Still Rocking A CRT Or Are We Truly A High Definition Generation?

Insomniac’s long-awaited Ratchet: Gladiator launched earlier this week, finally hitting the PlayStation Network storefront after multiple delays. Even after the long wait however, a minority of gamers may still find the title to be completely unplayable.

The reasoning? That magical box of tricks to which your PS3 is connected: the goggle-box; your TV. You see, Gladiator’s store description holds the following salient piece of information:

“High definition display required. This game does not support standard definition TVs.”

You what? I can’t play this game panned, scanned, and in full glorious monochrome on my 14” portable? Outrageous! I jest of course, I’ve a lovely LCD set, but the listing does pose some curious discussion about whether we’re equipped for not only HD ready, but HD reliant gaming.

Gladiator’s unexpected requirement – believed to be the first of its kind – had me wondering whether an HD-exclusive future is on the horizon or whether we’re currently living in one now.

When the PS3 launched in late 2006 / early 2007, consumers worldwide were just starting to make the transition to high-def, but now with the next generation of consoles mere months away, HD is all but a necessity. Nintendo’s mid-gen release, the Wii U, still happily outputs via component cables or HDMI, but both Sony’s PlayStation 4 and Microsoft’s forthcoming Xbox One will feature a singular source of video output, and yep, you guessed it, that’s HDMI.

Come Christmas roughly a quarter of Western households will be entirely unable to join in on the likes of Killzone: ShadowFall, or Forza 5. The Broadcasters’ Audience Research Board estimates 26.8 million private domestic households (approx. 97%) in the UK own televisions, however data released last summer (July 2012) by the UK’s communications industries regulator, Ofcom, reveals that only 70% of UK households have a HD ready TV, which whilst a 10% marked increase on 2011’s figures, still leaves nearly a third of households – some 9million TV-owning consumers – potentially unable to partake in next-gen.

If Ratchet: Gladiator is a sign of things to come, this SD TV owning demographic won’t be any better off sticking with the PS3 or Xbox 360 either. Those consoles may well be supported into 2014 and beyond, but their ‘legacy’ connectivity, however, is still deemed useless if the newly released content isn’t compatible – as today’s release surely highlights.

Research group Leichtman, Inc. conducted a similar study earlier this year in the US, whereby 75% of respondents claimed ownership of a HD TV. 38% of this sample had access to more than one HD capable television.

Interestingly, the Leichtman report also indicates that less than a quarter of all US homes, 23% in fact, had access to a HD TV in 2007, with UK figures for mid-2008 thought to be around 10m sets. Of course, a generation ago HD was still very costly, and the vast majority of people, myself included, felt they could, and potentially should, wait a while and ride out their trusty, undying CRT.

Nowadays, old fashioned SD TV sets are no longer found for sale in the mainsteam, and yes, those who enjoy games on more than a once-a-week casual level are increasingly likely to already have a HD set or two at their disposal – nonetheless, the figures are remarkably telling, and with so many households potentially still relying on the tried and tested box-in-the-corner, the next couple of years could be interesting for video-games.

Still, at least HD-only titles mean you’ll never have to sit with your nose pressed against the glass, squinting furiously as you try to make out some semblance of a weird Japanese game’s subtitled plot-line, eh?

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Still Rocking A CRT Or Are We Truly A High Definition Generation?

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