It’s been a couple of weeks since the PS5 and Xbox Series X, as well as the Xbox Series S, were launched. And yet they are stupidly hard to find. Even when stocks arrive, it feels like you have to make a blood sacrifice for a hundred retail and internet gods before you even get a scent of new game console stocks.
And that leads me to two conclusions: the first is that console wars are basically over, and the second is that the “next generation” has simply not come yet. It may sound bizarre given the discussion surrounding Sony and Microsoft’s next generation consoles in recent months, but let me explain.
It’s very good for Sony and Microsoft to think about how powerful their respective new consoles are and how they will change your gaming experiences to a degree that your little mind can barely understand. But as impressive as all three consoles are, the fact that you can not get them makes a lot of excitement and messages behind them.
Now, the lack of stock of new game consoles, or indeed other compelling technology, is not surprising in the early launch days of such devices. But the shortcomings of the PS5 and Xbox Series X are beyond pale.
While the idea of the so-called console wars has been laughable in general – no matter which console sells the most, both win – it is quite tough given these shortcomings.
It is no longer about which new console you buy, but rather about buying what you can get, if you are not willing to wait for demand to slow down. I think you should wait until 2021 when there are more games and developers the fiat with the new console hardware. But I get the desire for new technology is a powerful compulsion.
And with this huge demand, even for the less driven series S, means that both Sony and Microsoft have won the console war. All three machines are largely a resounding success.
This can change when demand decreases and a company may find it challenging to constantly move console units. But that’s not likely to happen for a while; think 2022 or 2023.
When it comes to choosing one console over another, both offer different things. The PS5 has the interesting DualSense controller and a longer list of upcoming exclusive games, while the Xbox Series X has outstanding backward compatibility and the Xbox Game Pass will be enhanced by the growing number of developers under the Xbox Game Studios banner. Unlike the latest console generation, this one makes a convincing argument for getting both machines, at least when they become easier to get hold of.
So in simple terms, it’s the end of the console war, before it even began. Thank you for coming to my TED talk, read on for part two.
Talking about this generation
I have slowly gone from using the term “next generation consoles” to “this generation.” But when I stop and think about it, I feel that the PS5 and Xbox Series X are still the next generation of consoles.
I do not know anyone personally outside of gaming media and technical reviewers who have access to any of the new consoles. Until more people have PS5 and Xbox Series X, or Series S, the new generation of games may not really start in earnest.
And then we have the games. While the Xbox Series X enhances games running on the Xbox One, it has no games that really make you stand back and exclaim “**** look at that graphics.” Assassin’s Creed Valhalla looks good but it’s not a big step from Red Dead Redemption 2 to my eyes. And sure, Demon’s Souls is hugely impressive – just ask my colleague Marshall Honorof – but it’s a remake of a decade – old game.
Without striking new intellectual qualities or games that must have the new hardware to run, I feel we are in a tricky situation where we have one foot in the old generation and another in the new. This is nothing new when it comes to game consoles, but usually there are some outstanding exclusives that are early poster children in the console games of the future.
And PC gaming fans can sneak in with their powerful hardware without a doubt offering the next generation of shallow for a year or so. But when it comes to getting the new Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 or AMD Radeon RX 6800 XT, it’s easier to find an honest man in Parliament than stocking any graphics card. The same goes for other graphics cards in their respective families, most recently the GeForce RTX 3060 Ti which sold out in just a few moments.
As such, we are all stuck in a form of limbo, where new gaming hardware is tried by large companies but feels so far out of reach that you can just as easily reach out and try to pick a star from the Orions Belt.
I hope this will change as the holiday approaches and 2021 begins to look around the corner. But until that happens, I’m not ready to accept that we’re in the next generation of games.