Looking Forward: The Next Generation

It’s really bizarre to think about how we are already three years into the current console generation. Part of that is no doubt due to the fact we lost two years because of a pandemic that saw millions working from home and isolating. The PS5 and Xbox Series X/S would no doubt have had a massive midnight launch event like the last generation consoles did. 

But yes, here we are, three years into the current console generation and we have only now really started to see what these machines have to offer. So it feels weird and incredibly premature to start talking about next generation consoles. But, in a massive part due to the leaked Microsoft court documents, we know they are looking at releasing the next generation Xbox in 2028. Although there’s now rumours it may be sooner, which is just a head scratcher move. But perhaps it makes sense. Perhaps Microsoft knows they can bring it forward a year but Sony can’t. Maybe this is Microsoft’s attempt to recreate the success of the Xbox 360 by launching a year earlier than your main rival. 

Each generation becomes insanely more expensive to research and develop, that’s obvious to even the most stupid of people. And that’s just the hardware, that’s not even looking at the resources needed for triple A game development. It’s no secret that out of the three console makers, only one has the money to infinitely continue the hardware race. 

Microsoft generates billions of profits every single month. They’re just insanely wealthy, and they have no problem showcasing that wealth by little things like blowing near $70 billion on Activision Blizzard. If Microsoft wants to release a next generation console one year ahead of schedule, they have the money to make it happen. Now I’m not sure AND has the resources to release the GPU chipsets one year earlier, but maybe there’s something we don’t know about. Probably is to be fair. I doubt many know what AMD have cooking for Sony and Microsoft outside of a select few in the three companies. 

But Microsoft’s deep pockets are what makes them totally able to just chuck money at research for new console hardware and not care much about the costs. I mean Microsoft once spent roughly half a billion on a new controller only to go and use effectively the same one they were already using. Sony doesn’t have near enough infinite money flowing into their bank. Each generation is most certainly becoming a bigger challenge for Sony as costs soar. But Sony can’t not push forward because they’re all about cutting edge hardware and they have to compete against Microsoft. 

Nintendo realised that chasing the latest console tech was going to become an impossible strategy over two decades ago. It’s in part at least why the Wii made use of GameCube hardware and why Nintendo have focused on older hardware ever since. And with the Switch and most likely the next system they release, a huge bulk of the work is being done by Nvidia which no doubt saves huge costs for Nintendo. 

Both Sony and Microsoft love to start the ball rolling around next generation hype over a year prior to launch. Remember when Sony did that interview with Wired about what was the not yet, but obviously was, PS5? That happened in the middle of 2019 and was the first sign that yes, new hardware was on the way and the race for getting as many hyped was on. We are likely going to see this approach again because it seems that’s what works. And both Sony and Microsoft have big investors who probably want to know that their share prices are about to balloon. 

Mark Cerny and his team are going to be under real pressure with the PS6. Sony makes a crap tonne of money on the PlayStation, it’s what pretty much keeps the company afloat. Sony are obviously going to do whatever it takes to keep PlayStation the king of consoles, but at the same time, Sony will be keeping that budget tight. Like real tight. Thankfully Mark Cerny is a crazy intelligent person that may actually be half robot… has anyone looked into that? But he is kinda Sony’s entire reason the PS5 was possible. 

Let’s explain and anger people. As previously stated, each generation is more expensive to research and develop than the last. The PS4 was a well designed console, I mean it had drawbacks but was certainly far better than the Xbox One in its design. That’s thanks to Mark Cerny and the fact Sony ditched their in house custom hardware that was supposed to be a continuation of the PS3, and just went for something more akin to a PC. Something that we are seeing more of with each generation of consoles. But the PS5 isn’t that well designed, I mean look at it. It’s massive. That is obviously intentional and I’m sure Mark Cerny did it knowing it was going to dwarf the competition in terms of sheer size. But I don’t think it’s entirely to allow for better air flow. It is in part because Sony doesn’t have the budget to engineer something as small and well envisioned as the Xbox Series X. Both consoles are using near enough the same hardware but one comes across as having insane amounts chucked at it. 

That budget for the PS6 though I’m sure will be far greater than it was for the PS5 which itself was larger than it was for the PS4, is still going to be tight compared to whatever Microsoft wants to spend. Sony may find themselves at a disadvantage of not being able to afford quite as cutting edge hardware this time around. 

In a way I think it’s sad we don’t have consoles that makes use of custom hardware like the Cell processors. If Sony had been able to stick that thing out, we could still be seeing unique looking and feeling games across both platforms. That’s what custom hardware can do. But that’s for another article. Something to write randomly without any real idea what I’m talking about. Kinda like most gaming sites actually. 

What is interesting is the approach Sony took, and by Sony I mean Mark Cerny, in developing the PS5. By that I mean, Sony’s whole thing ever since entering the console industry was about creating hardware for third parties rather than for their own studios. This time, although it seems there was some discussion with third party developers, a lot of the consultation around going forward with the PS5 was from Sony’s own developers. It’s been long known that Nintendo traditionally built consoles around what they wanted and third party developers just had to make do with whatever the end result was. Looking at you Wii U. But that does seem to have changed to a degree with the Switch, though I have no doubt their own internal teams are listened to the most. And most likely it’s the Mario and Zelda teams that get most input into what they want. 

2024 is likely going to be an interesting year for hardware. It’s half way through the current generation and is rumoured to see a PS5 Pro. Why we need a pro model is beyond me. The reason the last generation saw the mid life cycle slightly more powerful hardware release was due to the rapid rise in 4K TVs. Also the hardware was considerably less powerful when they launched compared to previous generations and the current consoles. It was really a small jab in the arm to keep it limping while Sony and Microsoft hurried to get a next generation console finalised. But this time around, there’s no real benefits to a pro model. As I said somewhere up above in the article, this generation has only really now got started. We haven’t seen what it can do on the current hardware that’s out there. Is a PS5 Pro or Xbox Series Whatever going to significantly change what’s achievable? Is there new TV hardware that’s about to take the world by storm or something?

I recognise R&D starts straight away for the next console as soon as the current one hits the store shelves, and actually often before. So there’s a good likelihood this was always the plan but Covid and the fallout from it has somewhat delayed the end of last generation support and the moment it became easy to find a PS5 or Xbox Series X on shelves. It just feels pointless this time. But hey, we don’t know if it’s real or whether it’s going to be a significant power boost. We know Nintendo almost certainly were planning a pro model of the Switch but the pandemic and shortage in chips required led to almost complete abandonment and what we got was the OLED model. 

Anyway, next year is almost certainly going to see Nintendo reveal and release the Switch successor which I’m going to refer to as Switch 2 because that makes most sense for a name. That means Nintendo will totally do something deranged and slap on a bizarre word that confuses everyone and we get another Wii U scenario. 

What is likely to be the case is that the hardware in the Switch 2 is something near that of the Xbox One though probably slightly under-clocked when docked and significantly more so when in portable. There’s some weird speculation it’ll have ray tracing based on the fact the Nvidia chipset has allowances for it. I really don’t know if that’s true or not. I saw the documentation and just gave up immediately trying to understand it. But this is Nintendo so I’m gonna say I doubt it has ray tracing. It’s going to be extremely cost effective in both manufacturing and performance. 

Judging by how Nintendo is relying so heavily on mainly remakes and remasters over the past few months and certainly going forward into next year, there is the feeling they are busy developing launch year titles for the Switch 2. And with hardware sales slowing right down for the Switch, it makes a lot of sense to launch next year. 

My opinion is that an announcement should be made prior to the end of year financial results, so basically before end of March 2024. The announcement would certainly generate easy internet hype that will also help keep those shareholders happy and the share price high. This would be more so important should other news be not so good reading. 

A Direct in typical E3 period although we know that conference is never happening again, would be a great time to lay out all the meat and potatoes of what you are releasing both first and third party for the launch. Maybe provide other details such as pricing though a solid holiday release date would definitely need to happen. Then one final Direct in the run up to launch just to continue the hype, showcase anything not ready or deliberately left off the previous announcements. 

Again, this is Nintendo so I expect this not to happen and for them to just do something weird and mental. 

Related posts