – and have lost sight of other core attributes, such as gameplay.

2. Too Much Information. The technological capabilities of seventh generation consoles may engender a natural bias towards games that are simply too complex to satisfy the average gamer. Titles requiring years of concentrated investment to complete may explain the trend towards simple games with clear premises, a trajectory typified by Rovio Entertainment’s hog elimination-themed Angry Birds.

3. PS2 = Exemplar. Sony’s second games console may have represented a ‘sweet spot’ of electronics architecture, the perfect balance between representational excellence and stimulation of the human imagination. As sobering a thought as it is to contemplate, we may already have lived through the era of peak gaming.

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