Console Performance, PR Spin, and Gamers Are Why Titles Fail to Meet Expectations

The PlayStation 4 and Xbox One are THE most powerful video game consoles ever released. In terms of horsepower, they blow their previous iterations (the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 respectively) out of the proverbial water. However, despite these machines being so advanced, they aren’t exactly giving gamers the types of experiences that they want. Just look at the comments section of any random video game site. Gamer dissatisfaction is at an all-time high. Many are flat-out unhappy with the current-gen systems for not delivering what they had hoped for and they’re being extremely vocal about it.

How did this happen? If the PS4 and XBO are undeniably more powerful than the previous-gen systems, why isn’t everyone pleased? This editorial will help break down exactly why games these days are failing to meet expectations. There are several reasons why.

Consoles’ Lack of Power

While the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One are indeed more advanced than their predecessors, their power is limited. We hear stories about how developers struggle to get every game running at 1080p and at 60 frames per second. There’s a reason for this. Simply put, the consoles don’t have the power required to achieve these results consistently.

I called up my friend and mentor Torrence Davis for some help here to illustrate the differences between a PC and current-gen consoles. I’m going to compare his gaming PC, which is five years old, to the PlayStation 4 which is a year old. Though it’s not exactly correct to compare consoles to PCs, in this case it’s necessary in order to show the power disparity.

Torrence’s Nvidia GTX660 graphics card:

  • 1152 cores
  • 823mhz (can overclock to 880mhz)
  • 79 texture fillrate (79 billions per second)
  • 192 bit memory
  • 3gb GDDR5
  • 12gb DDR3 system memory
  • Can do 4K gaming
  • 134gb per second bandwidth

PlayStation 4

  • 57 texture fillrate
  • 800mhz locked
  • 256 bit memory
  • 8gb GDDR5 (everything comes from this. one pool of memory)
  • Cannot do 4K gaming (at this time)
  • 176gb per second bandwidth

Tor’s old CPU, the i7 920, runs at 2.66 GHz. The PS4 runs at 1.6 GHz, while the Xbox One runs at 1.75 GHz. Tor’s current CPU, the 950, runs at 3.06 GHz which is twice as fast as either of the current-gen consoles. Numbers don’t lie, and although the PS4 is better in some instances, for the most part, Torrence’s old PC outperforms it overall.

That was showing how an old gaming PC is still technologically superior to a current-gen console. The gap in power becomes more significant when you talk about a modern gaming PC but for the sake of brevity, I won’t go into detail about that as there is no need to. The difference in power is clear.

Lastly, remember that both consoles use AMD cards. To quote Torrence: “AMD’s console APU is limited feature-wise compared to Nvidia’s GTX cards so PC gamers who use Nvidia get more GPU features like hardware based PhysX and CUDA technology that console gamers can’t utilize.” He also pointed out that he doesn’t always get 1080p/60 on his PC and if he does, it’s not locked.

Again, current-gen consoles can do things which were impossible on last-gen systems but they simply cannot match up to a gaming PC. To expect that sort of performance from a console is ridiculous. One should not expect a $400 console to perform on the same level as a $1000+ PC. It simply isn’t possible.

Developers/Publishers Not Being Honest

Alright, so we’ve established that consoles only have so much power. The next reason for people being disappointed in games is the very companies that produce, publish, and promote them.

During most of last-gen, developers touted how realistic their games were. “Photo-realism” is a term that we heard constantly. They told us how their games had the most advanced physics engines and lighting effects. The games we eventually got to play looked great but you would be foolish to say that they were as realistic as the developers claimed.

It became worse when the trailers we saw for the games were obviously dressed up. A lot of trailers weren’t running off the consoles they were on and instead were running on PC. To make matters worse, the trailers weren’t even the proper PC version. The best example of this is Watch Dogs. The footage we were originally shown looks almost nothing like the final game, even on PC. Other notable examples include BioShock Infinite, Dark Souls II and Aliens: Colonial Marines, three other games that had trailers which looked nothing like the final games released.

This trend has carried over to the current-gen, only it’s gotten worse. Now companies are announcing how their games will either target or run at 1080p and 60fps on top of everything else. Very few major AAA games on the PS4 and XBO can run at these high frame rates and resolutions yet companies are still using this as a selling point. This usually ends with them having to backpedal and take back what they said. Remember how Sony advertised Watch Dogs as being 1080p/60fps and then had to retract that?

Misdirection extends to TV commercials as well. I’ve played and reviewed Destiny, Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor, and Alien: Isolation and they didn’t look anywhere near as good as they do on TV commercials. The games are running at a much higher frame rate and looked to have extra polish as well. The games I played looked nice but the ones I saw on those commercials looked much better.

If you promise people one thing, then deliver another it’s no wonder that many will be disappointed. I can guarantee you that less people would be expecting so much from games if companies kept themselves in check and just showed their product as is with no alterations.

Gamers’ Unrealistic Expectations

Lastly, the blame for why games are failing to meet expectations is with gamers themselves.

Ridiculously exaggerated expectations are the main culprit. Consoles aren’t capable of producing the sort of high end footage seen in trailers and they certainly aren’t capable of producing anything that looks like CG. It’s all evident given the technology inside of current-gen consoles. For anyone that does the research, it should be clear as day why current-gen consoles can’t produce the sort of graphics you’d find on a high-end PC. To expect them to do more than they’re capable of is simply insane. If console gamers truly understood what their consoles could do then they would never be surprised or upset when a AAA game from a developer doesn’t attain 1080p/60fps.

Gamers can see that developers and PR are pulling the wool over their eyes yet they still believe their spin. This is a point which drives me mad. Gamers see how countless games don’t end up looking like the trailers yet they continue to take developers at their word when they talk about how their games will be at 1080p/60fps. Again, the consoles are not capable of producing the sort of performance that developers promise. Don’t believe the spin.

It’s also worth considering that this generation is only reaching the end of its first year. While the power of consoles is locked, developers always manage to learn new tricks to get the most out of them as console life cycles move forward. We will see some amazing things in this generation but it probably won’t be for another year or two. This is another reason why it’s best to temper one’s expectations. Even still, one should not expect all games to run at high resolutions/frame rates just because a developer learns how to better optimize the system they’re developing for.

Final Thoughts

I understand the need to present your product in the best light possible but at the same time, misleading people only leads to disappointment when the final product isn’t what was promised. I hope that companies begin to present games as they actually will be and not something they could never be. People like honesty and if a game is presented that has compelling gameplay, people will check it out. A company can boast about the technology in a particular game but it shouldn’t promise things it knows it can’t deliver.

As for gamers, they need to realize that their PS4 and Xbox One can only do so much. They are not, and are incapable of, matching the horsepower of a gaming PC. If you want to have PC quality performance then you should invest in a gaming PC. If you can’t afford a gaming PC, then you should be content with the console you have. As I always say, play your games and be happy. High resolutions and frame rates shouldn’t concern you if you’re a console gamer. Unrealistic expectations will only lead you down the road of disappointment.