Is a Lingering Eighth Generation Actually Good for Gaming?

Ever since the revival of the video game industry around 1985, the business has followed a fairly regular pattern. Every six to eight years, a new generation of hardware is released to the public. For about a year or so, the new generation is supported alongside the old, but that support tends to drop-off significantly by the two-year mark. From that point onward, gaming consumers should expect to see most, if not all, major titles to only be released on the new hardware.

This is the typical pattern all longtime gamers have come to expect, but will it truly be the case this time? Nearly two years out from release, both the PS5 and Xbox Series consoles remain difficult to obtain, and Nintendo still hasn’t shown much interest in releasing a truly upgraded Switch. With these factors to consider, is it reasonable to think that the older machines will linger on for a while longer, and could that actually be a good thing?

Upgrading to the newest system(s) is always a costly choice. Even though they’re typically sold at a loss, new hardware is still always a several hundred dollar investment, and that’s not even including extras like controllers and one’s initial selection of games. It’s a difficult jump to make, but one that must be made sooner or later for those who want to continue to enjoy the industry’s latest and greatest, with “sooner” usually being the preferable choice. This time though, those who’d prefer “later” may finally have their day thanks to the unique situation console-makers are currently in.

Be it PlayStation 5s, Xbox Series consoles or the latest PC tech, it’s all still terribly difficult to get, meaning many gamers are still out in the cold when it comes to upgrading. This is a frustrating situation, but still an opportunity regardless. Since so many potential customers are currently unable to upgrade and likely won’t be able to for a while yet, developers and publishers will either have to continue to support the older systems or simply lose out on a lot of money. So, those who either can’t upgrade or would prefer to wait don’t have to worry about being left behind just yet.

Another potential benefit here is the temporary slowing of graphical development. Sure, that doesn’t exactly sound great at first, but consider the idea. The cost of AAA game development has exploded over the past several years, and ever-improving visuals are one of the driving factors behind that. With the pressure to keep pushing the envelope temporarily lessened, perhaps developers can have a chance to better hone their techniques using the current technology rather than having to so quickly adapt to the new stuff. Of course, it may that the process simply doesn’t work that way, but any lessening of pressure can only be a good thing, right? Perhaps we’ll even see it reflected in things like game monetization models and such (that is, one would hope so).

Annoying and unfortunate as these shortages and delays are, there are truly some good things to be had because of them. Those who can’t acquire the new hardware needn’t necessarily scramble to get it since the old systems will have to be supported for a while longer, and game makers may be getting a little bit of a reprieve when it comes to pushing the visual envelope.

Those who’ve already managed to get the latest and greatest may not appreciate the technological bottleneck that the continued support of the older systems may impose, but that problem will likely only be temporary. This is only a slowing of progress, not a stall. Once supply issues are sorted out, the normal pace will likely resume and everyone who wants to get the most out their ninth generation hardware will absolutely be able to. For now, though, perhaps a little breather can be a good thing.