Are the next generation of gaming consoles worth getting excited about?

Ah, the next generation of consoles. Come November, we'll all be salivating at the prospect of gaming at 60 frames per second in glorious 4K while games load instantly thanks to ultra fast SSDs. It will be absolutely beautiful my friends. 

The problem is I'm not that excited. 

Technology is a wonderful thing and I'm sure the raw power of AMD's Zen architecture combined with all the wonderful guffins stuffed inside these boxes will be amazing. But it all boils down to gameplay in the end and I wonder whether the next generation will make significant improvements in that area. 

Graphics, for example, have changed so much over years, but, for some genres, gameplay has remained the same. Open world FPS games like the Far Cry franchise have had the same gameplay since Far Cry 3. How will the new tech improve things here? Things might load quicker and the environments will probably be a lot prettier, but if there's no change in the formula, what's the point?

Given that next generation games will probably end up costing around $70/£65 and systems could be anything from $500/£499 to $450/£400, there needs to be a strong case for investing them. Pretty graphics alone, for me, doesn't do the job. 

Nintendo: A Lesson In Maximizing Hardware

Nintendo has done a great job of maximizing power from limited technology and they serve as a good example of how to make the most of your existing hardware. 

Take their portable hardware, for example. The Game Boy wasn't the most powerful portable, with Sega's Game Gear and the Atari Lynx offering a colour screen and more power. But it had a great library of games that kept you hooked: Super Mario Land, Tetris, Dr. Mario, Mega Man IIThe Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening, Pokemon Blue (and Red) and so on. 

The 3DS is one of the world's most highest selling portable consoles, outselling Sony's PSP and PS Vita, both of which offered greater visuals and some amazing games. I loved my PSP and it had a great library (including God of War: Chains of Olympus, Jak and Dexter: The Lost Frontier, Gran Turismo, Wipeout Pulse and Monster Hunter Freedom Unite) but that wasn't enough to save it. The 3DS showed you can sell games on gameplay alone. 

Nintendo's current console, the Switch, isn't that powerful but first party games like Super Mario Odyssey and Breath of Wild look amazing. Even third party games like Doom (2016) and The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt look good despite the limitations of the hardware. 

I expect Nintendo's successor to the Switch (which will probably release in 2022 or 2023) may end up being significantly less powerful than the PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X (and the Xbox Series S/Project Lockhart) but fans will still buy it because Nintendo knows how to make fun and gorgeous looking games that maximize whatever hardware is available. 

Concluding Thoughts

There is plenty of life left in the current generation and I hope developers still find ways to make the stretch the consoles until there is a compelling argument for switching over. 

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