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Why Are Last-gen Games Still Releasing?

Why Are Last-gen Games Still Releasing?

While having a discussion about the upcoming Grand Theft Auto VI and its 2025 release date, there was some joking surprise about how Rockstar isn’t releasing the game on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. After all, double-dipping was fine a decade ago, why not now?

Obviously, expecting AAA games to release on multiple console generations a clear half decade into the current generation’s lifetime is a bit silly. However, the conversation turned to surprise that ANY games are still releasing on the Eighth Generation consoles (PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch). It’s 10 years old, isn’t that a bit old as far as videogame consoles go? Well, I figured I’d look back to see how long it usually took “last gen” to become “retro”, so to speak.

Going back to the Sega Master System and Nintendo Entertainment System era, known as Third Generation (AKA 8-bit generation), they were released in the mid-80s. They had nowhere near the global release dates we’ve grown accustomed to, some countries getting the first consoles on sale years after others.

master system 2

The Master System was only around for a couple of years before it was succeeded by the Mega Drive in the late 80s. If we go by the North American release dates, it was only two years and one month later, in October 1988! I bet you’d be surprised to learn that the final game officially created for the Master System (and not a port of a Game Gear title) was in 1996, eight years after the Mega Drive launched, and 11 since the generation began. It was The Smurfs Travel The World, in case you wondered.

The NES had a bit more leeway before the Super Nintendo Entertainment System came out, with five years and one month between them. The final NES title was Disney's The Lion King in May 1995, almost 10 years into the console’s life, and five years into the next generation. Sure, releases had been few and far between up to that point, but still.

How did the Fourth Generation (AKA 16-bit generation) stack up? Well, the Mega Drive and SNES both enjoyed six years before their successors appeared. The Mega Drive had a couple of add-ons — the Mega-CD and 32X — leading up to the Saturn in 1994, but I’ll ignore those because screw ‘em.

The Mega Drive’s final game came in the form of NBA Live 98, starting the tradition of annual releases keeping a console alive. That came out in November 1997, nine years and one month after the console was released, and three since its successor did.

On the other hand, the SNES lived its best life in Japan after the launch of the Nintendo 64 in 1996, as the final game ever released for the system was Metal Slader Glory: Director's Cut in November 2000. Japan saw four years of releases more than elsewhere, meaning it had 10 years of life.

Metal Slader Glory Directors Cut

With the Saturn’s release being the commercial failure of Fifth Generation (AKA 32-bit generation), it was only four years before the Dreamcast came along to replace it in 1998. The Saturn had a bunch of Japan-exclusive titles released up until Final Fight Revenge in March 2000, though other regions had literally no interest in releasing games for the previous gen the instant the Dreamcast was out. Still, six years of life is nothing to sneeze at.

The gap between the N64 and Gamecube was just short of five years. Maybe because the N64 was the final cartridge-based console, three years into a generation of disc-based consoles, but it was only a matter of months before games stopped coming. Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 released in August 2002, nine months after the final Japan-exclusive game had been released, technically giving the console six years of games.

nintendo 64 accessories 7

The PlayStation released this generation in 1994, and it was six years before the PlayStation 2 was released in 2000. It took a decade for the console’s final game, FIFA Football 2005, came out in October 2004, four years after the successor’s launch.

And now we enter the Sixth Generation, which brought along the first Xbox and final Sega console. For completion’s sake, the Dreamcast stopped getting titles worldwide in 2002, but was still getting them in Japan until 2007, nine years after the console launched.

The PlayStation 2’s final game was Pro Evolution Soccer 2014 in November 2013, which yes made it 13 years after the console came out, and seven years into the PlayStation 3’s life. Also the PlayStation 4 launched the same month.

playstation 2 peripherals 14

Conversely, the GameCube stopped getting games after only six years, with the last one being Madden NFL 08 in August 2007. That was only one year after the Wii was released!

Moving on to the Seventh Generation, which is mere months away from being classed as “retro”! Yes, feel yourselves age as you realise that the Xbox 360 came out 18 years ago! It’s old enough to drink beer in most countries!

Well, as it came out in November 2005, the well of games had all but dried up by 2016 for the 360. However, FIFA and Just Dance had other plans, with the latter’s Just Dance 2019 finally releasing in October 2019 to finish off the console, six years after its successor was launched and 14 after the 360 itself! Yes, that’s right, if you had a child when the first Xbox 360 game was released, they would be entering high school (in countries with middle schools), and if they were born when the final Xbox 360 game launched, they would have just started school!

The PlayStation 3, however, got its final game after 11 years in July 2017, in the form of Cars 3: Driven to Win (which was also released on 360). That was only four years after the PlayStation 4 and the final PlayStation 2 game came out!

As far as the Wii goes, I’ll just count the commercially available games rather than any limited releases. And for that you’d have the November 2019 launch of Just Dance 2020, marking 13 years after the Wii came out, and seven after the Wii U launch. Admittedly, Just Dance actually made up five of the final six titles for the system.

Speaking of the Wii U, as the only console from the Eighth Generation that’s no longer available with even its digital storefront shut down, I might as well cover it here. Again, I’ll only cover commercially available releases. Ironically, I already kinda mentioned this game because it was also the final game on the Xbox 360: Just Dance 2019, from October 2018. That’s right, the Wii kept getting games after the Wii U had stopped. However, there were Wii U indie titles released up until the store shut down in February 2023!

SetWidth1920 nintendo wii u wii u 1

So, what does all of this mean for games for the Eighth Generation? When will we see the final Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Switch titles? Due to the system’s popularity, I’d say that the Switch will live on with new releases until 2030, well into its successor’s lifetime. With the Xbox One we’re already seeing games skip it in favour of the Xbox Series X|S, despite the same game going to both the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the old Xbone get its last game in 2024. The PlayStation 4, however, will probably straddle the line between the two. This all, of course, is going to be bolstered by indie developers and smaller publishers, since we’ve seen plenty of upcoming games being announced for PC and only current-gen consoles.

The previous generation has been going for 10 years, and is three years into the Ninth Generation’s life. If you’re not on the current generation yet, it seems like there’s nothing to worry about just yet. Who knows, maybe we’ll hit the Eleventh Generation before the final games come in? It’s happened before.

Andrew Duncan

Andrew Duncan


Guaranteed to know more about Transformers and Deadpool than any other staff member.

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