Yes, its still ok to play your PS3 and Xbox 360

Everyone owns a PS4 or Xbox One now, right? The previous generation feels old and stuffy, like penny farthings and people who call each other ‘old bean’. Haha, can you actually believe we used to play games on DVDs instead of Blu-rays, like savages? Who can even remember what an Xbox 360 even looks like? Well… yeah, it’s obvious I’m deliberately being a condescending jerk here. Truth is, many people are still happily playing games on what we refer to as ‘last-gen’ consoles, like PS3 and 360. But the reasons for it, and the actual quantity of players, may genuinely surprise you.

I was struck by the fact that last month Lego Jurassic World (opens in new tab) had sold more copies on 360 and PS3 than on PS4 and Xbox One. While that fact initially seems shocking, it’s indicative of a trend that sees older siblings and parents passing down their consoles to younger players. Many people explained via Twitter that they’ll often pass down their 360 to a younger brother or cousin, then play local co-op games with them as ‘something to do together’. This is actually a fairly normal trend as console generations pass, and we always see more family-focused games, or titles with very broad appeal, releasing on outdated consoles years after they’ve been superseded. A quick look at 2015’s release line-up demonstrates the trend perfectly. FIFA 16 (opens in new tab), PES 2016, and all the Lego games under the sun, are all still slated for PS3 and 360.

But this generation, there are several other forces at work keeping older consoles plugged in next to (or instead of) the more advanced tech. The diminished number of new, blockbuster games is one key reason for this. Many people are yet to be convinced that the current slate of titles justifies an upgrade to PS4 or XO. The risk involved in spending £300 on a piece of tech is significantly increased when there are fewer reasons to actually use that piece of kit. In other words, if you’re dropping that amount of cash on a console, you damn well expect to have some great games to play on it.

There simply aren’t as many blockbuster games this generation, and many of the ones that have released came with a vague sense of disappointment (lookin’ at you, Knack, Killzone, Watch Dogs, and Assassin’s Creed Unity). Yes, there have been huge successes like Batman: Arkham Knight (opens in new tab), Destiny (opens in new tab), and Bloodborne (opens in new tab), but they’re few and far between. Even if you feel like you’ve played enough AAA goodness on PS4 since launch, there will have been large swaths of time when going back and clearing your back catalogue on 360 was the more appealing option. There’s no shame in booting up your older console to fill time between new games, even if – like me – you’ve had PS4 since launch and loved every second spent with it. But is Arkham Knight really going to last all summer? Until Metal Gear appears in September? Probably not: better have The Darkness 2 on stand-by.

However, there’s a flip-side to this coin. As games increasingly become franchised, the announcement of the latest instalment in the series will often drive people to revisit previous games. So many people I quizzed about ‘why they still play PS3 and 360’ say that – since the Fallout 4 (opens in new tab) reveal – they’ve gone back to older hardware to spend time with Fallout 3 and New Vegas. Same with Uncharted. Same with Mass Effect. These earlier entries in our favourite series still hold up next to most games releasing new in 2015; perhaps not as visually polished or flush with features, but they’re enormously rich and playable nonetheless. So people are going back, buying them cheap, and replaying them on the consoles they haven’t yet ditched.

It’s also the reason we’re getting so many ‘Definitive Editions’ or ‘Remasters’. The games of last generation are still fresh and enormously playable, so giving them a quick jazz-up and bundling together all the DLC is an efficient way for publishers to make easy money on current-gen, and plug the release schedule in between genuinely new games. But that doesn’t always satisfy, and we can’t have remastered versions of all our favourite games… so why not simply replay them in their original form? So few ‘Definitive Editions’ genuinely add enough content to justify a repeat purchase because the originals still stand up.

The 360 / PS3 generation was one of the longest in console history, lasting 7+ years without being superseded, and it’s genuinely one of the strongest periods we’ve had for video games. Look at most review aggregate sites or ‘Best of’ lists and you’ll find a huge percentage of them made up of last-gen titles. So what we have is a large pool of great experiences that current-gen games are struggling to better.

Sure, PS4 and Xbox One – especially after this year’s E3 – have finally started to develop distinct identities (opens in new tab). There’s a clearer reason to upgrade to either console, and a much more appealing line-up of games on the way. Even so, Microsoft’s biggest reveal of E3 was backwards compatibility, and Sony relied heavily on nostalgia and 2016 titles to keep PS4 owners contented. The shadow of the previous generation is still looming large over modern consoles. And that’s why you’re not alone – not by any stretch of the imagination – when you decide to give old faithful another run-out with Red Dead Redemption (opens in new tab).

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