Another day, another rumor. The latest safe-as-houses and therefore likely eventually true claim discharged from some dark corner of the internet where somebody heard it in a Discord server who heard it off somebody in a Twitter DM is that the PlayStation 5 Pro is coming, and that it’s coming at some point next year.
This is probably a fairly safe claim. Mid-generation refreshes from Sony and Microsoft are now the norm, and if you look at the gap between the PS4 and PS4 Pro – three years – it lines up that we should probably get a new machine in the next 18 months. Even if anonymous sources turn out to be nothing, this is a safe-as-houses prediction. We can assume it’s happening. But… I’m just not excited.
In previous generations, I’ve always been chomping at the bit for a refresh. DS Lite, PS4 Pro, New 3DS, and even the Xbox 360 S (which abolished the red ring of death for good), these were all thrilling hardware launches for me. This time, though, this generation… I’m just not sure I can be bothered?
Part of it, I think, is down to the cadence of this generation so far. We’re three years in, but the combination of a bunch of cross-generation games and a generally slow tempo of must-have new-gen games has really resulted in it feeling like the generation has barely started. PS5 has had a few truly beautiful bangers, to be fair – but compared to this same point in the PS4’s life cycle, it feels like a serious step down.
The situation over on Xbox is arguably worse. Series X, touted by marketing as the “fastest, most powerful console ever,” is hamstrung by its little brother, which all games must be built to accommodate. Meanwhile, Microsoft is generally struggling to spin-up studios and undo the damage done by closures and streamlining in the Xbox One era. The acquisition of Bethesda is set to pay dividends this year with Starfield and Redfall, but nevertheless, this generation feels to have had a much more truncated stat.
The result is curious: I’m struggling to see how I’d get hyped for a PS5 Pro (or an upgraded Xbox for that matter) in the next year. I feel like I’ve hardly seen the full potential of the boxes I have. I’m not at that point where I can feel the hardware stretched and am ready to see potential extended by better hardware. I am at that point with Switch – I’m bloody ready for something new – but in the midst of a cost-of-living crisis, the idea of spending oodles of cash on a mid-gen upgrade is difficult to justify, especially with where new-gen console exclusives have been at so far this generation.
In fact, the single most-exciting thing about a refresh of this generation’s consoles would be to see them get a little smaller, cooler, and quieter, which isn’t even guaranteed with specced up models. The Xbox One X was smaller than most of its predecessors, but the PS4 Pro was larger.
Part of this isn’t just a hardware problem, obviously. It’s about Covid-related delays to game development, which have helped to contribute to the meandering tone of the start of this generation. It’s also about spiraling cost and time sink that is big-ticket game development in 2023: everything is taking longer. Development cycles appear to be stretching, but the cadence of hardware releases don’t appear to be slowing at the same rate. There’s a mismatch.
Maybe, come 2024, I’ll be changing my tune. Maybe the next 18 months will deliver games that’ll make me feel as though I’ve truly got my money’s worth from the boxes that launched in 2020. Maybe, too, I am just spoiled by my top-line gaming PC. And maybe I’m just getting a little bit older and more boring.
But all I know is, as someone who was always there day one for this sort of stuff, right now the thought of a current-gen hardware refresh does absolutely nothing for me. I just want the generation to kick up a notch first. It all begins and ends, after all, with games.