Checkpoint XP

There’s no stopping it now. With PlayStation 5 and X-Box Series X conferences coming at us every month, the hype is building towards a new console generation. I hope this isn’t just me getting older, but I really don’t feel the excitement the same way I did leading into the PS3 or PS4 era. So with leaks coming out left and right, I thought we ought to take a look at the upcoming console generation and figure out why it feels so different. And more than that, ask the question – Do we really need a new console generation?

It’s not all about the graphics

I’ve long said that this generation of consoles is going to be unlike any other. One of the focal points of each console generation since the ’70s has been the improvements to graphics. However, the PS4 and X-Box One era has frankly gotten us pretty close to photo-realism. I’m not saying there aren’t improvements to be made, there are. It’s just that there isn’t that much room left for graphical improvements. As such, the next generation is likely to be driven by improvements to other parts of the gaming experience. This week, we saw a leak from Gematsucon that seems to confirm the long-theorized PS5 Activities feature. For those who don’t know, the idea is that players can download and play specific parts of a game without having to download the whole thing. Those of us who just dropped 150 gigs of hard drive space downloading all of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare just to play Warzone can attest to the value of such a feature. Now while that isn’t a flashy feature by any stretch of the imagination, it highlights what I think is going to make up the next generation of consoles. Quality of life improvements that have long since gone by the wayside in lieu of graphical fidelity. This is the generation that is finally going to end load times in gaming. This is the generation that will deliver a truly spectacular Open World game. Gone will be long hallways or desolate areas that are actually clever load times in disguise. Worlds will feel more real and alive than they ever have and without the need of better graphical quality.

Didn’t we just have a new console come out?

This is maybe the biggest reason I’m not chomping at the bit for a new console. We literally just went through the pageantry of a new console generation with the PS4 Pro and X-Box One X (which still takes the cake for worst console name ever.) These weren’t technically new consoles, as they were just improved versions of the existing PlayStation 4 and X-Box One. But the improvements were pretty notable, and they were largely a response to the rise of 4K TV.
Playstation at GDC
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA – MARCH 20: Attendees walk by the Sony PlayStation booth at the 2019 GDC Game Developers Conference on March 20, 2019 in San Francisco, California. The GDC runs through March 22. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Nevertheless, Sony and Microsoft treated them like brand new consoles with all of the fanfare that comes with it. Now that magic is spent. Imagine for a moment if the PS4 Pro and One X didn’t happen, how geeked would you be for the PlayStation 5? This November would mark 7 years since our last console, and we would be STARVING for it. The excitement level would be somewhere in the upper atmosphere. Instead, people are a bit luke-warm on a new console, especially one that can’t boast the graphical leaps of consoles past.

So, do we really need a new console?

Yes, I think we do. And honestly, we need it more than any console since the PlayStation 2. While the improvements to this generation aren’t nearly as flashy, I’m really excited about them. Truly, I didn’t need another leap in graphics technology. It’s not the graphics of a game that bother me at this point. If a game is just okay graphically, I’m still perfectly able to enjoy it. But if a game’s load times are atrocious, I am out. It’s time for us all to see what other innovations can be made to a console. Will 3D audio be a big game-changer or just a novelty? Haptic feedback on the controller? Could be cool, or like the N64’s Rumble Pak, it could be an afterthought. I believe the PlayStation 5 generation won’t storm out of the gates in terms of sales. I think more than any generation in 20 years, it’s going to be word of mouth that sells it. But I do believe it will sell.

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