It’s been a few weeks since the launch of the PS5 and Xbox Series X, and the Xbox Series S. And they’re still stupidly hard to find. Even as supplies arrive, it feels like you must sacrifice blood to hundreds of retail and internet gods before you begin to sense new game consoles inventory.
And that brings me to two conclusions: first, the console wars are basically over, and second, the “next generation” just hasn’t arrived yet. This might sound bizarre given the discourse surrounding Sony’s and Microsoft’s next-gen consoles over the past few months, but let me explain.
Sony and Microsoft are very good at figuring out just how powerful their new consoles are and how they will change your gaming experience to an extent your little mind can barely comprehend. But as impressive as all three consoles are, the fact that you can’t get hold of them makes a lot of the excitement and messages behind them moot.
Currently, the shortage of new game consoles or other attractive technologies is not surprising in the first days of launching such devices. But the PS5 and Xbox Series X shortages are beyond measure.
While the idea of so-called console wars was generally ridiculous – whichever console sells the best, they both win – it’s entirely debatable given these shortcomings.
It’s no longer about which new console you buy, but rather what you can get your hands on if you don’t want to wait for demand to slow down. I think you should wait until 2021 when there will be more games and developers they are fiat with new console hardware. But I get that the desire for new technologies is a powerful compulsion.
And at the same time, the huge demand, even for the less powerful S series, means both Sony and Microsoft have won the console war. All three machines achieved spectacular success.
This may change as demand declines and it may be difficult for one company to constantly switch console units. But that is unlikely to happen for a while; think 2022 or 2023.
When it comes to choosing one console over the other, they both offer different things. The PS5 has an interesting DualSense controller and a longer list of upcoming exclusive games, while the Xbox Series X has excellent backward compatibility and an Xbox Game Pass, which is set to be bolstered by the growing number of developers under the Xbox Game Studios banner. Unlike the last-gen console, this one makes a compelling argument to get both machines, at least as they get easier to get.
Simply put, the console war was over before it even started. Thank you for coming to my TED Lecture. Read on.
Speaking of this generation
I was slowly moving from using the term “next generation consoles” to “this generation”. But when I stop and think about it, it feels like the PS5 and Xbox Series X are still next-gen consoles.
I don’t personally know anyone outside the media and technical game reviewers who have access to any of the new consoles. Until more people have PS5 and Xbox Series X or Series S, the next generation of games can’t really get started.
And then we have games. While the Xbox Series X makes improvements to games that will run on Xbox One, there are no games that really force you to step back and shout “**** look at this graphic.” Assassin’s Creed Valhalla looks great, but it’s not a big step from Red Dead Redemption 2 to my eyes. And for sure Demon’s Souls makes a huge impression – just ask my colleague Marshall Honorof – but it’s a remake of a ten-year-old game.
With no striking new intellectual property or games that must have new hardware to run, I feel like we’re in a difficult situation where we have one leg in the old generation and the other in the new. This is nothing new when it comes to gaming consoles, but there are usually some unique exclusive products that are the early children of the future of console gaming.
And fans of computer games can chuckle at their powerful hardware, possibly offering a next-gen hum for about a year. But when it comes to getting a new Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 or AMD Radeon RX 6800 XT, it’s easier to find an honest man in Parliament than a stock of any graphics card. The same goes for other graphics cards in their families, most recently the GeForce RTX 3060 Ti, which sold out in just moments.
As such, we’re all stuck in a limbo, where big companies advertise new gaming hardware, but it feels so far out of reach that you might as well reach for a star from the Orion Belt.
Hopefully that will change with the holidays approaching and 2021 is starting to look around the corner. But until that happens, I’m not ready to accept that we’re in a new generation of games.