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Do Graphics Matter in 2011?

by: David Sanchez ; edited by: Michael Hartman ; updated: 4/17/2012 • Leave a comment

How important are graphics these days?

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    Fans' Expectations and Current Standards in Games

    Uncharted 2 is one of the best-looking games of the seventh generation of gaming. For years, the argument of whether graphics matter or not has been disputed among gamers. Is gameplay more important than graphics? Does it matter that games on the Wii don’t look as good as games on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3? Does the fact that the PSP had better tech in it than the DS make that handheld a superior gaming machine? There are countless questions regarding the presentational aspect of a video game, but they all lead to one major query: Do graphics matter?

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    The Past

    The sixth generation offered impressive visuals, but is it time to move forward for Nintendo? 

    The graphics argument has reached an all-time high over the past few years. Prior to the new video game consoles that launched in the current generation, graphics were important, but they immediately took a backseat to gameplay. This spawned the idea of gameplay over graphics, and although gamers wanted their games to look impressive, what mattered most was how they played. Graphics, though essential to a game’s presentation, were the second-most important factor in video games.

    Consoles were often on a level playing field when it came to visuals, with only a few subtle differences among them. The PlayStation 2, for example, is often seen as the weakest console of its generation in terms of graphics. But it managed to leave gamers in awe with its impressive collection of games. And after a few years, developers figured out how to squeeze the most power out of the machine to deliver beautiful-looking games like God of War, Okami, and Shadow of the Colossus.

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    The Current Generation

    Artistry and technical prowess now combine to create some of the most visually impressive games around. 

    With new video game consoles come new expectations. Before the seventh generation of gaming arrived, screenshots were all we had to go by. Those early stills of Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 games were hard to believe, but they were very real. When the Xbox 360 launched, gamers discovered just how beautiful games could look, and our expectations for what video games should look like were propelled to the nth degree. One year later, the PlayStation 3 and Wii entered the seventh generation console race.

    The PlayStation 3 stacked up nicely when compared to the Xbox 360, but the Wii did not. Past screenshots and numerous Nintendo announcements showed that the Wii was a console geared toward innovation, not graphics. And while Nintendo’s shiny console certainly managed to innovate – to the point where the competition decided to blatantly imitate as of late – the technical aspect of the Wii left many gamers feeling cheated. The lack of HD visuals didn’t bother many, but it did agitate most.

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    The Bigger Picture

    Oftentimes, Nintendo provides vibrant, aesthetically pleasing games. 

    At first, the argument of gameplay over graphics turned into an argument of gameplay and innovation over graphics. There’s no questioning the Wii’s innovation and influence when it comes to motion controls. Nintendo managed to release a machine that could be played by children, hardcore gamers, and grannies. From a business standpoint, this was a genius move. But even though a few tried and true hardcore gamers actually enjoy the Wii, a much larger group looks down on the console with scorn and disdain. Without HD graphics, the Wii has lost a sizeable chunk of its audience.

    For the record, I still believe that gameplay is far more important than attractive visuals. With that said, I still understand the importance of raising the bar in terms of presentation. And while Nintendo was able to introduce a new type of innovation to the gaming market, the company forgot about the innovation that comes with advanced graphics, and they inadvertently pushed away a loyal fan base as well as several developers, which is evident by the lack of amazing multiplatform titles such as Dead Space, Assassin’s Creed, and Borderlands.

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    Looking Ahead

    The God of War series has always featured amazing visual design. The current generation is going strong and has provided us with countless awesome games across all consoles. No one is certain when Microsoft, Sony, or Nintendo will make a big announcement regarding the future of their respective consoles. One thing we can all be certain about, however, is that Nintendo may have to conform to the technical standards of its current-gen competitors. Not because the next console has to meet some unspoken standard, but because Nintendo fans deserve to see their favorite franchises in beautiful HD. When all is said and done, Nintendo took a risk with the Wii, and that risk most certainly paid off. Now that the company knows it can sell innovation, it’s time to compete on a graphical level.

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    Is the Term "Graphics Whore" Irrelevant?

    These days, it’s hard to say that graphics don’t matter. With the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC all showing off great visuals, the Wii certainly seems like it’s falling behind in that aspect. Ultimately, gameplay is still more important than graphics, but graphics should be taken into consideration regardless. Graphics are definitely not everything, but by giving a game its unique aesthetic or technical look, they are undeniably very important.