It’s hype season all over again. The new PS5 and Xbox Series X aren’t available for preorder yet, but you’re already organizing your pocketbook and hunting for a poor sap to buy your old unwanted console. Thing is, history tells us that you should ignore the console hype. Buying in early just isn’t worth it.
Every day-one warrior has a personal motive. Maybe you don’t want to miss out on the new games or the next-gen multiplayer experience. Perhaps you’re bored from all the social distancing. Or maybe you just like the highs and lows of using a new unpolished piece of hardware. If your motive is worth the money, then hey, buy your console and enjoy it. I just want to help people see through the hype so that they don’t waste their money or lose their excitement for the generation of gaming.
You’re Paying More for Less
The first iteration of a game console is always the worst value. Not because of short-term issues like game selection or bugs (we’ll get to that), but because it’s the most expensive and least powerful version of a console.
Look at the original Xbox One. It launched for $500 in November 2013. Seven months later, Microsoft reduced the Xbox One’s price to just $399. The original 500GB Xbox One fell to $350 when the 1TB model launched in 2015, and it finally dropped to around $250 when Microsoft released the 4K-capable Xbox One S in 2016. Today, you can buy 4K Xbox One S bundle for about $250, and there’s a good chance that you don’t even own a 4K TV yet.
This trend happens every generation with every console. Microsoft and Sony lower their prices while adding tiny hardware fixes or upgrades to their console. A system that’s manufactured six months after launch, for example, may address minor issues with overheating or joystick drift and cost less than a day-one console. Waiting a few months to buy a console can save you a hundred bucks, and waiting two years could ensure that you get extra features, better performance, and higher resale value.
But hey, what’s the fun in waiting to buy the next Xbox or PlayStation? Isn’t a higher price tag worth all the new games that you get to play?
What’s the Rush? There Aren’t Any Good Games.
A console is useless without games. And historically speaking, it takes a few years for a console to build up a library of worthwhile titles. So, why buy in on launch-day when you could wait, cop the console at a lower price, and enjoy a couple of games that you’re actually interested in playing?
Take a minute to look at Metacritic’s highest-rated Xbox One games for 2013 and 2014. If you woke up in 2014, how many of these games would you buy at full price? Three or four of them? And of the games that you would buy, which ones had a parallel release on the Xbox 360 and PS3?
Unless you’re shelling out for Forza Motorsport 5 and Sunset Overdrive, the answer is all of them. The must-have Xbox One and PS4 games of 2013 and 2014 all had simultaneous releases on the 360 and PS3 (and they often cost $20 less on previous-gen hardware). You probably blocked out this memory, but it took over a year for Rockstar to port GTA V to the Xbox One and PS4. People who sold their old consoles to upgrade had to sit and wait to play the biggest game of the 2010s.
Yes, the next-gen versions of your favorite games will look fantastic. You’ll almost certainly notice a difference between The Last of Us Part II on PS4 and PS5, just as you noticed a difference between Rise of the Tomb Raider on Xbox 360 and Xbox One. But unless you’re religiously dedicated to these games (everybody has that game), a slight graphics boost isn’t worth the money.
Backward compatibility also factors into this conversation. Sony and Microsoft don’t have the best track record with backward compatibility, but fans are confident that they’ll land the mark this year. A PS5 or Xbox Series X may be worth it if you never got the chance to play PS4 or Xbox One games, or if you never made the upgrade to a 4K PS4 Pro or Xbox One S. (That said, you can grab a used Xbox One or PS4 for bargain-bin prices when their successors launch.)
Day-One Consoles and Technical Issues
Are you a day-one warrior, or are you a beta tester? The Xbox One and PS4 launched with a slew of software bugs, technical issues, and missing features. And while only a handful of consoles suffered from overheating, joystick drift, or broken disc drives, every early-adopter dealt with the small problems—buggy software, insufficient drive space, and a lack of backward compatibility.
The excitement of using a day-one console is undeniable, but early-adopter pain can put a serious damper on the experience. Microsoft and Sony always promise to learn from their mistakes, and they always fall into the same traps. What makes this generation any different? How can we be sure that the next Xbox and PlayStation will have reliable hardware, polished software, or fully fleshed online support on day one?
If anything, the chips are stacked against Microsoft and Sony. They have to manufacture their highly anticipated game consoles during a pandemic. Nintendo can hardly keep its three-year-old console in stock, and preorders for the PS5 and Xbox Series X are going to be bananas. And if we’ve learned anything from Sony and Microsoft’s history with game consoles, it’s that they respond to demand by cutting corners and cleaning up the mess later.
Sure, you probably won’t end up buying a defective Xbox Series X or PS5. But on top of their limited game selection and high price, you’ll likely have to deal with bugs and other quirks. You’re paying extra to beta-test the newest consoles. Maybe that’s worth the money to you, and maybe it isn’t.
Most people are set on their buying strategy. They’ll either buy a next-gen console within a week of its release, or wait a few months to see how things pan out. But whatever you chose to do, I suggest that you ignore the hype and keep a clear head. The Xbox Series X and PS5 aren’t going anywhere. Microsoft and Sony will support their new consoles for at least seven years, and they’re only going to get better and cheaper over time.