My gaming PC blew up for the second time in five months this past Friday. The first incident was pure operator error as I sleepily attempted to install new memory into the motherboard after six hours of driving. Except for the small fact that I installed the RAM backward and fried the board, I would consider it a rousing success. The second ruination of my hardware happened after installing a new video card and restarting. Next thing I knew the system wouldn’t boot up and I’m driving out with a mask on to my repair shop with only a sheepish “Uh, hey… again,” as my only response to the shop owner. This is all to say that I’m more than ready for the PlayStation 5 to come in 2020, no matter the delays and complaints.
Why? The simple answer is that my console is perhaps the most reliable piece of hardware I own. Both times my PC has taken a nose dive the PlayStation 4 has been waiting in the wings to fill the gaming void left by my own ineptitude. I found myself streaming Fallout 76 from my OG PlayStation 4 this past weekend and marveled that my launch console is not only still kicking but always ready to go. While I consider myself primarily a PC gamer these days I’ve never been able to rely on a piece of desktop gaming hardware the way I can any of Sony’s gaming devices.
There is a lot of talk about what shipping delays might occur in the face of coronavirus and whether it’s a good idea on Sony’s part to get its new flagship system out the door, especially given it feels like a perfect storm of things that could go wrong, a la the PlayStation 3 launch. While that discussion is centered almost solely around whether or not a console should or could launch when physical retail is at its biggest struggling point there’s another discussion brewing.
This past week’s Inside Xbox event, meant as a first look into the next generation of gaming, landed with an astounding thud of middling reveals and games that are not so much next generation as they are current-gen but fancier. The failure of this event stirred up the sentiment that maybe the next generation of consoles is coming too fast when we’re seeing such diminishing returns compared to past console generations and the improvements seen between hardware cycles.
But you know what: I don’t care. The console continues as the most reliable gaming hardware in my life and if we’re combining that with the incremental improvements that most PC gamers salivate over then I’m more than ready. This goes along with my struggle recently with the proposition of upgrading to a PS4 Pro. Meant as an incremental upgrade itself, I was more than ready to wait out the PlayStation 5’s arrival in place of a Pro. While I still feel this way, I’m also more understanding of Sony’s original pitch of the Pro as a 0.5 model and not as a full upgrade.
We’re in a world of gaming now that’s not going to see the drastic upgrade in visuals that my generation grew up seeing. And that’s fine. After all, this same widening of the valley is happening in other areas of technology where giant leaps in progress were once the norm. Try explaining to the average person what the fidelity difference between HD and 4K is and I guarantee you they’ll say it doesn’t look much different to them. I mean, this hypothetical person probably also has that awful “motion enhancer” fake 60 FPS setting still turned on for their home TV making everything look like a soap opera… but the point still stands. This problem isn’t unique to gaming alone.
And there’s so much more to offer in the next generation of gaming than just the obvious upgrade in visuals. The first screenshots of Lord of the Rings: Gollum released last week and comments on social media complained that the visual fidelity didn’t look any better than the current-gen. And while that’s completely a subjective thing and I’m not going to start internet fights over how something looks I also think that thought misses the point.
So much of game art design and visuals are more than just raw power. It’s colors and lighting; design and the power to do things that weren’t always possible. I see potential, especially as indie designers get access to more powerful devices and explore the space with more freedom than ever.
So, sure: I am completely ready to throw down my money for the PlayStation 5. Retail issues? Back and forth bickering about generational increases and whether solid-state drives are a marketable upgrade? Save it. Don’t care. I’ll buy a console purely through online retailers. There’s one thing I’m sure of: For six years the PlayStation 4 has been at the ready whenever I need it. Through thick, thin, and my dumb PC screw-ups. I’m more than ready to go on the adventure Sony has planned next. Trust me: I’m not even thinking about fidelity. Just hand it over.