Microsoft has confirmed the list of games that are coming to the Xbox Series X/S on launch day. Looking over the titles, there’s a lot to be excited about in terms of what can be played on day one. On the other hand, it’s a pretty disastrous way to sell a piece of $499 hardware. It’s complicated. Thanks to one of the squishiest transitions between console generations we’ve ever seen, both Sony and Microsoft have made strong cases for buying into the next batch of hardware, but also for sitting it out – at least for a while.
There are, indeed, a lot of brand-new titles coming to consoles around when the systems hit in November. Assassin’s Creed Valhalla! Cyberpunk 2077! Watch Dogs: Legion! Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War! The thing is, nearly all of the major releases that are hitting this season are also going to be available on the current-gen consoles, too. When you look at the launch-window releases in terms of exclusives, things get pretty dire. You’ll have to wait about a month for The Medium to launch before you can play a game that was designed specifically with the Xbox Series X/S in mind. Just about everything else that’s coming is either an enhanced version of a last-gen game or something you can also play on PC.
You can make a convincing argument that Microsoft isn’t too concerned about overwhelming players with exclusive titles. Convincing, but weird. And game releases that straddle generations in the first few months following a console launch are nothing new. But the lack of so-called system sellers on Xbox Series X/S (and, as far as we can tell right now, the PS5) is hard to ignore. Strangely enough, that may actually play out in consumers’ favor.
Microsoft has made a lot of noise about the speed of its built-in solid-state drive, and for good reason: as PC owners have known for years, the format offers speeds that are transformative to the overall gaming experience. Load times, while not completely eliminated, have the potential of being greatly reduced. Those little chunks of time add up. Coupled with the ability to freeze and restore multiple game states at a similarly quick pace on Xbox Series X/S, the biggest killer app for next-gen hardware – at least for the foreseeable future – simply comes down to saving time. I’m not knocking that; I hate waiting for things to load as much as anyone. But does that, alone, justify the purchase of a $499 piece of tech on day one? Probably not.
Microsoft and Sony have made it easier than ever to sit out the first few months of next-gen, even as they’re peddling these costly new consoles. A majority of the new games that are coming out have some form of cross-generational support, such as giving you a free upgrade to the next-gen version if and when you decide to make the leap at a later date. Better still, some developers are ensuring that not only will you be able to get the Xbox Series X/S version of the game later on, but that your progress on the last-gen versions will carry forward. That alone is a powerful reason to be patient.
It used to be, you’d be missing out on a slate of games by not jumping on board with new hardware. This time around, you’re really not missing a whole lot by sticking with your Xbox One or PlayStation 5. You’ll absolutely have to watch more load screens, and you won’t get a few bells and whistles such as higher frame rates or ray-traced reflections. I don’t want to minimize how neat those things are, either. But, at the same time, is it worth straining your budget so you can see your character reflected in a bus in Watch Dogs: Legion? I’m confident in coming down on the “nope” side of that argument.
In a few years, this conversation will be moot. As developers become more confident with the hardware (and can afford to completely leave the previous hardware generation behind), we’re going to see some incredible games that will give people compelling reasons to upgrade. But for the time being, don’t beat yourself up if you can’t fit a new console in your budget – understandable, considering the state of the world right now – or weren’t able to snag one in the fleeting moments they were available for preorder. You’ll still be able to play the majority of what those systems have to offer at launch, even if you miss a bit of convenience in the process.