The preface here was always going to be one of clarity; yes, everyone has thoughts on the next console generation and, with solid details slowly trickling though, it’s easy to get carried away. But let’s not forget, half the fun is rollercoaster of guesswork on new features, pie-in-sky hardware specifications and yearnings for launch line-ups.
One needs only cast their mind back to 2016 and the whole pre-Switch reveal NX saga (same tree, anyone?). It’s easy to dismiss speculative musings about the next console generation as frivolous garbage but admit it: you love it.
I’ve gathered some of our willing and able writers here at Rapid Reviews to share their top three most desirable features for Xbox Scarlett (name subject to change) and PlayStation 5 (duh), confirmed or otherwise and, fair being fair, I’ll kick off proceedings myself.
PS Now/Game Pass
After the Xbox One’s rocky start the platform has seen numerous, incremental updates to both its hardware, UI and infrastructure. Arguably the most significant of which came with the evolution of Game Pass.
Game Pass is unequivocally brilliant in providing big-name games, including first-party AAA day and date releases, at a very reasonable monthly cost. The model of allowing full game downloads to ensure your experience isn’t streamed at the whim of a spotty connection is a great compromise. And before you ask, no, I don’t think Stadia’s going to work well when it hits the cooper wires between my house and the exchange. Change my mind, Google.
What’s more, many Developers and Publishers seem very happy with the financial arrangements and other perks. Indeed, Mr Sean Krankle, co-founder of Night School Studio, known for their breakout hit Oxenfree, tackled this topic on IGN’s Podcast Unfiltered, noting that having Oxenfree on Game Pass increased visibility exponentially and “increased our sales everywhere else, on every platform”.
And wouldn’t it be just awesome if Microsoft stopped flirting with Nintendo and had Game Pass jump in bed with the Switch? It’s not hard to see the benefit for both parties in this little romantic arrangement.
So, what about Sony? Their streaming service PlayStation Now is a little lacklustre comparatively so it wouldn’t be surprising to see a soft reboot with a more compelling proposition. Yes, they allow downloads of select titles and recently added the likes of God of War to the catalogue, albeit temporarily, but the infrastructure needs work and the PS5 launch is the perfect time to strike. I want to see the download option, or perhaps a partial download/streaming combination, for all major platform holders.
Interestingly, Microsoft’s Azure cloud technology will be leveraged by both Sony and Xbox. Meaning what? Well, hopefully, a service that can satisfy all. Give me a PS5 Game Pass equivalent and let’s see the full force of Microsoft’s investment in development studios with further launch day releases. Game Pass needs only continue as is. PS Now needs to tap into the PS4 catalogue in a big way and offer it in time for the PS5’s launch next year.
Speaking of xCloud…
Bar visual novels, narrative-driven titles and RPGs with turn-based battles (or you know, games that demo well on a stream because they have slow animations) I’m still not convinced streaming services are going to counter the inevitable input lag, even if Controller input data shoots directly to cream-of-the-crop data centres. But hey, it’s here and it’s going to be big.
Microsoft will make their xCloud services available for the gaming space and Sony will inevitably extend the reach of their platform, possibility using Azure tech, but it’s a more local type of streaming I’m interested in.
Recently, Sony finally added support for a wider range of devices allowing the PS4’s Remote Play to shine beyond the Xperia line and the dusty old Vita (love you, Vita). Well, that’s what I thought until I tried to connect my Samsung S9, stuck on Android 9, using a Dual Shock 4. It said no. Only for Android 10… goddamnit, Sony. Still, I expect this mere wrinkle will be buttery smooth and relegated to the past once everyone gets on-board with the ‘play your games on any device’ mantra. Steam’s streaming works an absolute treat with a decent controller clipped to your phone and this flexibility I hope to see realised in a smarter, more diverse way.
Let’s see Scarlett and PS5 streaming anything you want, stably, from within the home to every device with a screen without faff and barriers. Let’s also see Scarlett allowing streaming to the Nintendo Switch. Because everything should be on Switch.
Backwards compatibility +
Witchcraft was worked into the emulation for the Xbox One, housing both 360 and original Xbox games with a nifty feature that allowed a digital download for a decent selection of your physical games. It took a dedicated team and masses of resources to make it happen but happen it did. With the PC-style architecture of the current console generation and the forthcoming generation adopting a similar approach, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Microsoft simply lift this tech across to the new platform and use a bit of the ol’ brute force to supercharge its emulation. We already know One games will be supported and, with all the ‘pro-consumer’ goodwill moves made to reign in this generation’s PS4 dominance, I wouldn’t be surprised to see support for player’s Xbox One physical and digital purchases when Scarlett launches.
Here’s hoping Sony want the PS5 to match the offering pound for pound (sans the PS3 of course, because come on, who the hell is going to figure out emulation for that crazy Cell chip?).
If either console manufacturer wants a headline-grabbing selling point, something to really get the hardcore gaming crowd going, it would be to give support, not only to the previous generation’s digital purchases but to every single physical disc (again, bar PS3).
It would take an extremely bold step as there’s a lucrative, ‘easy-money’ market in getting your audience to purchase their favourite games for the sixteenth time. PlayStation-wise I don’t see it happening beyond the use of PS4 discs, but one can dream.
Pat Cotter’s Picks
A Better Business Model
I think consoles are a great tool for expanding accessibility and reach for video games. I also hope that this generation of consoles continues to build better business models for both the way consoles and games are delivered.
Microsoft has been a clear leader on this front. Including cross-buy for games on PC and Xbox, offering programs like Xbox All-Access, and of course, the revolutionary Game Pass service. I’d like to see games continue to be available for owners of “pro” models of previous hardware, perhaps with reduced visual fidelity, or via streaming. I’ve yet to feel like I want to buy new consoles, just that I’ll have to if I want to play the newest games. I’d like to see Microsoft and Sony make a better case for them than that.
Services like Game Pass are a step in the right direction. Taking the sting off of buying a new console plus spending hundreds of dollars more on games right away is a nice thing. I hope that trend leaks into Sony’s offering.
Break Down the Walls
It is absurd that it took us this long to develop crossplay between consoles. These boxes need to be more open ecosystems to better reflect the gaming world we live in. There is no reason that a person playing a game on PC shouldn’t be able to play with their friends around the world on Xbox or PlayStation. The only thing stopping this is the corporations’ desire to push closed systems.
Finally, the dam is breaking, and I hope it continues to. I hope that it extends to cross-platform first-party titles. We’ve seen a little bit of this with Microsoft’s acquisition of studios like Obsidian Entertainment and Mojang. Here I hope the flukes of games announced pre-acquisition coming to all platforms extends beyond that. I would hate to see Sony fans unable to enjoy the Outer Worlds 2 just because of an acquisition.
This extends to PC as well. Cross-save between the console and PCs may be a niche feature, but for those of us that would use it, it’s huge. Continuing to connect these devices is a massive thing that will make the transition so much easier.
More Unique Control Methods
VR has opened the door to a world of brilliant games, and Nintendo has used their Joy-Con, peripherals like the Ring-Con to bring unique experiences that offer so much more than sitting on the couch with a controller. I hope that the PS5 and Scarlet deliver new methods of control and interaction that surprise us and get us moving.
From Microsoft, seeing some sort of Hololens interaction would be great, but I think we could also see unique stuff like asymmetric games offering a different experience whether you’re playing with a keyboard and mouse on PC, or a controller on a console. On Sony’s side, a new generation of PSVR offers staggering possibilities.
In both cases, I hope that this new generation of consoles doesn’t just bring prettier games with faster load times. I hope Microsoft and Sony leverage the technology they have to bring new experiences and concepts to the table so that this doesn’t feel like just another generation of boxes under your TV.
Integrated VR at no extra cost: nearly impossible, I get that. However, even something similar to Google Cardboard would be an instant buy for me.
Emulation of the maximum amount of previous-gen titles or at least the older ones in the console line: similar to the SNES & NES on the Nintendo Switch, but with more wanted names. A subscription service makes the most sense for something like that.
Not increasing graphics for a whole generation so that instead they can focus on performance that will not lag under problematic console titles, saving money on the development, money that stays in customer pockets with lower console prices and draws more people to buy consoles earlier, before sales.
Any features you want to see? Hit me up @2DMike3D on Twitter or comment below and I might just compile the best for a new feature!