Waiting to jump in
Whether you jumped into the (now) last generation of game consoles in 2012 or 2020, shiny new, and large, game consoles were finally launched in November of 2020, marking the start of a new console generation. Video game console launches are always an exciting time, with new hardware to explore and seeing what it can do with more power than what was previously offered. Combined with exciting new games, new console launches have the potential to produce truly ‘wow’ moments, whether it’s from visuals, new flashy console features, or even a new controller. With old hardware having the potential of feeling dated over time, the lead up to new consoles can feel fresh and fun. However, with every launch, the question comes of if upgrading is necessary or it’s best to wait if current hardware under the tv still works just fine. While the fear of missing out can sometimes feel real, there are major benefits to waiting before jumping into a new console generation head first at launch.
Versus analyzing both next-gen consoles separately in-depth, I want to focus more on the Playstation 5 and next-gen as a whole where it’s at currently.
From the first Playstation, as well as other consoles, each iteration of hardware usually tends to add features or selling points that clearly differentiates each from the last. For the Playstation 2, the addition of dvd playback and greatly improved visuals made it a drastic upgrade from the original Playstation. The Playstation 3 was a leap into high-definition visuals and a more robust online functionality not found before on the previous generation. Going into the Playstation 4, and recent years, the differences between console generations has been less stark. Graphical fidelity of games continues to improve, however feels like a steady progression instead of reinventing the wheel. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing, either. Having more power under the hood and keeping the core gaming experience intact is a simple and effective approach. Sony has introduced peripherals such as Playstation Move and Playstation vr that are additions to the core experience, however these have never really overshadowed the core controller game experience established with the original Playstation.
The Playstation 5 arrived in November 2020 and with it a pretty positive reception. Versus a complete reinvention of how we play games, the console seems to be taking a very gradual progression approach, taking the core Playstation 4 experience and elevating it with many quality-of-life improvements. As IGN’s Luke Reilly concluded in his review “the PS5 doesn’t quite land as a knockout punch yet — but it’s definitely got the power and speed to be a real contender.” Based on this great but subdued reception overall, this generation of systems seems like it’s not changing gaming as we know it, but is more of a large expected and welcome step forward for a better gaming and user experience overall.
Video game console launches are defined the games that come out with the console itself. A console could be the most powerful thing in the world, but without great games, what else are you going to do with it aside from admiring the hardware and playing with menus for hours? While this does sounds like an ideal Saturday evening, game consoles are even more enjoyable with games.
The Playstation 5 and this generation in general launched with a solid array of games available. Spider-Man: Miles Morales, BugSnax, Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla, and Sackboy: A Big Adventure are just a few of the options available on the Playstation 5 on launch day. Anyone who picks up a Playstation 5 has a great assortment of games to jump right into. While this is great for new console owners who lined up virtually to get a console, a majority of the console’s games are also available on Playstation 4 as well. Arguably the largest of these launch games, Spider-Man: Miles Morales, is available on the Playstation 5, as well as the Playstation 4, a console which launched many years ago. Sony has a LOT of Playstation 4 consoles out in the wild, and this makes sense as a business decision and is pro-consumer to not lock this game behind a minimum $400 paywall and requiring the latest console to play it. The same can be said for titles like Assassin’s Creed Valhalla. Companies making these games exclusives at launch would not only mean less profit, but would also lock millions of people from playing these games on their consoles they already have at home. While this is consumer-friendly, it also creates the dilemma and question of if a console upgrade is warranted in the first place due to these many games being released on both generations simultaneously. By upgrading to the new console to play these games, the exact same game is playable, although the next-generation version does provide smoother framerate and improved visuals. Dark Souls as well as games like Astro’s Playroom are Playstation 5 exclusives, with the latter taking advantage of the Playstation 5’s unique controller capabilities. However for other cross-gen games, a lot if it comes down to the very subjective question of if a slightly prettier and smoother version of many games created for last-generation is worth the upgrade.
Being an early adopter is tempting for any new device when it launches. After using a console for the majority of a decade, upgrading to a new shiny powerful game console can seem appealing. Combined with consoles being incredibly difficult to come by at launch, this scarcity can create even more of a feeling of immediacy to the upgrade process without missing out. While upgrading earlier has its pros, there are many more benefits to waiting to buy a console post-launch.
When a console or any gadget launches, it is going to be the most expensive it will be in is lifecycle. This may sound obvious, but it’s something worth thinking about if price is any factor in buying a console, which for many it is. Game consoles go through multiple iterations in their lifetime, and this includes price drops. The Playstation 4 launched for $399 in 2013. In 2020, it was available in a smaller form-factor for as low as $199 with multiple games included in the box from many retailers. This doesn’t mean it necessarily takes 7 years for a console price drop, but price drops are almost always inevitable for hardware post-launch.
In addition to price drops, hardware revisions usually tend so occur as well. The Playstation 4 console went through multiple revisions, resulting in the smaller version of the base console, as well as the Playstation 4 Pro, a slightly more powerful version of the same hardware. Waiting to purchase a console gives an opportunity to buy hardware that has been revised and improved over its initial launch versions, usually at a lower or similar price compared to launch.
Above all, the biggest benefit to waiting for a new console purchase is games. At launch, game consoles are comparable to a high-powered supercar being driven through a neighborhood with speed-bumps next to a sedan. The power is there under the hood, but driving with a speed-limit, both cars are going to perform similarly. It isn’t until the cars can be put on a racetrack that the differences really begin to show. The analogy isn’t perfect by any means, but it seems to be where this new generation is at right now — a great and powerful machine ready for years of future games, but not yet fully tapped into in terms of its raw power potential. With many games down the road still planned for Playstation 4 and 5, it’ll be interesting to see when this shift to exclusive next-generation games starts and the next console generation can really start.