'next-gen' PS5 And Xbox Series X Should Learn From Nintendo

The new generation of games consoles fall short of being a meaningful upgrade. Can they really be called 'Next-Gen'?
Xbox Series X and Playstation 5
The Microsoft Xbox Series X and Sony PlayStation 5  Source: Tom's Guide

The new generation of games consoles are hard to get hold of, but should that really matter when they don't have all that much to offer? We’re just over a year into the new era of the ‘must have’ household consoles, namely the Sony PlayStation 5 and the Xbox Series X. Pandemic and supply shortages aside, it’s worth asking the question in terms of a generational upgrade: are they really worth it?

Firstly: the shape. Both Sony and Microsoft have addressed the issue of loud fan noises by overhauling the design of previous generations and opting for a more vertical approach, with heat dissipation released from the top.

While having it horizontal is also an option, they both arguably look strangely like they’ve fallen over. It’s like saying “well there’s nothing to stop you from displaying a vase on its’ side”.

In Sony’s case, the PS5 requires an awkward little coaster for a side display, which is naive in my eyes. Given the size of both consoles, both companies have turned a blind eye to consumers’ furniture arrangements.

Most people have them horizontally just beneath their TV or in a display unit. People are having to feng-shui their entire gaming area just to cater for a chimney stack console.

Furniture inconvenience for PS5
Less than ideal housing arrangements  Source: The Washington Post

With regards to heat dissipation, this is what I fail to grasp: they’re treating a symptom but not the cause. Heat and fan noise come primarily from the disc tray but here they’ve both displayed ignorance as with the leap from the last generation from the one before.

For example, the PS3 was a major leap forward from the PS2. All of a sudden we had an Internet connection, a trophy system, access to streaming services, a user interface home menu. It went from a gaming console to an all-around entertainment system.

The PS4 was only a slight upgrade by comparison: the menu was a little more awkward and finicky but the graphics were greatly improved. It still remained a horizontal black console with a disc tray, however. It even had the same 500 GB storage as its predecessor, despite games being vastly larger.

From an average install of 7-13 GB games, suddenly the same game remastered would be 40-60 GB. 'Call of Duty: Modern Warfare' currently stands at an eye-watering 180 GB. This is over a third of the standard 500 GB hard drive space on PS4, and nearly a quarter of the PS5's native 825 GB.

Flash forward to now with the PS5. It’s garishly white which is different but there is still the same issue of games demanding more and more disc drive space, and while the standard model is 1TB now, (which translates to 825GB storage) the ratio of games in storage is roughly the same.

As with the original PS4’s the only way to expand storage is to break into the chassis and replace the SSD, because the USB doesn’t support external SSD storage just yet. This "upgrade" has only recently come into effect, a year down the line, something which should have been an option at the start of its' life. The Xbox notably, however, already has USB storage expansion support.

PS5 SSD expansion
Should casual gamers really have to go to all this trouble for more storage? Source: NAS Compares

And the point I made earlier is that all this power generates heat. Disc trays in general, when used for an excessive amount of time need fans to cool them down, and eventually, with enough dust build-up, the fans can get rather noisy. Playing 'God of War' with its' demanding frame rate on a PS4 sounds like a jet engine starting up.

Now Sony and Microsoft know this but have fallen into the pitfall of creating a console that can handle it better. Yet Nintendo proved four years ago that they shouldn’t have to handle it at all.

The lesson that the two companies should have learned from Nintendo is that if you have 'solid state' game cartridges, they carry nothing but benefits. They are small and compact and won’t scratch as easily as a disc.

Solid-state means that they don’t even have to install: you can just pop it in and play with minimal load times. Aah, remember when you just used to pop in a game cartridge and instantly play games with no money-walls and loot boxes? And unlocking bonuses through skilled gameplay?

Nintendo Switch cartridges
Solid-state Nintendo Switch cartridges don't heat up or require cooling fans  Source: SVG

No disc tray means that there’s not nearly as much heat generated, which means you’d only need a small fan (if any) as long as you have vents in the chassis. A chassis, mind you, that stands to be far smaller than the current offerings, as it wouldn't need as many internal components.

All this means that you wouldn’t need much internal storage, except for game updates or DLC. And we all know that you can fit around 4TB into something the size of a flash drive.

So with no disc tray, fan, or internal storage room, you could make a console the size of a VHS tape, which Nintendo has already achieved with the Switch and its’ docking station, so why is the PS5 the size of a toddler?

Why is the Xbox Series X an ugly chimney/toaster/fridge? Can they really be called “next-gen” or just a beefier version of what we already have? Why should we purchase one? The games?

A year down the line and new games, in general, are eye-rollingly unimaginative. The new trend of having "Directors Cuts" of existing last-gen games are basically ports of last-gen games, with a tiny amount of extra content, and an extra £ 20 price tag.

Remastered versions of old games from last-gen, last-gen games with an upgrade to new-gen, all beg the question: "why don't we just stick with last-gen then?"

Director's Cut games
Director's Cut Games from previous generations  Source: Neotizen News

Both companies are greedily buying out game developing companies to hoard exclusive content, as with Microsoft's acquisition of studio Bethesda, in an about-turn from CEO Phil Spencer, who previously said that exclusives are "completely counter to what gaming is about".

It all screams of desperation for new content, as we're getting yet another re-re-release of 'Grand Theft Auto V' and 'The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim', now both 8 and 10 years old respectively.

Most new games for both consoles are coming out for last-gen as well as new-gen. This may wisely be because gamers haven't been able to get their hands on new consoles due to supply shortages and internet scalpers. This means that you're able to play next-gen console games on your current console at home.

Interestingly for Xbox, if you have their Game Pass, they add a lot of their new exclusives to that roster on the release date, which you can play on any of their consoles, or even a smart device, further negating the 'need' for their new console.

The re-releases of old games, a handful of expensive exclusive games, hard to come-by consoles at extortionate 'scalper' prices, don't even take into account the other valuable necessity.

The graphics on both consoles are better showcased with the acquisition of a 4k TV. While 4k is now a common household item, it's still a big ask to expect gamers to fork out so much just for some casual recreation.

Gaming is a big business, but like publishers EA, the big companies have stopped caring about their customers' needs and finances. A 4k TV, console, game, deluxe editions with more content, headsets and accessories, online subscription fee, and micro-transactions all add up to staggering money.

Gears of War 4k graphics comparison
'Gears of War: Ultimate Edition' graphics comparison  Source: TweakTown

So an incremental increase in core game storage, games that we've already played, that take longer to install, demand more storage and cost around £60-£ 70. Negligible new software features that we can live without. Furniture rearranging for an awkward shape. No customisation or other colour options, and still with far-distant, vague release dates on exclusive flagship game titles.

Personally, I’ll wait for the inevitable Pro versions thanks, and I'd advise you to do the same. There's genuinely nothing you're missing out on. Wait to see if they learn from their mistakes with a smaller, more attractive option.

Hopefully, by then the console and game prices will have come down to a more reasonable standard and have a more extensive library than just a couple of lame exclusives. The stock levels need time to reimburse as well, for which 'scalpers' are to blame. 

Console size comparisons
Are we going backward with our console sizing? Source: Games-4-Geeks 

Sony and Microsoft may feel that they've thought outside of the box with their designs, but they've rushed too soon to deliver something new, without having the appeal of new games to add incentive.

They had a golden opportunity to change the media format from discs altogether, into no-heat cartridges for physical games, that could instantly load with no fans, and freed up chassis room for flash-drive style storage for saving data and apps.

Could the Nintendo Switch be the benchmark we hold future hardware standards up to? There are teething troubles with every generation, but any gamer with common sense knows to wait and see what the market holds next. We already have the games the new-gen has to offer anyway, so save your money until things get better.

Jason is a freelance content writer living in Nottinghamshire whose preferred topics are movie/game reviews and climate change.

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