As I write this, I certainly have my suspicions. In case you are wondering, I’m talking about the recent release of the “requirements” for Wolfenstein: The New Order. Listed on Bethesda’s blog, they are as follows:
PC SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS
64-bit Windows 7/Windows 8
Intel Core i7 or equivalent AMD
4 GB System RAM
50 GB free HDD space
GeForce 460, ATI Radeon HD 6850
High Speed Internet Connection
Steam account and activation required
And while some people who haven’t played PC games in the past few years are probably stammering at the whole list, let me assure you, most of it actually makes sense.
The RAM requirement I’ve been seeing in a lot of survival horrors as of late, and those of us who are not yet at 8 GB of RAM are probably going to have to move up sooner then later. The graphic card should also shock no one, as the Geforce 440 is the absolutely lowest NVIDIA graphic card you can get that still supports DX11. To demand a 460, just as Crysis 3 who had DX11 only as a feature demanded a 450, is just saying what Direct X we should expect to see. Hell even the 50 GB size isn’t really a shocker considering it likely means it’s the same version as the Xbox One and PS4 are getting rather then the (estimated) 20 GB version handed to the 360 and PS3.
No, the really questioned requirement here is the Intel Core i7. Without looking any deeper into it, that is one expensive CPU! This is the beginning of the 6 core Intel world, a place where the CPU alone can cost over $600! But this is also total bullshit. Looking just past the surface of Intel processors, we learn quickly that the 6 core model is only one (maybe 2) of many i7s, and the truth is this is a family of chips that has been around for a while, so finding an i7 (or better) may not be as big a deal as you think. And there are many “AMD equivalents” for most of these processors that cut back the cost even further. (For the record, my own Phenom II 6X processor is one of these equivalents and my PC is now 3 years old, so none of this is new hardware.)
However, the shock value is not the only reason to question these requirements. The very wording from the blog entry leaves much to suspect:
“The system requirements are based on the game being a next-gen experience running at 60fps. These are the system requirements to deliver the PC game as it was intended to be experienced.”
Let’s be honest here, while a game can run on minimum specs and be perfectly playable (assuming the dev is reasonable about what they consider playable performance-wise, and to be fair back in the late 90s/early 2000s, minimum was NOT playable, but runnable), they are never going to be the way a game was “intended to be experienced.” That tends to be the grounds of the “recommended” requirements, suggesting that is likely what Bethesda means here, even as they don’t want to admit it, as evidenced by them basically repeating this almost word for word when their own fans asked if they were minimum or recommended. To not be honest enough to even tell your eager fans something that simple leaves some serious doubts in the air.
So why do it? Well, I can think of two reasons they might offhand. First, they could be being stupid and not have tested for the minimum yet. And yes, that would be dumb as shit not to do yet seeing as the game comes out at the end of this month. But there is another and perhaps more plausible reason for it, and that is simply the new consoles on the market.
You see, when Crysis came out, it promised to “make CPUs cry” and delivered. To this day, there are people who use the original game as a benchmark with the FPS you get showing how powerful your machine is. WIth that reputation, a lot of gamers were shocked at how Crysis 2 actually required less then the original to run. But 3 came back to form, selling on how it would push your PC and demanded at the time the highest possible requirements and yet making it a selling point.
But it was also an outlier. Most game makers were not in a position to push power since their name wasn’t there and most gamers were content to sit on their already going to completely crush the performance of the then current gen consoles, so a game wasn’t going to push them to upgrade yet. Now with new consoles on the market, even as they are not as powerful as many gaming PCs out there, there is suddenly a need to show off “how next gen” you are, and multiplats that are also on the new consoles are likely going to try to capitalize on that in every way they can. One of those ways is to not list minimum specs for the game to play well, but those that will give you “a next-gen experience running at 60fps.” And this is what the current setup smells of to me.
The question is, will Bethesda be alone in this? Or will other follow? Stupid question. Bethesda is already following. That’s why COD: Ghosts said it required 6 GB of RAM even as gamers hacked the warning out of the game and got it running on 4 or less without any issues. Expect jacked up requirements from the AAA industry. It’s one more way they can try to brag about all the power they are actually not using.
Source: Bethesda Blog: System Requirements for Wolfenstein (Updated)