I know I’ve written about this before, but something weird has happened not just with the ‘new’ next gen consoles, but also with the last few generations: I’m just not excited about the arrival of the new machines.
It started back when I was lucky enough to be at E3 in 2005. I got to see the Xbox 360 and PS3 in action quite a long time before most people did, but it didn’t look like much of a leap forward from the consoles – Xbox, PS2 and GameCube – that we already had. At the time, the real leaps were being seen with handhelds and that’s what caught my attention and got me really excited: Sony’s PSP and Nintendo’s DS were such a leap forward from Game Boy Advance that they really were incredibly impressive to me at the time.
The incremental leap seen at the start of the generation grew massively by mid-gen of course, as developers got to grips with the new hardware and started showing great results with their games.
Nintendo’s Wii also came out during that generation, but impressed for different reasons upon launch, giving us new and intuitive ways to play, even with people who wouldn’t consider themselves gamers. Its trajectory – among gamers at least – was the opposite to the 360 and PS3 though, impressing less as time went on due to the amount of shovelware and motion controls that were shoehorned in to pretty much every title, even when they were a terrible fit.
When Xbox One launched (and what a terrible launch that was!), it was the same – another incremental leap and this time, the arrogance that had blighted the PS3 launch seemed to be in place at Microsoft; they were so convinced of success that they bundled in Kinect with the console (which few gamers wanted), adding £100/$100 to the price. Not only that, but heavy handed attempts at DRM to curb the second hand games market went down like a lead balloon. Sony, on the other hand, learned a lot from their own missteps and made the PS4 seem an awful lot more consumer friendly – and at a cheaper price point too. Yet it still wasn’t enough to convince me to jump on board – I didn’t become part of the Xbox One/PS 4 generation until 2019 in fact (fun fact: due to its low cost by that stage, I owned Nintendo’s disastrous Switch precursor, the Wii U, before I owned an Xbox One or PS4).
And now with Xbox Series S/X already here and PS5 either here (in the US) or imminent (in the UK), I’m in the position of being almost totally unmoved by either console.
By sheer fluke of good timing, I was, however, able to secure myself an Xbox Series X for launch day. Despite this – and the fact that it’s clearly a very capable machine, with some very impressive tech that seems reliable, fast and easy to get into (especially if you’ve already been part of the Xbox ecosystem for a while – one of the selling points being that pretty much your entire library is available to you as soon as you sign into your new console) – it’s just not an exciting leap in the way that new consoles used to be.
Then again, I am pretty old in terms of consoles. I remember going from Atari 2600 to Sega Master System; I leap that absolutely blew me away at the time. I went from there to SNES, which again was a massive jump.
SNES to PlayStation (by way of Jaguar and 3DO, for me at least) was a monumental shift in tech – and from there to N64 (which did feel pretty unique at the time from a tech and software point of view) and on to Dreamcast, PS2 and GameCube all felt really exciting.
Perhaps that’s the answer: I’m too old; jaded and cynical, feeling like I’ve seen it all before. It’s hard to get excited about buzzwords and marketing speak, which seem to be the key points of difference this time around: Smart Delivery, Quick Resume, DualSense, 3D Audio. None of it feels new to me.
It’ll be a different situation in a few years, when we start seeing the true potential of these big new machines (and they really are chonky this time around!). I know the time will come when the new consoles will blow my socks off, but it does feel like that’s a way off just yet.
Despite my lack of excitement and hype, for those of you with your new consoles – or about to get them in a few days – I do hope you enjoy them!
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