Console gaming and performance: Does it matter?

Performance has been the hallmark of PC gaming for decades, but should console gamers feel any different?

Dec. 7, 2016, is one of the most important days in 2016 for console gaming. Sony’s The Last Guardian will finally hit store shelves after nearly a decade in development. Just a day before launch, the major press embargo lifted and the first reviews went live for consumers. And, for the most part, things are mostly positive.

Still, it seems every review for the game, whether it’s at the bottom or top of metacritic, makes mention of similar issues: Clunky controls, poor camera tracking and inconsistent framerate. Even on the just released PS4 Pro, The Last Guardian is an imbalanced experience.

Digital Foundry, who analyzes games with a particular eye on performance, noted that while the Last Guardian looks great on PS4 and PS4 Pro but how it struggles with framerate issues on both platforms. On vanilla PS4, it was found that framerate dipped quite frequently even in empty areas with the PS4 Pro in 4K mode only managing the load slightly better. Digital Foundry did note, however, that the PS4 Pro set in 1080p mode reallocates the Pro’s power into giving steady 30fps.

The Last Guardian’s performance mars aren’t the first time console games have struggled to hit bare minimum performance expectations. When PS4 and Xbox One launched in 2013, both had launch titles that struggled. One such game was Xbox One’s Dead Rising 3, which dipped well below 30fps frequently while only displaying at 720p.

Sure, gamers who prioritize a steady, high framerate with 1080p or 4K resolution will likely gravitate to PC long before considering Sony or Microsoft’s consoles. Still, should console developers be held to similar standards when it comes to performance?

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Dead Rising 3

Resolution has been a hot topic over the past three years between Xbox and PlayStation gamers. Because of the power advantage on Sony’s platform, it’s been a weak point for Microsoft. Why, though, does framerate so often become an after thought. While the difference between 720p and 1080p is quite clear, particularly on large televisions and monitors, what’s more obvious is an unstable framerate that increases input lag.

As the PS4 Pro slowly becomes the norm over the next few years and Microsoft set to release a beefier Xbox One (currently codenamed “Scorpio”), console gamers should put pressure on developers to offer greater gameplay options that allow individuals to choose framerate over resolution or vice versa. Perhaps one of the best alternatives that Microsoft has utilized over the past few exclusives is scaling resolution that increases or decreases pixel count based on what’s happening to maintain steady framerate.

What are your thoughts on console game performance? Does it matter? Do you think a game that struggles to maintain a steady framerate lessens an experience? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below or on Twitter.

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