So, here we are again.
The inevitable period during a console generation where the new shiny boxes go from pipedream to spicy speculation.
Where enthusiast goons like myself flood the internet with their thoughts on consumer products not yet available.
Just as this generation finds its groove, of bloody course it is time to start thinking about the next-generation.
Microsoft kindly set made it official last year at E3 by confirming they are developing the next Xbox console(s).
Since then, we have also had our fair share of rumours surrounding it as well as the successor to the PS4.
It is exciting, albeit slightly depressing for me this time around as I scheme at how to buy one of these consoles now disposable income is a thing of the past…
That being said, we are not expected to see anything till at least 2020 so there is plenty of time to stash away the pennies!
I have no idea what the next-gen will look like, but I do believe that it isn’t going to the standard ‘new box featuring a massive jump in performance’.
This time around, I think next-gen may look to change how and where we play, rather than simply upgrading what we play.
Tin foil hats on, here is what I think the next-gen could look like.
Out of the traditional ‘Big Three’, it is Microsoft who I think is best set for this one, so I’ll focus on them for now.
Thanks to Xbox Play Anywhere, they are already dipping a toe in a future where we may not necessarily need a new console to access the latest games.
Take this concept and apply to the next-generation, we could have games simply defined as ‘Xbox games’ accessible on the current models and beyond.
This could open up a revolutionary new landscape where new titles are not simply gated by console generation like we have traditionally enjoyed.
The real difference and demand for getting a new console in this scenario would be purely around performance. Similar to the PC market.
The potential for Microsoft to make their future developed titles accessible anywhere, even on the current Xbox One with slightly lesser performance, is massive.
As technology and online services get better, the gap between console generations narrow, so giving gamers the option to play all old and upcoming titles on all current and new consoles would be a popular and shrewd move to say the least.
Rumours surrounding Lockheart, the reported codename for a disc-less and cheaper scale console, could hint at what Microsoft has planned.
When coupled with the tantalising prospect of Project xCloud, Microsoft’s streaming technology aimed at making games accessible on any device, you have a recipe for success.
This would leave the door wide open for Microsoft to really capitalise and define what the next-gen is.
Instead of just launching a more powerful console, we could also have a streaming/download service which can be accessed on any device…
If you really want a dedicated machine you can buy a cheaper, download-only console or beefed up, premium Xbox to enjoy the service on.
Suddenly, platforms are no longer just defined by the console, but by the online service in which we can access the games.
Now that would be something.
While they may be lacking the exclusives this generation, Microsoft has opted for a long-term strategic approach, which I think will yield a serious advantage next-gen.
They have recently acquired some extremely talented studios develop more first-party games.
Plus, services such as Game Pass and inclusion of backward compatibility have been a real hit with gamers, and this gives them a meaty platform going forward if a Netflix-style model is going to be favoured.
I expect Sony to also have some form of backward compatibility with their expected PlayStation 5, after all, it would be a real travesty if we needed to hop between machines to revisit one of the strongest first-party line-ups ever currently being enjoyed on the PS4.
Sony also have PlayStation Now, which actually features a lot of the same titles as Game Pass as well as some excellent PlayStation exclusives, but with it being a tad more expensive and not adding new first-party releases day and date… it has a little catching up to do with Microsoft’s offering.
Subscription-based services are now commonplace. Having a plethora of content to choose from and updated with new, must-consume stuff is excellent.
It is not outside the realms of possibility for both Microsoft and Sony to extend their current subscription models to players next-gen and make this the next real must-have subscription when buying into their ecosystem.
If anything, I’d be willing to bet that it won’t be long until we see selected third-party deals struck with both to have their latest titles available on Game Pass/PS Now at release.
Subscription service exclusivity could easily tip the scale in one of the others favour.
Now that would be something.
Of all the people most ravenous for next-gen, it is the hardcore audience, and I don’t think they will be forgotten.
The previous two possibilities would be welcomed by the hardcore, but they both suggest a more ubiquitous, casual-friendly approach to their offering.
I expect both Sony and Microsoft each to kick off the next-gen with a behemoth of a console, solely aimed at the hardcore audience seeking out that performance potential.
We have already seen both companies explore this with the Xbox One X and PlayStation 4 Pro, and I would expect whatever meaty successor to be in-line with this iterative approach, with mid-generation updates expected afterwards.
So while I am not expecting a massive shift, I wouldn’t be surprised to see both provide a premium console that offers a little more juice than the Xbox One X.
This should keep things under the £450/$500 marks and shouldn’t put off early adopters (too much).
Where it gets interesting is how each approach the rollout of their new consoles.
Like Sony, Microsoft is expected to launch a more powerful, traditional console in 2020, what many now know under the codename ‘Project Scarlett’ or ‘Anaconda’.
This means punters have an option to go large with ‘Anaconda’ or save pennies and access the titles with a less souped-up version on ‘Lockheart’.
With Sony expected to launch just a single console in the PlayStation 5, this potential for a more option-led, consumer-friendly approach with Microsoft could benefit them massively.
This isn’t to suggest a winner in a ‘console war’ (which is for babies btw), but rather hint at a future which is pointing towards a change in approach from both.
Now that would be something.
It goes without saying, but take every word here as intended… with the largest mound of sea salt and as pure speculation for some dialogue.
Regardless of what the next-gen really looks like remains to be seen, but I think we can all agree that there is huge potential here for our traditional expectations to be challenged thanks to innovations and advances in service, technology, and consumer trends.
What do you think? Get in touch with us on Twitter @gaming_reel to let us know what you would love to see next-gen.