Why Next-Gen Consoles Will Feel Underpowered in a Few Years

Are the next-gen consoles under-powered? Can developers access the majority of their power too early in the game?

Are the next-gen consoles under-powered? Can developers access the majority of their power too early in the game?

I’ve been wondering about this ever since the new consoles were announced.

In previous generations, especially on the PlayStation side, new hardware always presented developers with quite the hurdle. Typically, it would take several years before designers really started to feel comfortable with the new architecture. To this day, many creators believe they never fully maxed out the PS2, for example.

However, the trend heading into this generation was similar for both manufacturers: Accessibility. They wanted developers to be able to dive right in. As such, gamers would get better-looking and better-performing games earlier in the generation’s lifespan.

In other words, we wouldn’t have to wait for the true “next-gen” experiences.

But there’s a flip-side to the “accessibility” coin, and it’s only logical

Okay, so if developers can tap into more of a system’s power earlier, this means there won’t be that much power to find, yes? This has been the problem that I’ve been grappling with for a while: Do we prefer instant gratification over the slow yet significant increase in graphical presentation and overall gameplay performance? Is it better to vindicate the pricey purchase of a new machine right off the bat?

The trade-off seems clear to me: As time goes on, I think you’ll actually start to see some stagnation. The last era of gaming stretched on for a long time; longer, in fact, than any generation before it. Analysts were saying the industry was suffering from “generational fatigue.” Well, what if that happened even earlier for the PS4 and Xbox One? What if The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt really is pushing both consoles to the maximum (as developer CD Projekt Red has already claimed), and that’s the limit?

That being said, we shouldn’t forget another factor.

Perhaps developers will simply find power they didn’t expect to find

This is possible, too. Maybe designers will continue to locate more power in each platform as time goes on. Besides, they’ll definitely become better and more efficient when working with that technology, so it’s undeniable that games should get at least a little better. The whole “hidden power” argument for PlayStation consoles has become a punchline but in truth, every last developer will tell you they continued to find more capability in each PlayStation platform. That can happen again, can it not?

I’m not so sure about the Xbox side, as their architecture has been more accessible right from the get-go. Even so, overall, I think we won’t see as big a technical leap during this generation as we have in previous eras. The question is: Do gamers care?

About the author


A gaming journalism veteran of 14 years, a confirmed gamer for over 30 years, and a lover of fine literature and ridiculously sweet desserts.