Microsoft and Sony — but not Nintendo — would have you believe that we’re in for a long game console cycle, with no rush to replace current-generation hardware.
But after seeing the PC version of Electronic Arts’ Battlefield 3 at E3, and hearing how the console version will compare, I beg to differ.
Johan Andersson, a rendering architect for EA developer DICE, confirmed over Twitter that the console version of Battlefield 3 will be choked back to 30 frames per second and 720p resolution. On PC, Battlefield 3 runs at a silky smooth 60 frames per second, and it looked wonderful during a brief hands-on demo at E3 earlier this month. DICE is making compromises to the console version to allow for bigger levels, lots of vehicles and certain visual effects.
In fairness to EA and DICE, few console games manage to reach 60 frames per second — especially shooters — but Activision’s Call of Duty series pulls it off year after year (presumably by making its own compromises). And Battlefield 3 is being positioned as Call of Duty’s biggest threat to date. To the millions of console gamers who reach into their wallets every year for a new Call of Duty, the difference in smoothness will be obvious. That could be a big problem for EA.
But it doesn’t always have to be this way. After years of silence, we’re starting to hear the first whispers of new console hardware from Microsoft and Sony. Next-gen replacements for the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 are probably still years away, but in that time, demand for more powerful hardware is going to grow, especially as console versions of hit games pale in comparison to their PC counterparts. In other words, console gamers — myself included — will finally start to notice what they’re missing.
When Microsoft and Sony do finally make the leap, DICE will be ready, with Andersson saying he wants the next-generation of consoles to arrive “sooner rather than later.”