Maybe Just Delay Next-Gen Already

Maybe Just Delay Next-Gen Already
Photo: Christian Petersen, Getty Images

The Xbox Series X comes out in November, probably around the same time as the PS5 if Sony ever gets around to announcing its release date. But they don’t need to come out then. In fact, maybe it would be for the best if they were just delayed until some time next year.

Lately I’ve been waking up every day in a weird mental vortex where time has no meaning. Memories of the past, aspirations for the future, and anxieties about the present violently collide with one another, all while I pour boiling water over coffee grounds and slice up strawberries for my always famished one-year-old in what feels like a never-ending loop. Nowhere in this psychological miasma are the words “PS5” or “Xbox Series X.” My default programming during these times tells me to “keep calm and carry on” but every time I remember that two of the biggest video game companies are in a months-long marketing duel to be the place where the most people play Call of Duty for the 16th year in a row, the programming crashes. 2020 feels like a whole lot of things, but the start of a new cycle of more powerful gaming hardware is not one of them.

For starters, less than three months out, neither Microsoft nor Sony has really demonstrated why we should all be getting excited about shelling out something like two week’s worth of minimum wages for a new plastic brick to sit beside our TVs. Better load times? More detailed graphics? I have no doubt developers will use the new technology to create another round of really cool games, but what Microsoft and Sony have actually shown so far across their multiple press conferences and blog posts feels much more reminiscent of what we got with the Xbox One X and PS4 Pro. I see incremental improvements in the dozens of trailers both companies have shared, but nothing that feels striking or completely new. The Switch launch didn’t do that either, but it also had Breath of the Wild, and I still don’t see a Breath of the Wild.

Microsoft didn't delay Xbox Series X along with Halo Infinite but maybe it should have.  (Screenshot: Microsoft)Microsoft didn’t delay Xbox Series X along with Halo Infinite but maybe it should have. (Screenshot: Microsoft)

Almost every week a new game understandably gets delayed: sometimes because of conventional development woes, other times because of the unique challenges of working from home, and often because of both. There was always a question around just how “next-gen” Halo Infinite would be since it was launching on both Xbox One and Series X. Now it’s not coming to either, at least not until next year.

Bloober Team’s psychological horror game The Medium is still set to release “holiday 2020,” complete with a dual-reality feature that involves exploring two separate places simultaneously. It sounds and looks sufficiently next-gen, though it’s also releasing simultaneously on PC. Other than that, Series X’s lineup looks meager, especially after Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2 dropped out. What’s left? Dirt 5 in 120 fps and a handful of other next-gen optimizations for current-gen games? I still don’t even have a 4K TV. I’m not sure seeing Gears 5 run at 60fps in 4K will be the reason I buy one. And there’s still no clear timetable for when Cyberpunk 2077’s next-gen optimisation update will be ready.

The PS5 isn’t looking much better. Its third-party, timed-next-gen exclusive, Deathloop, was also delayed this month. Godfall, the “looter slasher” from the makers of Duelyst, seems fine, but is also coming to PC. Bugsnax, the neat-looking indie from the makers of Octodad, will also be on PS4. The sequel to the underrated PSVR game Astro Bot Rescue Mission, Astro’s Playroom, will be pre-loaded onto every PS5, but it sounds like more of a demo for the DualSense controller than a full game. That leaves Insomniac’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales, a followup to the game Sony originally used to demonstrate what PS5 load times will be capable of. It looks awesome and I am ready to have more Spider-Man in my life, especially when it’s not just another Peter Parker’s “Greatest Hits” redux. I’m also fine to wait a little longer for it. There’s no shortage of stuff to play in the meantime.

Spider-Man: Miles Morales is currently the last major next-gen game still standing.  (Screenshot: Sony )Spider-Man: Miles Morales is currently the last major next-gen game still standing. (Screenshot: Sony )

For me, video games have been a comforting distraction and the basis for a number of socially distanced hangouts these last few months. I never bought a Rocket League battle pass before this summer, but currently I’m about to hit rank 130. The 30 minutes I get to spend every few nights catching up with friends while driving a giant ball across a futuristic stadium have become an important part of my self-care routine. I’m sure next-gen consoles and their hype-evoking, if historically mediocre, launch lineups might give that routine a welcome shot in the arm ahead of the long, cold winter, but there are plenty of current-gen games now and in the time ahead to fill that role.

Nintendo, perhaps harder hit than most gaming companies by complications from the pandemic, has been plugging great indie games between sparser releases like Paper Mario: The Origami King and the upcoming remaster of Pikmin 3. Spiritfarer and Raji: An Ancient Epic just came out, are both wonderful, and I barely have time for them. This is on top of other excellent summer releases and ports like Panzer Paladin, Ooblets, and CrossCode, as well new infinitely replayable games like Fall Guys. I have huge gripes with Ghost of Tsushima and The Last of Us Part II but I still want to properly go back and finish both. Remember when Final Fantasy VII Remake and Animal Crossing: New Horizons both came out five years ago back in March? Massive CRPGs Wasteland 3 and Baldur’s Gate III (early access) are right around the corner, to be followed by another round of heavy-hitters in the fall like Watch Dogs Legion, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, and Cyberpunk 2077. Yes, I’m just listing games at this point, and yes, I could go on, but that is exactly the point. Nothing about the next-gen launch feels particularly urgent or indispensable within the current hellscape.

More importantly, we’re in the middle of a once-in-a-century global pandemic that has completely upended daily life, the economy, and the companies currently racing to create console gaming’s future. Over 177,000 people are dead in the US, tens of thousands more are diagnosed each day, and potential long-term symptoms associated with infection are still barely understood. Meanwhile there continues to be Great Recession levels of unemployment, even as financial relief programs are already being phased out. Pre-ordering an expensive new console comes with added amounts of risk and self-loathing knowing that the stock market will probably crash again at any moment and that millions are facing an unprecedented wave of home evictions.

If you haven't played Raji yet go fix that right now.  (Screenshot: Nodding Head Games)If you haven’t played Raji yet go fix that right now. (Screenshot: Nodding Head Games)

Maybe in a covid-free world these launch lineups would look very different. Maybe we would already know how much the consoles will cost and have some sense of what new software features they’ll bring to the table. Maybe Sony would let people demo the DualSense in stores, and Microsoft would spend a little more time talking about the “most powerful gaming console” and a little less reminding everyone that many of its games will be playable on their smartphones through xCloud. And maybe I would have more time and energy to get excited about it all if there wasn’t a facsist in the White House busily drumming up his hordes during an election year when the main vehicle for voting more safely during a pandemic is being actively sabotaged.

Most console generations don’t start to get good until a year or two in. That’s when the Xbox One and PS4 gave us Sunset Overdrive, Bloodborne, and The Witcher 3. With the ongoing delays, it could take even longer this time around. Launch consoles have always been forward-looking investments. Maybe that will feel like an easier bet to place when there are more games to back it up and fewer national crises.

Comments

  • Fuck no. The opposite. If the hardware’s done, give it me. Gib now. Who needs launch titles when Cyberpunk will be out? Sure, it’s not going to be the official ‘next gen version’ customized specifically, but it’ll be faster and prettier and seriously, that might actually be better than trying to do a custom next-gen version.

    No, hear me out: I’m serious. Fallout 4 runs better on the PS4 Pro if you don’t patch it with the Pro patch, and just run it in boost mode, because the ‘pro patch’ locks the game into higher graphics settings that run worse, and doesn’t freely give you the option to change that. And it’s not the only one. Developers seem fixed in this notion of ‘pretty trumps fast’ that I absolutely 100% do not share.

    • TOTALLY agree with you. I’ve got both a One X and a ps4 Pro – and I’m still desperate for the update. Want to see how these games run on my c9 oled over hdmi 2.1. 🙂

      This is such a non issue – if you don’t think there is a reason to upgrade, then don’t. I’m ready though!

    • I’m with you on fast and smooth first, pretty second.

      But I don’t think it’s the Devs, I think it might be pressure from the execs because 4k is so hot right now, so everything needs to be 4k.

  • I have zero hype for a new generation of consoles. This actually is looking like my getting off point, as I also recently upgraded to a smart TV and, without the need to use the Playstation to watch any subscription television, haven’t really turned my console on more than two or three times.

    I really feel like this generation failed to push itself. Games coming out toward the end of the cycle dont really seem to have built on themselves that much over the ones from the first two years (except take advance of the pro system, which I never saw a reason to get with my old 1080i tv).

    I really think Nintendo nailed it by realising that a lot people aren’t desperate for games to look better (so many of the games that are big right now look lkke they could run on PS3s), they want options on how to play them. Being able to grab the system and keep on playing if someone else wants the TV means so much more than 8k, or 120 fps, or no load times to me right now.

    • HUH? Maybe that is true for Xbox. But the entire oppsite for PS4. The Last of Us 2 and GoT, both prove how well realised the PS4 was built and maintained. They also showed the flaw in Xbox’s thinking, they may have the world most powerful console, but unless you have a creative wing to your company, its kinda meaningless.

      The key to Sonys success this generation is they stayed largely focused as a games console being for games, where as right from the start Xbox wasnt making a games console but an entertainment system.

  • Oh so everyone should just effing wait because the launch of these consoles isn’t fitting in with your existential crisis’ timetable, Ethan?
    Yeah, you can punch that idea up yer bum, buddy. You’re a journo, FFS. This isn’t the appropriate forum for your depression blog. Just because you’re working from home doesn’t mean you can drop your veneer of professionalism.

  • Sorry but this is just not true. For once we are getting 2 consoles that both actually seem to have some good horse power behind them. Who cares if the great exclusives aren’t coming out right away, I want to play all the multi plat games (and if you’re get the series X, upgraded performance in old games) with the best possible performance I can.

    Delaying the hardware would be a horrid idea

    • To add to this, i feel like every article I read is about exclusives. Do people forget that multi plat games make up 90% of game sales? Most gamers just want COD, assassins creed and Lego games. Give me my new console!!

  • I think its near inevitable that the PS5 and Series X will be delayed into 2021, we are 2 months away from prime buying season and we know nothing of a release date or price, we have an educated guess that they are going to be quite pricey, probably not a good sign.

    With such little time left to “holidays 2020” and with such a shit economic environment with covid, i think its a near guarantee they wont launch this year, Q1 2021 or they might even line it up with US summer holidays.

    • That’s a fair take on it, but my own personal suspicion is that MS and Sony are playing chicken. First one to delay their launch loses, even if they’re both planning on delaying, because the other will match/beat. First one to name a price loses, as the other undercuts them. With so few technical points of difference and exclusives being so thin and pale, they’re down to the margins on trying to come up with game-winning points of difference.

      • (I’m also deeply skeptical of this suspicion of mine, because it’s very hard to believe that these companies would let ‘what the competition is doing’ be a final, determining factor in their pricing plans, and there’s probably more at stake around confirming availability, global logistics, maybe even holding out until certain components are able to be locked in at lower price points, waiting out the legals/market fluctuations. Any of those factors seem like they would substantially affect the bottom line, and probably more than, “Shit, the competition is fifty bucks cheaper, we’re not going to sell anything.”)

      • I think that is true, but Microsoft is in a better place to add sweeteners. Firstly, there the All Access program. This generation it was limited to Telstra, but who is to say that Optus and/or Vodaphone won’t be included? That will make it easier for people on a budget get into Next Gen. Secondly, there is Game Pass. It’s likely that at least three months free Game Pass will be included with any Series console. Why not add six or twelve months’ worth of Game Pass to partly negate any price differential the PS5 has? Finally, Microsoft is probably in a better place to include a rebate initially for any purchase of the Series consoles.

    • PS5 definitely not. Sony has mastered production. Theg are pumping these babies out every day.
      My bet is they stitch up Cyberpunk as a next gen launch exclusive – they will want to launch with a big bang.

      • Microsoft has the marketing licence. You can see this in the Cyberpunk Xbox One console that came out a month or so ago.

        • This makes sense. I’ve seen a few full-page gaming magazine ads (yes, I still read magazines, mostly I like the smell of them) for Cyberpunk, and they’ve got the giant green xbone banner at the top or bottom of them. Despite the fact that the thing is coming out on all current-gen platforms. (Yes, I said all. Switch doesn’t count – it is last-gen+0.5.)

      • What? No they aren’t. They literally just said ps5s will be limited at launch due to production issues…

        • Yes limited. But they will still have over a million produced. That’s a LOT of stock to just sit on. Release wont be delayed.

  • Honestly as long as the tech arrives, thats enough for me. I dont need too many shiny new games at launch,as long as enough older games still work or are optimised for it.

  • You know what this is bloody stupid aye Ive read a few articles like this and I was hoping I wouldn’t see an Aussie write one but here we go honestly this mentality just sounds like someone who thought they lived a normal life now brought to a standstill due to covid can’t hack it what about all of us people who have no life due to mental disability who have nothing but the ps5 and Xbox series X to look forward to in this crappy time like something like this is actually a very self centred pompous view on things keep it out of Kotaku not needed thanks

  • How about no, Ethan?
    Even without many launch games, we’re still excited to play current gen games that run like shit on current hardware.

    Get a new TV.

  • Unless they make the PS5 100% compatible with PS4 games (and make it a decent colour), I certainly wont be interested anymore, would just prefer if they actually ported games to PC at a quicker rate instead of basically farming gamers.

    • Awww, that’s a bit harsh. They’ve built a beast that will be reasonably priced and you’re giving them grief about the colour and not being able to play a handful of old games?

      • He’s not wrong about Sony being pricks. They force people onto the newest consoles by not releasing PC versions for years, if ever at all. They don’t even let you use old hardware on new consoles and their backwards compatibility is really a token gesture as it’s sucks. They are super lucky they rock at making games becuase there aren’t many, if any, others companies that would get away with the crap Sony pulls.

        They lead the industry in making games and are a far far far length behind in just about everything else

  • Respectfully no, they shouldn’t delay it.
    Give your family a hug. Sounds like you’ve been having a rough year.

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