It’s been a turbulent few years for the Xbox Series X and PS5 since their release. But now, well into 2023, console shortages, once commonplace, aren’t what they once were. It is now possible in regions such as the US, UK and Australia to walk into a store and buy one from the shelves or order one online. So it’s time to let Xbox One and PS4 die.
Cross-generational compatibility is nothing new in the modern era of video game consoles. Generally speaking, we see support for older boxes for a transition period of around two to three years before developers focus on the here and now. With the Xbox Series X and PS5, we’re seeing games held back by the need to run on next-gen technology.
It is worth remembering that the XboxOne And PS4 are fast approaching their 10th birthday. Their bespoke AMD GPUs, the Durango and Liverpool, struggle with modern gaming. You can see this in the performance of first-party and third-party titles that see releases on both generations of hardware.
Take God of War Ragnarok running on PS4, for example. It’s capable of sustaining roughly 30 frames per second when running at 1080p. It’s the same for Forbidden Horizon West which has a frame rate capped at 30fps and uses dynamic 1080p (not native Full HD) to keep the game running at a playable level. These are far from ideal circumstances to enjoy big-budget hit titles.
Some best Xbox Series X games are also retained. While Microsoft may boast a few exclusive titles, one need only look up to Elden Ring, which can barely sustain 30fps with frequent frame rate drops and stutters to see the problem. It is clear that the performance is not acceptable.
The impact of inheritance
THE Xbox series X And PS5 are incredibly powerful consoles featuring super-fast NVMe SSD technology, ray tracing, and support for 4K visuals at up to 120 fps. Before the launch of the current generation, there was a huge gap between high-end gaming PCs and consoles; now I think that’s just as true with the Xbox One and PS4 compared to the latest and greatest.
Console parity is the idea that developers deliberately underutilize graphical fidelity and raw performance to match what weaker machines can do. It ensures that you get the same fundamental experience on one platform as on any other – except for reduced visuals, loading times, resolution and frame rate, the game is functionally identical. But that means developers have less reason to dig into new technologies only supported on the most modern consoles. Why spend development resources on advanced lighting techniques like ray tracing when millions of gamers are playing on technology that can’t support it?
It’s not hard to see why developers and publishers continue to support Xbox One and PS4, according to the Global PS4 Hardware Unit Sales, as of March 2022, Sony has sold 117.2 million PS4s. In July of that year, according to a Statistical report, Microsoft had sold 50 million Xbox Ones. There is clearly a large audience with access to this older technology.
However, the PS5 and Xbox Series X launched in November 2020 and are the focus of both companies. If the time and resources spent pumping out acceptable boundary ports on older machines could instead be spent pushing newer versions out, then we could see what the best game consoles are really done. In my opinion, they haven’t hit their stride yet, as we end up only getting slightly prettier versions that run at higher frame rates and larger resolutions. Hopefully, in the not too distant future, we will see what is possible with this technology.