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Are Consoles Really, Really Dead This Time?

I’ve been doing this since 2009, so I’ve heard a “consoles are dead” story or two. Each time they’ve been proven wrong. They’re based on faulty assumptions, or a misunderstanding of the gaming audience. This time feels different.

New Consoles

I still don’t think consoles are going away. There will always be room for a box next to your TV. But it’s hard to see where the narrative falls apart in 2024. The whole notion of buying into a walled garden, a device that is at least a generation behind the biggest tech things happening on PC, feels antiquated. People holding on to the idea that Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo can just keep doing their best for decades to come are naïve. Something needs to give.

You can’t look all these job losses, at the stagnant number of console sales, at the blasé nature of this generation and think this can just carry on as normal. Genuinely – who would buy a PlayStation 6 knowing that their PlayStation 5 will be just as good for five or six years to come? Chances are, that’s what you’ll be getting. An upgrade that’ll make things a little smoother, with raytracing rather than baked-in lighting. And what does that say about the PlayStation 7?

Some will upgrade to the next generation as soon as they are available. It’s what I’ve done since the Xbox 360 launched and it’s what I’ll continue doing too. But there is no mass market appeal for a device that offers such a minimal upgrade over what we already have.  The leap from PS3 to PS4 felt tiny at the time, but compared to the leap between PS4 and PS5, it was a chasm.

There’s been a lot of talk about the future of the industry lately. It’s obvious why.

The Changing Nature of Consoles

When you look at the concerns Sony has had over its profitability, or the moves Microsoft are making to for Xbox, or just the general talk about sustainability, you have to question where things go from here.

The average age of the people buying consoles is rising. Younger people are as happy on a tablet or phone as they are booting up a dedicated device. Interest in the Pro version of the PlayStation 5 is low. It seems few people are choosing to upgrade their Xbox Ones to Series X devices. That’s an issue that’ll continue going forward. I’m content with my consoles, and with my Gaming PC – what can anybody seriously offer me at this point?

Reducing costs? Not happening. Better games? Let’s face it, cross-gen is forever now, because that’s the only way to afford to make things. Exclusives? Increasingly, the answer will be very similar to point two. Better graphics? What does that even mean at this point?

As someone who is not only a core gamer, but has had this as part of my career for over a decade, I should be first in line for these devices. And yet I’m as likely to buy them out of habit than necessity.

Consoles aren’t going away. The convenience and relative cost makes them more attractive to many than PCs. But we’re on a precipice here. Advances have slowed, costs have increased, and they’re not coming down. That’s the reality of the situation. And console manufacturers have to figure out all these moving pieces before it’s too late.


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blank Mat Growcott has been a long-time member of the gaming press. He's written two books and a web series, and doesn't have nearly enough time to play the games he writes about.

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Twitter: @matgrowcott