Nobody Cares About Sound – hyperduker by Stephen Malone
Sony has spent a lot of time talking about the PS5’s new sound technology, and now Microsoft is using Halo Infinite‘s new “acoustic engine” as a selling point (and to distract people from the dull graphics). This is all well and good, except for one thing: nobody cares about sound.
This isn’t 1995, we’re not buying Soundblasters and begging game developers to use MIDI. Good sound is incredibly missable: you can’t hear all that fancy audio when you’re watching trailers on your phone, and you can’t hear it when you’re playing on your TV’s tinny-ass stereo speakers. It’s difficult and invisible, which means it’s bad for marketing.
Nobody caring about sound design is simply not true. Bad sound design sticks out like a sore thumb. Great sound design can entirely change a game. Look at Dead Space, PT, the Kurosawa Mode in Ghost of Tsushima, Return of the Obra Dinn, and even Super Mario Bros. It can make all the difference in a racing game like Forza Horizon. Sound is essential in a game like Rainbow Six Siege. Heck, it even can make a game more accessible to different players.
Sony has put tons of money into developing their own 3D audio engine that claims to change how sound is perceived and experienced across multiple sound output devices—from fancy headphones to “tinny-ass stereo speakers.” This needs to be tested out in the real world, but the potential is immense. And with a company like Sony, that has invested millions and developed countless audio devices and platforms, investing in video game’s audio future, it is easy to imagine it being successful.
Audio is one of the most immersive elements in games. It can blend seamlessly into the setting and subconsciously amp the engagement the developer is going for. It can be right in your face and move you emotionally like Journey. Audio makes truly immersive VR possible, something Sony definitely has stake in.
I think audio is about to get a major and long overdue upgrade in console gaming. I believe this is going to be like the jump from 2D to 3D games for our ears.