A lot of thoughts were going through my mind during E3 last week. Most notably: “Is there a good reason to own a PS5 or Xbox Series X?”
That rose to the top despite competition from such thoughts as, “why did Square Enix devote over 20 minutes of its presentation to a game for which it had only about five minutes of footage”, “wow Herlock Sholmes is a himbo”, and “this normie says he hates chaos, but he just knocked over a tower so he could use it as a bridge”.
I’ve been asking myself this question for a while. In fact, it has been on my list of post ideas for months. I always figured some killer app – a game so compelling it drives sales of a console – would emerge before I got around to writing this, but that didn’t happen.
Instead, an event meant to build hype for forthcoming video games became the catalyst that finally led us here.
But I want to ask another question too, one that wasn’t in my mind when I was first thought up this idea: is it a bad thing if there isn’t a good reason to own a PS5 or Xbox Series X?
Initially, my answer was yes. But today, I think I’m leaning more toward “probably not”.
Can’t touch this (next-gen console)
I’ll be honest, I didn’t watch Microsoft’s E3 presentation. I skipped it because I’m fairly certain I will not own an Xbox Series X any time soon. (Nor do I expect to come into a Series S. In this article, when I say Series X, I mean both X and S.)
That’s partly my fault since I’m more of a Playstation and Nintendo gamer. But complex socioeconomic factors are also to blame.
In case you were unaware, the world has been dealing with a pandemic since March 2020. In response to this event, many workers turned their homes into offices. People bought fewer cars and instead purchased devices that their employer had previously provided at work. Or maybe they were just improving their setup. Either way, people’s purchasing habits changed.
This widespread shift in behaviour caused knock-on changes in demand for microchips. Automobile chip production was halted so manufacturers could meet the demand for chips used in newly popular devices.
Months later, everyone realized they could still stunt on their neighbours with a new car. Hell, a pandemic might be the best time to drive up in a crispy Audi since everyone will be home to see it. Demand for automobiles spiked well before anyone predicted it would, which created a new change in demand for chip manufacturers.
Thing is, the demand for device chips didn’t really go away, so chipmakers couldn’t just pivot again. Demand outstripped supply, which led to the shortage we’re still dealing with. This is a fairly simplistic retelling, and many other factors are contributing to the shortage. Reuters wrote a good explainer that goes beyond what I can cover here.
Do you know what else needs chips and lots of them? Video game consoles. Sony and Microsoft have been struggling to get their hands on them just like everyone else. That’s why nerds like you and I have to sign up for 17 mailing lists so we can wait in a digital line for an hour until other people buy that PS5 or Xbox Series X we hoped to get.
A PS5 or Xbox Series X are hard to find
This chip shortage is a big reason why I now think it’s probably for the best that I’m so unenthused about owning a PS5 or Xbox Series X.
Demand is already way out of whack. Chipmakers probably don’t need every nerd to be absolutely drooling at the thought of buying one of these consoles. People like me, with a big backlog of last-gen JRPGs that could probably run on a TI calculator, are making their lives a little easier.
I’m also interested in making my life as easy as possible. And there ain’t nothing easy about the process one must go through to buy one of these systems.
The mailing list thing above was a joke. The optimal method appears to be opening several browser tabs and refreshing them all until stock appears. Thankfully, there’s a Chrome extension for that. Check out YouTuber Ultimate Tech Hub’s video on how to get a PS5 for several other helpful tips if you are interested.
Unfortunately, no software exists to help people who opt to camp outside of stores to get their PS5 or Xbox Series X. But even the browser extension method is a bit much for my taste. I don’t want to install software just to help me more easily do something I only plan on doing once. Especially when I can avoid the problem by waiting a while.
If it were anything other than a video game console, I wouldn’t even half consider it.
It’s all about the games
Of course, we are talking about game consoles. For nerds like you and me, that box means thousands of hours of fun. It means new worlds to explore and new experiences to have. No, I don’t want to put in the work to get a PS5 or Xbox Series X immediately, but I can fully understand the thought process of those who do.
In fact, I might have even been among them if the available games were more enticing. This is absolutely a subjective take, but I just don’t care about any games out on either system nor any that are coming out in the near future.
I also don’t think there has been anything you could consider a killer app for either PS5 or Xbox Series X. But honestly, there rarely is within a system’s first year. Looking back at PS4 launch titles, I’m similarly unimpressed by what I see. Wikipedia lists Bloodborne as that system’s first killer app, although I bought the system to play Final Fantasy XV. Those games came out in March 2015 and November 2016, respectively, both long after the PS4’s November 2013 launch.
Even still, just as there are film buffs who can be found at the theatre each weekend no matter what’s playing, there are gamers who want to check out the latest releases even if they aren’t genre-defining titles. For them, having access to the latest systems right away is going to mean a lot more than it would for someone like me. And even I know that games have a best-before date. It makes way more sense for that type of gamer to play those games as soon after their release dates as possible.
For me, buying a PS5 or Xbox Series X would be an act of future-proofing. I’m preparing for three years from now when some obscure JRPG finally gets localized. Until then, it would just be a $500 YouTube/Crunchyroll/Funimation machine.
Maybe I’ll own a PS5 or Xbox Series X by 2023
So yeah, I’m pretty okay with not owning a PS5 or Xbox Series X for the time being. Though I will admit that seeing my friends struggle to acquire one has instilled a weird sense of FOMO in me.
Of course, then I watched E3 hoping to learn more about Final Fantasy XVI, only to be let down. Leaving a presentation disappointed is an E3 tradition. I’m glad to have experienced it again for the first time in two years (the event was cancelled last year because of COVID-19).
Have you managed to get your hands on a PS5 or Xbox Series X, or are you waiting to pick one up as well? Are you not a gamer but nonetheless read this entire post? Let me know in the comments.