What the next-gen Playstation and Xbox need to be successful (Opinion)
Sony has officially released details on the specs of the upcoming next-gen playstation console rumored for a 2020 release date. In an unusually unceremonious way, Sony told the press the specs of the machine that they for the first time actually spoke openly about. This was unusual as no event has announced or revealed the console, it is still without an official name (although PS5 is most likely), and up until then we knew almost nothing about it. These specs definitely deserved more nerdy fanfare than it got, especially claiming things like 8K resolution. What this announcement, unusual for what it was, it got me thinking of what the next-gen Xbox and Playstation need to have to not just survive but to be thrive in 2020+. Sony never enabled backwards compatibility for PS3 games on PS4 instead relying on streaming or ports. At launch Microsoft didn’t either with Xbox 360 games on Xbox One, but they eventually did partially. However since this was a late game addition it required extra work on developers to pseudo-port their games to xbox one with a backwards compatibility update. It wasn’t automatic. Sony has already announced that the next-gen Playstation will support “PS4 backwards compatibility” we still do not know how that will work? Will it be automatic, or will developers have to update their games to work on the “PS5”? For the last few years with the arrival of the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X, both Sony and Microsoft have required developers to build their games mid-gen console backwards compatible as well, for instance 4K HDR games that were built to run on the Xbox One X also need to work on the original Xbox One. This is because both Sony and Microsoft were very clear on the One X and PS4 Pro being treated and thought of as iterative mid-gen updates. Microsoft treated the One, One S, and One X as all apart of the same generational family, adopting a more frequent but less drastic upgrade cycle approach. Now, the question arises with Xbox, will Microsoft continue this trend? Will the “next generation” xbox be a “Xbox One Z?” that supports all the same games and accessories but it just simply more powerful hardware? If Microsoft chose to do this strategy and Sony didn’t it would represent an interesting precedent and would have interesting consequences for the next generation of gaming. If Microsoft went this way, would they still require developers to make their games compatible on One, One X, and One “Z”? In my opinion, Microsoft and Sony need to do two things for the next generation to really make them successful. First, both Sony and Microsoft need to build their system in a way that enables day one backwards compatibility to PS4 and Xbox One with no added work from developers. While giving both systems a huge library of “launch titles” may seem like something that would hurt launch game sales, I disagree. This current console generation has seen one of the largest libraries yet, and just feels like it has been around longer with an explosion of games. Plus, while the next generation of consoles is approaching, TV’s still have unreasonable amounts of HDMI ports. There’s also just an upper limit to how many boxes people want plugged into their televisions. The point is my TV is full. If my Xbox One X and PS4 Pro need to stick around for my library, theres just not enough room for 5 consoles (including my Switch) underneath my TV. If we as gamers don’t have the ability to trade in those systems but keep all our games I do honestly believe that will hurt upgradability of the consoles. I’d be even be willing to pay more than average for a new console knowing I have hundreds of games I could play instead of having to pay 60$ more per game. 560$ is a lot to ask for one game. With narrowing differences in resolution and visuals, plus in 2019 consoles are going to have more competition than ever, the last things they need is to compete against is their previous generation selves.
2020 is going to have a new Nintendo Switch, Google Stadia, Apple Arcade, and not to mention various set top boxes all competing for TV space. Google is making a major play in gaming with the launch of Google Stadia. Google Stadia is claiming to be more powerful than an Xbox One X and PS4 Pro combined. If they price their service right, they could be majorly successful if their promise of low-latency 4K streaming with existing internet speeds can be backed up. Microsoft and Sony are going to need to kill it, if they don't want to be Blockbuster'ed by Google's Netflix of Games card. Sony and Microsoft will also have to nail their own game-streaming services and ever outpace Google with game libraries.
(Google Stadia Recap) There is one more thing that I think is important for the next generation console is Microsoft and Sony need to drop the attitude adoptive for the mid generation iterative consoles (One X and PS4 Pro) and allow developers to make games only for this current generation, like they were for the original Xbox One and PS4. While developers need to have the option to develop for both, they need to freedom to focus exclusively for the new systems. Developers often complain already that consoles and the expense of gaming PC’s still hamper the creativity of devices, if they were forced to make games that could play all the way back on Xbox One and PS4 originals, then that will only hinder the advancement of games moving forwards. It took a few years for games for PS4 and One to really move forward, but imagine what Xbox One and PS4 games would have looked like if the developers were required to make the games work on Xbox 360 and PS3. Having games that only work on the new consoles will also incentivize more customers to upgrade who were perhaps holding on to original One’s or PS4’s. While for those who don’t get the next-gen systems at launch it will suck not being able to play certain games, but if we want those future games to exist that “can’t run” on Xbox One X, then we need to allow them to exist. So while the systems need to have seamless backwards compatibility of One and PS4 games, they need to also have “PS5 and Xbox 5?” only games as an option in order to be relevant in 2020 and the future of streaming.