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Will 4K/60fps Be The Next-Gen Standard? Not a Chance!

by Daniel Camilo on 10/21/20 10:39:00 am

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.


Article originally published on LinkedIn. Daniel Camilo is a business developer for Chinese game publisher APPTUTTi, based in Shenzhen, China.

Sony and Microsoft really want you to think 4K/60fps is the golden standard for the PS5 and Xbox Series X

One of the main talking and selling points for this next generation has been 60fps at 4K. That is, games running at 60 frames-per-second with 4K resolution. I don’t want to call it a gimmick, because it’s technically not. But I’ll say this: it’s definitely being used as a marketing gimmick.

60fps On Consoles Is Not New (duh!)

Let’s establish a few things first that might sound very obvious for anyone with even the shallowest interest in games, but I still think are important to make clear. 60fps by itself, is nothing new, and not impressive. 4K by itself, is not impressive. 4K at 60fps is not necessarily impressive. Bear with me.

Crazy Taxi Sega Dreamcast Next Gen consoles Xbox Series X PS5

The Sega Dreamcast (initially launched in 1998) famously had/has a catalog rich with 60fps games. But if we really want to get technical, even the GameBoy could run games at 60fps. This is not to take away from the value of playing a game at 60fps or higher frame-rates. It is simply to make it clear that 60fps on consoles is not a groundbreaking feature.

When is 4K/60fps Impressive?

As for 4K, it’s just resolution. You can process and display a 4K picture even with very dated hardware. Now, to process a game in real time at (constant) 60fps coupled with 4K resolution, can be very impressive yes. Or it can totally not be. Potentially, we could have all games of this current gen (Xbox One, PS4) running at 60fps or higher, if the games were based on old game engines. Say, you could have games on the PS4 developed with the same engine from GTA3 at 120fps at the highest resolution the console could afford (4K even if it were on the Xbox One X). I understand this sounds far-fetched and not what most people expect from their games, but this is actually kind of what is happening with a lot of games being promoted to run at 60fps and 4K on next-gen hardware.

Both Microsoft and Sony are advertising games that will run at 60fps and 4K resolution. But once we start looking at a lot of these games, most are cross-gen titles or even backwards compatible games.

In the case of Microsoft and the Xbox Series X, Gears 5 keeps being shown as the poster boy for an “old” game being rejuvenated by next-gen hardware: 120fps in multiplayer, 60fps during the campaign, and 4K. Thats all great and nice, but how about coming out and saying Gears 6 will run on Unreal 5, at 60fps and 4K?

Is 4K At 60fps a Launch Marketing Gimmick? Kinda...

Fine, Gears5 is just retro-compatible, so no point in complaining. It’s a bonus. Let’s look instead at other announced titles, for both the Xbox Series X and PS5, like Dirt 5, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, Destiny 2, Cyberpunk 2077, Call of Duty Black Ops: Cold War, Spider Man Miles Morales, Godfall, Demon’s Souls Remake, Yakuza: Like a Dragon, Halo Infinite, Devil May Cry 5 Special Edition, and more...

Assassin's Creed Valhalla Xbox Series X PS5 Next Gen Ubisoft 4K 60fps

Most (if not all) of these games are expected to run at 60fps/4K on the new consoles, and yes, almost all of them are cross-gen games. Meaning, they are essentially games developed for current-gen consoles that will also be available for the newer ones, with according optimizations. It really is a case of new hardware running old software, and therefore being able to “alleviate” some of the constraints found in the older hardware. And yes, I understand this is a gross simplification of all the work and technicality involved in making sure these games run across different systems. I get that. But it’s also clear none of these games are true next-gen games. Godfall is, but it was also developed using Unreal Engine 4, and arguably, it doesn’t look that great. As for Demon’s Souls Remake, it will only run in 4K if at 30fps. 60fps, only at 1440p, according to information disclosed so far.

All this to say that, it’s very obvious that once true next-gen games start being launched (meaning, games that were not developed with the Xbox One and PS4 in mind), the situation won’t be any different from what we have been experiencing until now: better looking and more demanding games at 30fps and/or at lower resolutions, and some specific titles actually running at 60fps/4K, but not all (think sports games, racing games as prime targets for that 60fps seal, but also other exceptional titles of course).

In the meantime, and at least while this ambiguous launch-window lasts, we’ll see marketing from both sides really pushing “60fps/4K” as a selling point for the new consoles. But don’t be fooled, it wouldn’t be any different from Sony promoting the PS2 back then with “60fps/1080i”, or Microsoft promoting the Xbox 360 with “60fps/HD”. Sure, the machines were capable of it, but far too many titles didn’t run in those conditions for it to be representative of the overall experience.

To be clear: yes, absolutely there will be next-gen exclusives running at 4K/60fps, but there will also be a lot that won’t. Ultimately it’s up to developers and their choices, obviously.

Cyberpunk 2077 Xbox Series X PS5 Next Gen CD Projekt Red

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