Sep 18 2020

It’s that time again: A new console generation

Published by at 10:51 pm under Games,Hardware

The Xbox 360 was the first console I’ve ever bought, and it was the machine that liberated me from the annual PC hardware upgrades that are needed to play the latest games.

My first Xbox 360 died with the notorious “red ring of death”, and Microsoft replaced it even though it was already over a year(!) out of warranty. The replacement Xbox 360 also died with a red ring of death a few years later, but by then it no longer mattered – the backwards compatibilty program of the Xbox One made it possible to play all the games the Xbox 360 games that I own on the new console.

Then I bought a PS4 to play some of the Playstation-exclusive titles like Uncharted. And also because it was more powerful than the Xbox One and games generally looked a bit better on the PS4 than on the One.

But… While the noise of the Xbox 360 never really bothered me, the jet-engine-like noise of the PS4 became unbearable for me over time. The Xbox One is noiseless – even if I wear my hearing aids while playing, I can’t hear the console. The PS4 drives me insane even if I do NOT wear my hearing aids. I haven’t touched her in a year. She’s sitting next to my new Xbox One X and is collecting dust.

Ah, yeah. The Xbox One X. I wish I had purchased her much sooner. You can’t hear her. Until the Series X is released in November this year, she’s still the most powerful console on the market – more powerful than the PS4 Pro, and she’s equally as powerful as the Series S that is going to replace her later this year (technically, the One X is even faster than her successor; she has 6 Teraflops of compute power while the Series S only has 4 teraflops, but the Series S supports raytracing in hardware and uses the next gen hardware architecture, so she’ll be able to play next-gen games that will look better than current-gen games.)

The One X is an awesome gaming machine and one of the best things Microsoft ever produced. I bought Xbox-versions of some of the multi-platform games that I had bought for the PS4, so that I can play them with even better graphics on a noiseless machine.

Apparently, I have already started migrating away from the Sony platform.

The next console generation will have a very disappointing launch, I’m afraid: There are no real next-gen games available on launch day. What will be available are current-gen titles like Assassin’s Creed Valhalla that have been enhanced to use some of the new power to look slightly better (and maybe have a better framerate) on the new hardware; but those games were all developed for the current generation. The most anticipated game this year, Cyberpunk 2077, will not even ship with in a next-gen enhanced version: It’s a true Xbox One/PS game, the next-gen version does not even have a shipping date yet.

All pure next-gen titles are still under development and might hit the shelves some time next year. At launch, people will be buying the new consoles to play last-gen games on them. That’s not really a platform-selling argument.

The Xbox Series X/S provide backwards compatibility back to the original Xbox. For people with a grown library of games and who actually still replay at least some of these games from time to time (which I actually do), the new Xbox Series is a save investment and well worth the money for that reason alone.

For me, the question won’t be if I buy the Series X, the question is only when I will buy her. I might wait for an interesting bundle. If the console can be pre-ordered in an AC Valhalla or Black Ops or even Cyberpunk 2077 bundle, I might even buy her on launch day already. (Or if I really have the urge to buy myself an early Christmas present.)

In Sony-Land, things look worse. Sony completely botched the pre-order time window: An hour after the online event in which they announced the prices and the launch date of the PS5, all of a sudden, WITHOUT any prior notification, the PS5 was available for pre-order already. The people who were still online on midnight pre-ordered the new consoles; when the rest of the world heard about the news, everything was already sold out. Just like the PS4 launch. I’m pretty sure that Sony didn’t have that many consoles on stock, but “sold out” always sounds good, even if you only had three or four machines in the first place. It makes the competition look worse if they can’t boast “sold out in the first hour” – even if the competition had a few million more boxes to sell.

At least that clarifies the purchase order: The Xbox Series X will be the first to move in. Just like last time, when the Xbox One moved in long before the PS4.

Besides the fact that the PS5 is the less powerful next gen console – and we don’t know yet if she will be another jet-engine in your house that drives you nuts – she also only provides backwards compatibilty to the PS4. For me, the PS4 already suffered badly from not being backwards compatible to the PS3, and there were a few PS3-exclusive titles that I would have loved to play as well (like the Resistance series, for example) that never were “remastered” for the PS4.

Microsoft supports a feature called “Smart Delivery”. In Xbox-land, there are a bunch of Xbox One games on the market or announced that can later be upgraded to native Series X versions for free. You won’t have to buy them again to get the next gen version. Cyberpunk 2077 is one of those games, as is AC Valhalla. Sony rather quietly also made a similar feature available, but you can tell from the little noise around it that it was only an afterthought that was forced on them because the new Xbox has it.

Right from the first rumors and then later announcements, this generation, Microsoft had the better start, the better marketing, the better “narrative”, the better arguments – and technically also the better and more powerful console.

Still, Sony will most likely sell more consoles than Microsoft, but not because they have the better story to tell or a better product to sell — like Apple, they have a strong fan base and people will buy the PS5 “because“.

Yes, there will be a few Playstation-exclusive titles again this generation. The problem for me is: None of the titles that they’ve shown so far really interest me, and the one that does interest me, “Deathloop”, is only a “timed” exclusive which will at a later date also be released for the Xbox Series. There’s no Uncharted 5 coming. Looking back at the PS4 era, the Uncharted series was the only Playstation exclusive that I really, really liked. For my taste, the rest were overrated and overhyped graphics demos or rather boring interactive movies (for example “Until Dawn”).

Just like I’m not the target audience for Apple products, apparently I’m also not the target audience for Sony products.

Microsoft has given up on console-exclusive games. In their business model, Xbox is a platform and a service that not only includes consoles and the Windows PC, but also streaming games to mobile devices: Project xCloud. They don’t care where you play a game, as long as you play it on one of their supported platforms (console, PC, streaming). They don’t see Sony as a direct competition anymore, and selling consoles is not at the core of their business.

Still, there will be at least one title coming exclusively to the Microsoft platform that I am really, really looking forward to: STALKER 2. That game alone sells the Series X to me. I still haven’t seen anything that sells the new Sony console to me; and even if they showed a few clips of games that potentially looked interesting, nothing was even remotely in the same league as STALKER 2. That’s the kind of game that I want to play – and in my experience, games like this – first person shooters like this – have always been naturally at home in the Microsoft universe.

Still, I know that sooner or later I will have both new consoles in my home. I still love gaming, and I will love it till I die. Both consoles together still cost less than a good gaming PC, and they have a longer service lifetime than a PC.

The Series X is a no-brainer choice: Of course do I want the most powerful console. We already know from early reviews that the Series X is also a very quiet console, so there is no noise problem. Even if there were a diskless version of the Series X available, I have so many old games on disk that I need a disk drive in the new Xbox just in case I want to play Dead Space or Bad Company again.

As for the PS5, I will probably buy the diskless “PS5 All Digital” version. I don’t need a Playstation with a disk drive: I won’t be watching movies on that console and I generally have stopped buying games on disk. The fistful of PS4 games that I have on disk I will either simply buy again from the store when they are on sale for a few bucks (that would be the Uncharted series, the Dishonored series and Prey) or I know that I don’t want to ever play them again (for example The Last of US 1, Until Dawn, The Order 1886), so it won’t be a loss. Yeah, the diskless PS5 will do for me – and she also looks prettier. But… I will only buy the PS5 when I know that she is a quiet, preferably unhearable console. I will never buy a Sony console blindly again. Should reports come in that the PS5 is another loud device, I will kiss Playstation land goodbye and write the Playstation off as I’ve written off Apple computers.

 

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