You’d barely know it, but the next generation of consoles is now less than a month away. Yet the hype and the excitement seems to be incredibly muted. Both PS5 and Xbox Series S/X are coming after another pretty long generation – it’ll be almost seven years since the PS4 and Xbox One launched. Both current consoles felt a little underpowered and underwhelming when they arrived in 2013, but in the intervening years, helped along by mid-gen refreshes of hardware (the PS4 Pro and the Xbox One X), both have played host to some excellent games with genuinely impressive audiovisual presentation.
Do the next gen machines feel underwhelming in the same way that PS4 and Xbox One did upon their arrival? I think that’s part of it, for sure – but also, the Pro and One X gave us a little bump in specs that put us closer to the next gen anyway, making the PS5 and Series S/X leaps forward feel somewhat smaller in comparison.
Though Sony are touting tech such as DualSense and 3D Audio as technical innovations, they’re not exactly ‘new’ in the way that we’ve seen before in generational leaps – and it’s not strictly ‘new’ tech anyway. The Series S/X backwards compatibility, stretching all the way back to the original Xbox, is a great way to ensure that software libraries, built up over several years, remain playable, but again – it’s not an innovation that gives us something truly new. Smart delivery and installation, along with being able to put games into quick resume mode are all great features, but these are quality of life improvements that aren’t going to have an effect on making games feel truly next generation.
What we’re told will have an effect on game design are things like the lightning fast SSD in the PS5, but it’s likely to be a few years before this truly has an impact, especially now we know that Sony are bringing games such as the Horizon sequel and Miles Morales to PS4 too, after a long period where we were led to believe that such experiences weren’t going to be possible on current gen.
In terms of software, there really doesn’t feel like any title that makes it essential to upgrade on day one on either console. Given the fact that the platform holders lose money on every console sold, this is beginning to feel more and more like a calculated move. Push out next gen, get the early adopters on board to get an install base and the hype machine going organically, but also push out the same games for the current gen to simply make more money without having to take such a hit on consoles too. It’s something I’ve long suspected about Microsoft’s plan to make Xbox almost platform-agnostic – the more they can push it to PCs and devices away from the loss-making Xbox console, the more they can immediately make money from it.
But I digress. Next gen is coming. Are you excited? Do you have a new console on pre-order? How long do you think you’ll be able to wait once the hype starts building on social media? That’s the key, isn’t it? As long as we can overcome our FOMO, we can wait until software libraries mature and reduce in price, along with the consoles being more reasonable and even – as we’ve seen this gen – perhaps becoming more powerful before the next next gen arrives.
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