The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is currently taking the world by storm. It’s one of the highest rated games ever, everyone on social media is talking about it, it’s selling well and people are truly falling in love with it. Breath of the Wild is the definition of a console seller, a game that will be looked on as one of the Switch’s greatest achievements. But when’s the last time we had an exclusive like this? It’s been quite a while, as the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One are seemingly lacking in titles like this. Both consoles are selling incredibly well without a “console seller”, but they’re lacking in a game that really defines both systems.
By this point in the last generation, the Xbox 360 had Halo 3 and Gears of War while the PlayStation 3 had Uncharted 2 but there’s nothing similar this gen. A “console seller” is more than just an exclusive that gets people to buy a system, they’re games that give consoles an identity. They’re innovative games that can change the whole industry. Games that are remembered long after they’re released. Gears of War changed the industry through it’s cover system and use of co-op. Halo 3 used Halo 2‘s revolutionary multiplayer and updated it for the 360/PS3 era gen, essentially dictating the path that generation’s multiplayer games would go down upon. Both games really gave the Xbox 360 an identity through their epic, story-driven campaigns and highly competitive multiplayer. Uncharted 2 felt like you were physically controlling a movie, it was an amazing experience and many developers are still trying to recapture that game’s magic. It set PlayStation down a new path towards cinematic experiences that lead to great games like The Last of Us.
Console sellers have been a major part of every generation. From the original Super Mario Bros to Super Mario 64 to the original Halo. It’s just extremely disappointing that Sony and Microsoft have yet to release games like this yet. The PlayStation 4 and Xbox One have fine libraries of exclusives, but they’re essentially just more of what we’ve been getting. Games like Uncharted 4, Gears of War 4, Bloodborne, Forza Horizon 3, Horizon and Killer Instinct are all great games, but they’re a bit too similar to what’s already out there. They don’t really change the game or do anything innovative. It lends to this feeling that PlayStation 4 and Xbox One are just slight upgrades to their predecessors instead of their own beasts.
There’s been a bit of potential in some of the Xbox One’s currently released games to fill in this gap, but they’ve all failed to live up. Sunset Overdrive was, perhaps, the closest; the game is filled with personality and had great gameplay, but it had a few issues that stopped it from becoming an all-time great. Perhaps a little more time in the oven, could’ve solved Sunset’s issues. Meanwhile, the PlayStation 4’s upcoming line-up looks like it could solve this issue; I think Insomniac’s Spider-Man game could be the defining game of the system, but only time will tell.
We’re almost four years into this generation without a defining game for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. This leads us to the main question. Why was it so easy for previous consoles to gain a game that defines them, while the current systems struggle? I personally think it’s because Microsoft and Sony have been scared to try something new. Why put money behind a game with new ideas and themes that might not sell well? That money can easily be put to an open world game with “Ubisoft’ style gameplay or a Halo game that’s more “modern”. Safe games sell, games that try new things are hit and miss. New ideas might take longer to develop than expected and ultimately lead to cancellation, as seen with the sad story of Scalebound; a game that could’ve really been something special if Microsoft and Platinum gotten along.
It seems like it’s up to third party developers to pick up the slack this generation. The most influential games so far this gen all seem to be from third parties; games like Titanfall, Overwatch and The Witcher 3. Maybe Microsoft and Sony will finally release generation defining games, but only time will tell. Nonetheless, it will be incredibly interesting to see how we view this generation in the future.