Are Video Game Consoles Becoming “Stale”? (The Answer Is No)

    In the last months it has become clear as day that Sony and Microsoft’s next generation video game consoles will be more of the “same”, and more alike than any previous generation.

    Both the PlayStation 5 and Project Scarlett (next generation Xbox console) will have an AMD Zen 2 processor, a Navi graphics card, and an SSD. Additionally, both consoles will be backwards compatible with the previous generation.

    Neither company has hinted at any form of risk-taking innovation. All signs seem to point towards another console running on PC-like architecture, with more powerful components. On the digital side they’re simply copying each other’s streaming and games subscription services. Sony’s PS Now and Microsoft’s XCloud/Game Pass are starting to look indistinguishable from each other.  

   

Microsoft’s Project XCloud allows you to play Xbox games almost anywhere.

    This doesn’t mean there is nothing to look forward to. Both Sony and Microsoft are taking a massive leap forward technologically. AMD’s Zen 2 processors are the first which outperform Intel, who have dominated the market for decades. Credible leaks report that the PS5 graphics card will have performance faster than the NVIDIA 2070S, which retails currently for about $700 CAD ($530 USD). I would be surprised if Project Scarlett is any different. The SSD being in both consoles means that developers can now design games around having a much faster storage system, this can allow for tech we just haven’t seen before. We saw a taste of this when Mark Cerny showed off Spiderman traveling across New York at super speeds. I’ll leave it to the imagination of what Rockstar could do with GTA VI. All this in the console price range is something I’ve only dreamed of.

    The two consoles being so similar has positive unintended effects too, an example being cross-play, which Sony has finally permitted. This means the days of purchasing which ever console your friends got, should be numbered. Additionally, Sony revealed some details regarding their new controller the past month. They are finally adding haptic feedback to the triggers, something which Xbox controllers already had. With both PS and Xbox now having haptic feedback hopefully third-party developers will take advantage of these features.

    But let’s not forget about VR. If you have ever tried VR before, you know it’s hard to not be blown away. However, soon you will find out you are held back by a limited library of games, and a massive inconvenience of rearranging your living room and installing a flock of sensors. PS VR has made some strides to overcome these issues. Their VR requires a single camera, not a complex sensor setup. They have also funded some of the best VR titles of all time (see Astrobot). Just earlier this year some patents filed by Microsoft detailing a type of VR device had become public. I wouldn’t be surprised if Microsoft came out with a VR unit in the coming years.

The sleek devices needed for PSVR (PS4 not included)

    So as always when it comes to the end of a console life cycle, ignore the doomsayers, they didn’t get it right the first eight generations and they won’t get it right for the ninth. Video games are in the healthiest state they have ever been in, and continued growth is predicted by industry insiders. The next generation consoles may not differ from each other too much, but this doesn’t mean the industry is at a standstill. Innovation can take many different forms. Additional accessories such as VR, new services offered digitally, backwards compatibility, and a massive technological leap. Let’s buckle in, because it’s going to be one hell of a ride!

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