The PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X launch in a few short weeks, and an abundance of gamers are trying to secure their preorders ahead of what’s sure to be a sparse holiday supply. It’s easy to get caught up in the next-gen hype, confusion, cynicism, and anxiety. Here’s a secret, though: You might be better off waiting to buy your system(s) of choice.
While I’m confident both the PS5 and Xbox Series X will eventually blossom into appreciable steps forward for the gaming industry, the good news is you don’t have to upgrade just yet. A lot of people are still unconvinced that these new consoles are worth the upgrade. In fact, most people probably shouldn’t buy either console at launch, even if they can afford one. It’s a good idea to wait for at least a few months. Here’s why.
You need a really good TV to get the most out of the new consoles
The PS5 and Xbox Series X can render games at 4K resolution with HDR, high frame rates, and ray-traced lighting. Games will surely look impressive on both consoles, but unless you have a TV or computer monitor that can also pull off 4K HDR and high refresh rates, a lot of that visual flair will be lost.
Decent 4K TVs aren’t difficult to come by anymore, but only a little over one third of all TV-owning US households have a 4K TV thus far. We can assume, then, that a large portion of people playing a next-gen console will need to buy a new TV along with their new console to see the full benefits.
Buying a new console is expensive at the best of times, but 2020 has seen a deadly pandemic and record-breaking natural disasters like wildfires, hurricanes, and snowstorms. Worse, the full force of the economic fallout has barely begun to hit us. Paying $300-$600 for a new console, another few hundred for a new TV, plus $40-$70 per game will be a prohibitively expensive package for many people. And that’s not even adding in any extra accessories you might need or want, like controllers, headsets, charging stations, cameras, et cetera. If you wait a while, you can spread those purchases out over time without putting yourself in debt to the tune of a grand or more.
Pre-ordering is a nightmare; patience is easy
Between COVID-19 wrecking the economy, reports of manufacturing issues, and unexpected (and haphazard) availability, the PS5’s preorder situation is a mess. Most online preorders are selling out within moments, and scalpers are flipping the console for over double the MSRP. Launch day and holiday supplies will likely be slim as well.
The Xbox Series X and S will, hopefully, be easier to buy ahead of time. The next-gen Xbox models will go up for preorder on September 22 for all retailers. They’ll likely sell out in mere seconds, but at least that gives everyone time to prepare.
If you aren’t able to preorder a new console ahead of launch, your next option is to wait in line the day they go on sale, but I really don’t recommend this. Waiting outside for hours in late November—often overnight—is a bad idea in general, but especially amid a pandemic.
There will be more PS5s and Xboxes after launch, and they’ll be easier to get as the months go on. The same can be said for the Nvidia’s RTX 3080 or whatever other sold-out hardware you’re eager to get your hands on.
Save yourself the trouble (and the chance of catching a potentially deadly virus) and just wait for supply levels to normalize. Many of the games you’d be playing on the new consoles will be available on the hardware you already own anway.
Yes, you can play most next-gen launch games on PS4, Xbox One, or PC
If you’re struggling to preorder a new console due to low supplies or financial strain, your PS4 and Xbox One will be able to play many of the biggest new titles well into 2021, if not longer.
Unlike most console generation leaps in the past, many of the early PS5 and Xbox Series X titles will also be on the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and even the PC day-and-date.
First-party PlayStation 5 games also releasing on PS4:
- Horizon: Forbidden West
- Sackboy: A Big Adventure
- Spider-Man: Miles Morales
First-party Xbox Series X games also releasing on Xbox One:
- As Dusk Falls
- Halo Infinite
- Psychonauts II (Also coming to PS4)
- Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II
- Tetris Effect: Connected (Also coming to PS4 on 2021)
- The Gunk
- Note: All first-party developed Xbox Series X games will also be available on PC at launch via Game Pass on PC.
Those are just the first-party games that will be playable on older hardware that we know of so far; the list compounds when you factor in third-party cross-gen titles and older PS4/Xbox One games that are getting rereleased on the new consoles.
Sure, the PS4/Xbox One versions won’t run as fast on the older consoles and will lack the 4K, raytracing, and high frame rates promised by the PS5 and Xbox Seris X—but most of these titles can be upgraded to the next-gen editions for free once you have a new console (just make sure you’re buying the correct version).
There aren’t many exclusive games, anyway
To be clear, cross-gen support is a wise, consumer-friendly business decision. But it also highlights the biggest issue both of these next-gen consoles face: lack of original, console-exclusive games at launch.
Of the PS5’s launch lineup, only Astro’s Playroom, Demon’s Souls, and Destruction All Stars are true PS5 exclusives, while the Xbox Series X has… nothing. You can play all the Xbox Series X launch games on PC or Xbox One instead.
Games will obviously look and play better on the new consoles, and there will be plenty to play thanks to a large library of backward-compatible and cross-gen games on both platforms. But the whole point of new consoles is new games you can’t play anywhere else, and there just aren’t very many of those yet.
If you’re not sold on either box yet, rest assured you can hold off on these new consoles at least until they are more widely available and their libraries have expanded a bit.