With Sony and Microsoft’s fourth generation consoles soon to be released, one of the main talking points has been how these consoles would work online. Plusnet broadband is great for online gaming, but what about the graphics in the games themselves? “Wow, look at those graphics! It’s like they’re actually real people playing!” – That’s me, watching gameplay on Fifa Football 2003, ten years ago. Of course the graphics look like a shed compared to modern games like the recently-released GTA 5, Crysis and Uncharted 3, and indeed most smartphone games have better graphics than old PC games now... but you never forget that moment your breath is taken away by the graphics on a new game! Edgar Davids lines up to take an ultra-realistic free kick against Manchester United. Remember when this looked cutting-edge? Technology is moving at lightning pace, and in no other industry is it making more changes than in gaming. Gameplay, game type and graphics are all a constant draw for games consumers, but how important are the looks of a game to today’s gamers?
Though the younger of you might find it hard to believe, games have not always come in HD. Back at their inception, games barely came in SD. Seen as one of the first games released, Pong was a tennis simulator in which you controlled your white block, moving up and down the baseline, to keep the white “ball” in play. Set against a picturesque all-black background, it’s safe to say it wouldn’t stand a chance as even an iPhone release today. Pong however paved the way for Pac-Man, where colours were introduced, and just forty years later we have the glorious 3D games we know and love today. Sure Pac-man and Pong look bad now, but at their time they were games at the forefront of technology. Though you might find it hard to believe, in ten, five or possibly just one years’ time, thanks to the impending release of fourth-gen consoles, we’ll be looking back at games like Crysis and saying “did we really used to think that was good?”
The games industry has grown exponentially in those forty years, with gaming being worth an estimated $10.5 billion - roughly £6.6bn – in 2009, according to this ESRB infographic, and games like Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 being able to make $500million (£314million) in the first 24 hours of its release. As another game not known for its sparkling graphics, it’s further proof that graphics are less-important in gaming. So do graphics matter? A recent poll on The Escapist suggests not. Of 107 respondents, only one person said graphics were the thing which games companies needed to prioritise - proof that the general gaming populous is happy with the look of their console games. As we all know though; gaming is not just done on PCs and on consoles. With the mobile entertainment industry being worth $33million in 2010 (£20.7million) and expected to hit $54million (£34 million) in 2015, it’s clear that mobile gaming is here to stay. So what of these graphics? It’s true that the days when you’d eagerly ask your dad to lend you his phone so you could play Snake are gone. Instead new games have taken the forefront of people’s minds and phones. Two of the most popular of these are Angry Birds and Candy Crush. Angry Birds earned its creator Rovio $200million in 2012 (£126million) and Candy Crush makes a reported $633,000 per day (£397,000) for an average yearly total of over $231million (£145million). Neither of these games is known for their cutting-edge graphics, however both have a fun look which fits their purpose and addictive gameplay. And that’s the crux of the graphics argument; that it doesn’t matter what the game looks like; as long as they fit the game and the gameplay is good then how it looks will always come second. Think of the most fun you’ve had playing video games. Is it actually Call of Duty or Assassin’s Creed? Or is it something like Timesplitters, James Bond: Goldeneye or Halo? What’s interesting is that whilst console video games, which have been around for longer, seem to have gradually moved away from using “improved graphics” as a major selling point, this is still a tactic used in mobile games – suggesting that each platform goes through a stage where improving graphics is paramount, but then as technology starts to plateau, graphics start to take a back seat. What would a talk about graphics be without mentioning Minecraft? The sandbox game which relies on single blocks and the user’s imagination has questionable graphics for a modern video game, yet it made a staggering $237.7million in 2012 (£150million). This does suggest graphics are less important to some of today’s games players.
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In just a couple of months the fourth-gen consoles will be released, probably with much improved graphics but will it be the graphics or the gameplay that sells the most games? Only time will tell. What do you think about graphics in games? Are they the main thing you think about when buying a game or does gameplay come first? Let us know in the comments below… FOUR DAYS TO GO! Get your place now for our FIRST EVER Plusnet Online Gaming Tournament with a prize for the winning team of four of £160 (£40 per person)! Ensure you join in by heading over to our Community Forums for more details and GET YOUR GAME ON! Do you have a question about graphics in gaming? Why not ask FUTURLAB and TEAM 17 on Friday. Keep your eyes on our Blog in a few days for more details!