By the nature of the business, video game consoles go out with a whimper rather than a bang. The unlucky ones die from poor sales and general disinterest. The prosperous ones make it to the end of their console generations, only to be superseded by their newer, shinier, more powerful siblings.
Once the new crop of systems hits store shelves, the old ones are living on borrowed time. Games will keep coming out for a while, but as the years pass and more gamers upgrade to the newest hardware, developers stop supporting the old consoles. Activision just made an announcement that makes it clear: The Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 are almost dead.
The announcement in question said that the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions of Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 won’t have a single-player campaign. That’s a big piece of the game to leave out.
As a consolation, the last-gen versions will sell for $50 rather than $60, and will come with a download code for the original Call of Duty: Black Ops.
Why cut a major chunk from the last-gen version of the game? According to the press release:
As we announced back in June, we know that there are still fans waiting to make the switch to the newest console hardware and developers Beenox and Mercenary Technology have been working tirelessly to bring as much of the Black Ops 3 gameplay as possible to the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.
The Black Ops 3 PS3 and Xbox 360 versions will feature Multiplayer and Zombies gameplay only, not Campaign. The ambitious scope of the 1–4 player coop Campaign design of the PS4, Xbox One and PC versions could not be faithfully recreated on old generation hardware.
Based on how few major franchises have come out on Xbox 360 and PS3 this year, this doesn’t come as a complete surprise. The older game consoles simply don’t have the power to run the newest games. Even games that do come out for both generations of systems usually get significantly worse versions on the older hardware.
Take Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, for instance. The game was critically acclaimed on the new consoles, earning a respectable user score of 81 on Metacritic. On PlayStation 3, however, the user score is a paltry 3.1, mostly because the game doesn’t run well on the weaker hardware. Other games, like Mortal Kombat, were supposed to come out on both generations of consoles, but the 360/PS3 versions were scrapped months after the game had released on Xbox One and PS4.
Many of this year’s major franchises, like Batman, Assassin’s Creed, and The Witcher, have left the old consoles behind. Only about half of this year’s sports games are coming to older systems. For more new games to support older hardware, developers would have to limit the scope of their game design — and no one wants to do that.
You can bet Call of Duty will be among the last major game franchises to support last-gen systems. And seeing as it has already gone beyond the limits of the old hardware, there’s little reason to think Activision will bother with the old systems at all in the future.
Old game consoles go out with a whimper. Don’t expect to hear more than that from the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 in 2016.