It’s 2022, and we’re currently a year and a half into the generation of the PS5 and the Xbox Series X|S. But if you look at the current state of gaming, you’d be forgiven for not noticing that. In fact, I own both a PS5 and an Xbox Series S, and I spend most of my time playing the same games I was playing on the PS4. Red Dead Online, No Man’s Sky, Minecraft, Hitman 3, and Final Fantasy XIV are among my most-played titles on these new consoles.
And when you look at this year’s biggest games so far — games like Elden Ring, Horizon Forbidden West, and Dying Light 2 — all of them are available on last-generation consoles. Sure, I’ve played a couple things that are exclusive to the new gen, such as Deathloop and the Demon’s Souls remake, but owning multiple current-gen consoles kind of feels a bit unnecessary (I admit that I appreciate the shorter load times, though).
And when you look through a list of games coming out this year, you see a lot of stuff that is still playable on the older consoles. For example, God of War: Ragnarök, Saints Row, and Stray — just off the top of my head — will be cross-gen titles.
This is unusual. Sure, there’s always some carryover between generations, especially in the first year of a new console generation, but the PS5 an Xbox Series X|S are approaching their second birthdays while the PS4 and Xbox One refuse to go softly into that good night.
There are reasons for this lag, of course. The new consoles came out during a global pandemic, and supply-chain issues have slowed both production and distribution of these machines. This was always fated to be a rough transition, and developers can be forgiven for their hesitation to forsake the much larger install base of the older machines.
But, as an owner of current-gen consoles, I’m starting to feel like the future of gaming is being held back by this fact. The most exciting thing about a new console generation is that it opens up things that simply weren’t possible before. Those possibilities, however, don’t really exist if games are designed to be cross-generational. Sure, the new-gen versions are going to be prettier and they’ll run smoother, but the potential scope of these games will always be tied to the earlier consoles.
I admit that I’m part of the problem. I completely skipped titles like Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart and the Yuffie DLC for Final Fantasy VII Remake, opting instead to squeeze every last drop out of games like Hitman 3 and Final Fantasy XIV. I’m sorry, but those games are still absolutely incredible.
So maybe we don’t actually need current-gen exclusives quite yet. When you look at massive titles like Elden Ring, they don’t feel all that scaled back. We’re not yet seeing a lot of cut corners in cross-generational games.
On the other hand, it’s possible we’ve just not noticed those as much because we still don’t know what the current gen is even capable of. What should a truly next-gen game even feel like? How smoothly should it run, and how ambitious should it be? How big should open worlds be, and how far should draw distance be without sacrificing those beloved 60 frames per second?
I don’t have answers to these questions, and therein lies the problem. We’re living in a period of extended generational lag, and the games that are coming out this year don’t seem like they’re doing anything that would have been impossible in the summer of 2020. And I for one am getting antsy to see what new things this generation is even capable of.
So can we finally say goodbye to the PS4 and Xbox One? Isn’t it time to move forward instead of being perpetually chained to the previous gaming generation? This is technology we’re talking about, after all. While it’s fine to be nostalgic about the past, there should also be some forward momentum propelling us into the future.
And I’m just waiting to see what that future might look like.