Whether you’re a PlayStation pro or an Xbox expert (or, indeed, a Nintendo know-it-all), you’ll probably agree that gaming is in a strong spot right now.
With huge titles available on all three competing ecosystems, as well as subscription services bringing even more value to the table, gamers have more choice than they ever have when it comes to entertainment.
Of course, change is inevitable in the gaming world, and sooner or later, the next generation of gaming will loom large, even though it’ll likely feel like the current generation is still just getting started.
Here are 15 things we think you should know about next-gen gaming (by which we mean the generation that will come after the PS5, the Xbox Series X/S, and the Switch).
1. It’s a way off yet…
We’ve probably got quite a long way to go before we even start hearing rumours about the next generation of consoles.
All told, we don’t expect to be hearing anything about the PlayStation 6 or the next major Xbox console until at least 2027, and we’d be surprised if Sony and Microsoft didn’t hold out until 2028 to announce anything concrete.
2. …unless you’re Nintendo
With that said, Nintendo will likely announce a successor to the Switch sooner rather than later.
The current console is relatively underpowered, even for the games being developed exclusively for the system by Nintendo, and so a new Switch almost seems inevitable. A new system was apparently demoed during this year’s Gamescom conference, too, so it may not be very long until we hear something.
3. SSDs are here to stay
The mechanical drive is a thing of the past. All hail the solid state drive and its reduced loading times!
In all seriousness, we fully expect that the next generation of consoles will embrace the solid state drive. Loading times have been drastically reduced, draw distances have been increased, and general performance has been improved by the PS5 and Xbox Series SSDs, so expect that trend to continue.
4. We could be heading for a discless future
If a recent Xbox leak is to be believed, then Xbox could be targeting discless consoles for its hardware’s future.
This approach would make a certain kind of sense for Xbox; Game Pass is the company’s biggest selling point (arguably, at least), and so moving away from physical media and towards a Game Pass-heavy strategy would be logical. It remains to be seen whether Sony will follow suit, however.
5. Cloud computing will be big
Cloud gaming is becoming a huge deal in the industry, with the UK’s CMA even blocking the Microsoft-Activision Blizzard deal on the basis of cloud gaming concerns.
We can therefore expect cloud gaming to take centre stage in the next generation as well, with games in theory taking advantage of hybrid computing to offer even more impressive experiences without a need for massively upgraded hardware.
6. 4K60 will be the big boast
The PS5 and Xbox Series X/S seemed to promise the ability to game at 4K with a smooth 60fps frame rate, and while that’s achievable in some games, that boast appears to have fallen a touch short.
As such, the PS6 and new Xbox will likely aim for this target anew, but with renewed hardware and the potential of cloud computing, they may well get much closer to reaching the goal.
7. Ray tracing will be a big deal
At the moment, some current-gen games support a basic version of ray tracing, but they often have to make fairly big compromises to accommodate it.
The PS6 generation will focus on ray tracing as a matter of course, with realistic lighting and visuals made possible by this technology with far fewer compromises thanks to better hardware.
8. Subscription services will be king
On a service level, we can expect both PlayStation and Xbox to lean heavily into the subscription services they currently offer, potentially even reinforcing those services for subscribers.
Xbox Game Pass and PlayStation Plus will become the cornerstone of both companies’ approaches to console gaming, with the different exclusives available on those services possibly even deciding the generation’s “winner”.
9. Nintendo won’t want to compete
As usual, for the next generation, you can expect Nintendo to adopt a less competitive, more adjacent approach to the console gaming “war”, such as it is.
The Switch 2, or whatever it ends up being called, won’t have hardware specs to compete with the PS6 or the Xbox Series successor. That’s par for the course with Nintendo, and we don’t expect it to change.
10. Cryptocurrency could become a big deal
Despite reports that the NFT bubble has burst and that cryptocurrency could be many years away from being viable as a genuine currency, Xbox is apparently targeting some kind of crypto wallet for its next Xbox.
That’s according to the September Xbox leak, which may or may not still be true (and should be taken with a grain of salt anyway). Again, we’re not sure whether Sony will follow suit.
11. Backwards compatibility will continue
It’s becoming harder and harder for companies to justify not including backwards compatibility for their new consoles. The PS5 plays PS4 games and the Xbox Series X/S plays Xbox One games (as well as Xbox 360 games and even original Xbox games).
As such, the next generation will likely continue this approach, with PS5 and Series X/S games being playable on the new hardware.
12. Mid-generation refreshes might be a thing of the past
While Microsoft is apparently planning a mid-generation refresh of its Xbox Series X console, there doesn’t appear to be a significant one in the wings for the Xbox Series S.
The Series X refresh doesn’t renew the console’s internals much, either, so the mid-generation PS4 Pro refresh could be a thing of the past, a short-lived gimmick that’s been retired as quickly as it was introduced.
13. The VR battle lines will be drawn
At the moment, Microsoft doesn’t seem particularly interested in VR as a concept. The company hasn’t introduced any kind of VR headset for its Xbox lineup, after all.
Sony, meanwhile, has gone all-in on VR with the PlayStation VR2 headset. The battle lines will become even more entrenched in the next generation, although Microsoft might well cave and release a VR set of its own.
14. Consoles could be upgradeable
Right now, the right to repair is a big debate around the world when it comes to consumer electronics. Many consumers want to be able to swap out components in their consoles rather than just get blanket replacements.
Expect this debate to stick around for the PS6 and New Xbox generations, as consumers become more dissatisfied with major companies’ approach to right-to-repair.
15. Accessibility is the future
Last but not least, we’re predicting an even bigger shift towards accessibility and inclusion when it comes to the next console gaming generation.
More and more companies are waking up to the fact that many potential gamers can’t engage with systems thanks to hardware that feels exclusionary, and accessibility initiatives are springing up everywhere. We expect this to continue with the next generation, too.