Bungie confirmed at E3 (the Electronic Entertainment Expo trade show) in Los Angeles last week that its upcoming sci-fi shooter Destiny 2 will run at 30 frames per second on all consoles. That includes even the far more powerful Xbox One X from Microsoft, which has the horsepower to render the game faster than PlayStation 4, Xbox One, or even the PS4 Pro.
The concept of holding a game back on one console so that it runs similar to how it does on another system has a name. It’s called “parity.” It has taken on a pejorative context because of cases like this, but it is one of the best reasons to own a console. Parity is important in something like Destiny 2 because a higher framerate on Xbox One X could give players a distinct advantage over opponents playing at 30 fps on the original Xbox One. And controlling how games look and run is something that I sometimes miss when playing on PC — especially with something like the last-man-standing online shooter PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds.
Developer Bluehole released Battlegrounds for PC through the Early Access program for unfinished games on Steam back in March, and the studio is still working on launching the Battle Royale-like shooter into its final retail state. In Battlegrounds, you skydive onto an island with 99 other real players, and you must search for gear and then kill your enemies until you are the last person standing.
One of the quirks of Battlegrounds is that you can get a huge tactical advantage in the game if you turn down all of your graphics settings to “very low.” Hell, for a while, many people were editing the .ini settings file for Battlegrounds to remove grass and foliage from the environment to make it easier to spot other players. Imagine that you have a Core i7-7700K and a GeForce GTX 1080, but you feel a pressure to set a game to its lowest visual fidelity in order to stay competitive. That’s what I’ve done, and it always sticks in the back of my mind while I’m playing.
But Brendan “PlayerUnknown” Greene announced on Microsoft’s stage at E3 that Bluehole is bringing the game exclusively to Xbox One later this year, and the major reason I’m excited about this is because of one thing: parity.
Greene already promised that Battlegrounds will get an Xbox One X enhancement, but he hasn’t specified how that will work. But even with any potential gap between the standard console and the upgraded model, I still love the idea of a Battlegrounds that Bluehole has a ton of control over. The studio can find what combination of graphics settings works best for the Xbox One, and people’s games will look and play identically.
I’m sure Bluehole will optimize Battlegrounds on the PC to a point where players can no longer turn off or adjust gameplay-dependent graphical elements, but that’s a long process that is way more difficult on the open PC system. In the meanwhile, the Xbox may provide a purer experience, and that has me pumped.
Now, I’m not defending Bungie’s choice to pursue parity above all when it comes to Destiny 2 on consoles. It’s possible that Destiny publisher Activision is holding back the Xbox One X version because it has a co-marketing deal with Sony that might make it politically or contractually difficult for the developer to make the Xbox One X version better than the PS4 Pro version. That’s something that fans accused Ubisoft of doing in reverse with Assassin’s Creed: Unity in 2014. That historical adventure ran at 900p on both systems at a time when many games were running at 1080p on PS4 and 900P on Xbox One. But Microsoft had a co-marketing deal with Ubisoft for that game, and fans connected the dots (that Ubisoft later denied).
And I get that Microsoft is positioning the $500 Xbox One X as the “most powerful console ever,” so it’s frustrating that a studio is leaving some of its power unutilized for any reason. But parity is inherent to the console experience, and its benefits are so ingrained in those platforms that it’s easy for it to go unnoticed. And if you still hate the idea of parity, I’ll be waiting for you on the PC with my unlocked framerate and my cartoon-ass-looking textures in PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds.