Who Needs Next Gen? How to be Happy With Your Current Console
So, this one’s gonna be pretty far-ranging, but stick with me, and I will explain everything I can about why you don’t need that shiny Next-Gen console everyone’s talking about. I’ll let you in on a secret. Not many of us have one.
Yesterday in the UK alone there were queues in excess of two hundred thousand refreshing madly for a new PS5 and last week there were similar numbers trying to get their hands on a Xbox Series X or S. Every Next-Gen console is currently sold out, preorders are done, and it’s a fool’s game trying to guess when they will be back in stock. Only the ‘lucky’ few have one for Christmas.
If you are one of those who struck out on launch day and your Twitter feed is a sea of people parading their new consoles to their two followers and their granny, making you want to stab your eyes out, I’ve got the perfect tonic! Seven helpful realisations about the current console market that will hopefully make you feel less like you’ve got crippling FOMO, and more like you want to laugh at the whole thing.
This generation isn’t over, but the idea that you’re getting left behind can be a pretty hard thing to deal with.
You Can Still Upgrade Later
You haven’t missed the boat, it just seems like it. If I can extend a metaphor, it’s a bit like a bunch of people are having pre-drinks on board this new luxury cruise-ship while the rest of us are checking the hull for holes.
Xbox Series is a week old and PS5 not even that, yet all of a sudden I’m being cajoled by every outlet and every influencer, that if I don’t buy now, now, now, I’ll get left behind. Well, the first reason not to worry is also the simplest. You can always upgrade later.
The PS5 and Xbox Series consoles are going to be around for the next 7+ years minimum, and far sooner than that, probably in the coming six months, they will stop having stock issues, supply issues, launch debacles, queues, and eBay scalpers making the whole thing miserable. In six months there will likely be enough stock for all those who want one, and for the vast majority of us we are unlikely to pick one up even then. It’s not yet tried and tested, and it’s not yet necessary. There will be a Next-Gen console with your name on it, and you don’t need to pay through the nose for it, if you are prepared to wait.
Even better, both Sony and Microsoft are making sure to support the previous generation in ways they never have at previous console changeovers. Microsoft has stated it’s intention to support Xbox One for at least the next two years. Phil Spencer, love him or hate him, is a man with a vision that doesn’t include a necessary console cycle.
Everything’s on current consoles anyway!
With the possible exception of Demon’s Souls on PS5 (which is a damn niche remake for a hardcore audience anyway), almost everything that has come out for PS5 or Xbox Series is also out on PS4 or Xbox One. Here’s another 10 mini reasons to stick with your current console for a while, and feel good about it.
Spider-Man Miles Morales is on PS4; Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is on Xbox One and PS4; Watch Dogs Legion is on Xbox One and PS4, Call of Duty Black Ops Cold War is on both systems; Sackboy, the Pathless and Bugsnax are on PS4; Dirt 5 is on PS4 and Xbox One, Immortals Fenyx Rising is both systems, and finally the biggest game of the generation itself, Cyberpunk 2077 is, you guessed it, out on current gen consoles. So there is not much water in the argument that you’re missing out. Missing out on what?
Xbox’s biggest franchises, every studio Microsoft owns, will be churning games out for Xbox One for the next two years. Halo Infinite, and it’s probably decade long cycle, will be playable, at least for the next two years, on current gen hardware.
What about looking forward? – Farcry 6, Rider’s Republic, Hitman 3, Outriders, Kena Bridge of Spirits – The biggest games of the next quarter, every one on current gen consoles, even if a couple are exclusives.
This is the first console generation where getting the latest model isn’t even all that necessary to play the newest games. When the PS3 became the PS4, there weren’t any games that were given free graphical upgrades! There were a scattering of games that were on both generations, but plenty jumped immediately to being Next-Gen only – far more than have opted to do the same thing this generation. This time everything is coming out on both generations.
And lastly, most of the big next-gen titles we have seen announced, the ones that actually need new hardware to run? Well, they’ve been delayed, haven’t they? You don’t need a console for games that aren’t even out yet.
But the current gen ones aren’t as good, I hear you cry!
The Current Generation Version Isn’t Worse
One of the most frustrating arguments for buying a new console is that the next gen version will be the better version. This may seem really obvious, because Graphics, but it’s not.
Every game that is coming out around launch and for the next six months at least, was built for this generation. These games have been in production for years, and they were not conceived or designed to take advantage of next gen hardware.
Some games are getting a graphical spruce up, and that’s real nice, but the animations, the story, the gameplay, the design of the game and everything about how it plays, that is current gen. A bit of ray-traced lighting and faster loading will not change the way a game plays. Not yet.
Take Cyberpunk 2077 as an example. I got myself in a deep funk thinking I’d be playing an inferior product on the PS4 or Xbox One, and that I had to have a PS5. It’s so wrong. The game has been in production for more than 7 years, that’s how long it’s been since we had that first announcement. That means design, mechanics, story, lore, music, characters, the look, the cars, the city, the narrative choices, everything in that game that is not graphics was already pretty much baked in before the Next-Gen console war was a twinkle in Sony and Microsoft’s eye. These consoles were only designed and made in the last two years. So, at most Cyperpunk 2077 on PS5 and Xbox Series X will have some extra lighting, and a nice quick load, but is that enough to really worry.
The argument to make the jump is stronger when the fundamental design of games uses the new console’s power and features, which is likely a year or so away. Things that Unreal Engine 5 will give us that can’t be done on current tech, or literally changing how a game works because of the SSD loading, like not having any of those annoying bits where your character has to squeeze through a tiny gap while the next area loads. Eventually games will literally be designed differently and we’ll all need to jump on the band wagon. But that time ain’t now.
For now there are a few exceptions as always – Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart looks to use the SSD loading in a fundamental way combining it with weapons (but it’s not got a release date yet), and some launch games are taking advantage of haptic triggers and such. But it’s early days.
Capitalism Is Built On The ‘New‘
‘Brand New’ is a fucking insane endorphin.
Companies are trying to sell you the newest tech, and trying to convince you that you need it now. I’m trying to convince you, you don’t need it yet. It’s Capitalism 101, its retroactive built in obsolescence. We have a new console, therefore the old one is old now, why would you want that, when you can have this!
Apple deliberately builds it in, that your Iphone will slow down and die after two years, and then when you stubbornly insist on keeping it, they stop issuing updates. The same thing is happening with consoles. As I argued above, you don’t really need the new console, not until the games actually take full advantage of it, which is not at the very start.
We don’t need to buy into every upgrade. At the start of this rant I also talked about Twitter or at least the media. It used to be a joke that programmes on TV were just there to break up the adverts, but with the advent of Instagram, Twitter and Twitch, you are actually just watching shopping channels all day long. Your favourite Twitch streamer is an advert, an influencer for everything they speak about. Product placement, adverts, sponsorships, everything they have and talk about is there to make you want it.
Turn off Twitter. Do yourself a favour and turn off Twitch. I promise you, you will feel better when you aren’t constantly being bombarded with reasons to compare yourself to rich and very lucky minorities. Comparing what you have with others is one of the fundamental things that contribute to bad mental health. There’s a famous quote, ‘Comparison is the thief of joy’. If you are forever comparing yourself to models in magazines or to streamers with millions of dollars worth of free kit and special editions, you will always come off worse.
You’re Not Last, You’re Just Not First
Take a look at this graph (I feel like Chris Whitty at the start of a Lockdown – next slide please). I promise its actually interesting. This shows the sales, in millions, of PS4s over the last 7 years.
So we’re going to examine the life of a console for a minute. See the beginning, just 10 million sales worldwide in the launch year. Only 10 million people bought into the PS4 straight away, and bagged one straight away. Ten percent of its overall sales. Within another whole year that triples to 35 million. But then something interesting happens. In 2017 there was a massive jump to next gen, double again what had been sold in the previously two years. That’s only three years ago. There wasn’t another jump like that again, just an incremental rise to the zenith of 113 million consoles. What happened in that 2016/2017 gap? Well that covers the time when the PS4 Pro and PS4 Slim both debuted – better, cheaper and more trustworthy versions of the existing console. If that isn’t enough, 2017 was also the year production halted on PS3s, ushering in the time when consumers had no choice left.
All sorts of products, and electronics in particular, have a product life-cycle, where their consumers are different types of people. You have your early adopters, brand loyal people who must have the latest tech no matter the price. Think of those who buy the latest Iphones with the tiniest differences. This also includes a lot of industry people, your influencers, your critics, your celebs – everyone making you feel like you need to upgrade too. This generation it’s been made worse by streaming, something which was in it’s infancy last generation. Streamers make the content you watch, driving home that message that you must have this new tech or your life will be empty.
Then there’s the graph above. The vast majority of us get on board later, when products are ubiquitous, saturating the market. When we are sure of the tech, and that the bugs have been ironed out, and in the case of gaming, when there’s actually killer apps finally released years later that take advantage of the new tech. Cost and risk is high at the start, then prices come down, and build quality goes up. The Pro version, the Slim version, these will happen with the PS5 too. You don’t want the first round of Xbox’s with their Red Ring of Death.
Later is safer, later is when you can rely on that console not to break.
Nintendo Looked At Next Gen and Shrugged
Nintendo think differently. They heard PS5 and Xbox Series X were coming out and they didn’t cry and quickly release another console. No, they doubled down on the Switch. They didn’t even think the fight was worth it this time. Be more like Nintendo.
Gameplay is far more important to Nintendo than graphics and always has been. Breath of the Wild is largely viewed as one of the best games this generation, and though its plenty pretty, it certainly doesn’t need next gen to run. Nintendo know that gameplay is the most important thing.
The Indie gaming scene is the same. Reeking with innovation, great gameplay, metroidvanias and pixelart beauties, the indie scene looks at each generation and mostly just shrugs and carries on. Good games are not made by graphics alone. Gameplay is king. Indies will continue to be as viable on current gen as they are on next gen. Your current consoles will continue to run almost every indie release there is for a very long time.
NextGen Might Be The Last
With the advent of services like Google Stadia, Xbox Gamepass, and Xbox XCloud the future could well be very different. In the next few months and years it may turn out its not even necessary to own a Next Gen console, and still be perfectly able to play Next Gen games. Hell, you can play most of GamePass on your mobile right now, and this is only going to grow.
Streaming to a screen of your choice will get easier and easier, and will eventually mean you don’t need the consoles at all. What kind of burden is lifted from your shoulders when you realise you might not even need to buy them?
Phil Spencer has recently talked up a Xbox XCloud Streaming dongle, like an Amazon Fire Stick, that will make it possible to Gamepass straight onto your TV. At that point you don’t need the console he’s selling. It hurts my mind trying to work out the money they must be making from Gamepass to justify the business strategy, but I love it.
Sony and Xbox almost had to rush this console generation release in order to get another console sale out of consumers. The model of console generations probably won’t make business sense in 2027. Consider that when you’re feeling funky about not having a PS5. You’re the savvy one, who predicted the end of the console wars and didn’t waste your money.
Of course, everything in this article has a shelf life, probably around another year. The killer apps will come, the exclusives will come, and the existing consoles will get discontinued. But for the time being, for the next six months to a year, you can stop worrying. You’re not alone not having the latest tech on day one, in fact you are in good company.
Most games are on both generations, so unless you are obsessed with one particular game that’s next gen only, do yourself, your wallet and your mental health a favour and get happy about current gen. A lot of us are going to be stuck with it for months either way. The PS4 and Xbox One have got plenty of life in them yet, and there are plenty of reasons to be happy with your current console.
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