Why #PS4NoParity is a Thing (And Why You Should Care)

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Assassin's Creed UnityIt’s hard to believe, but we’re approaching the one-year anniversary of the beginning of last year’s “Resolutiongate”. For those unaware, this was a huge controversy that erupted over the launches of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One when it was revealed that several games would run at 720p on Microsoft’s console and 1080p on Sony’s. Gamers everywhere knew about the issue, while gaming journalists pretended like it didn’t exist.

Nearly a year later, the gap isn’t quite as big as it was back then. Thanks to the new Xbox One SDK, which frees up the 10% GPU reserve previously held by Kinect, more Xbox One games are able to hit 1080p (and if not that 900p) on a regular basis. This year’s controversy doesn’t have much to do with the Xbox One not being able to match the PlayStation 4 due to the hardware power difference between the two. It has to do with game publishers being stupid and intentionally downgrading the PS4 version to match the Xbox One version.

A year ago people mocked the idea that “forced parity” would happen, saying no developer would go out of their way to downgrade one version to match another, but that’s exactly what has happened with Assassin’s Creed Unity.

What sparked this furor today was an interview over at Videogamer.com by Ubisoft’s senior producer Vincent Pontbriand who explained why they’re intentionally gimping the PlayStation 4 version of the game:

“We decided to lock them at the same specs to avoid all the debates and stuff”

So in order to avoid people comparing one version of a the game to another, that may run at a lower resolution, they decided to lock both games a 900p/30fps. Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag initially shipped on both consoles at 900p, but a Day 1 patch for the PS4 version upgraded it to full 1080p. That won’t be happening this time because Ubisoft doesn’t want people saying one version is better than the other.

Due to this decision by Ubisoft, people have created a new hash tag campaign on Twitter called “#PS4NoParity“. Much like the #PS4NoDRM campaign that took the internet by storm early last year, the hope is to change Ubisoft’s mind about forcing parity on the PlayStation 4 version of Assassin’s Creed Unity.

Whenever these sort of multi-platform comparisons start, I’m always reminded of the Super Nintendo and Genesis versions of Mortal Kombat. The SNES version of the game famously had white blood (or “sweat”), while the Genesis version had red blood while naturally having lower graphics due to the Genesis not being able to display as many colors on-screen as the SNES.

Imagine if in order to avoid “debate”, Acclaim had forced the Genesis version of the game to have white blood, or even worse forced the SNES version to only display in 64 colors like the Sega version.

That’s basically what Ubisoft is doing with Unity. And that’s why #PS4NoParity deserves to gain as much traction as it can. Forcing parity on a title, when it can take advantage of the hardware it’s running on, is an insult to gamers who are more informed than publishers (or even many journalists) give them credit for.

Most gamers know what the system they bought is capable of, telling them they’re too dumb to tell the difference and thus intentionally gimping a title will blow up in Ubisoft’s face more than any resolution debate ever will.