With new consoles due out by the end of the year, there’s a lot of anxiety around spending in upwards of $500 on a current-generation console. It’s understandable. I was at the center of it all when it happened in 2001 and again in 2006, back when I worked retail, so I get the question a lot. People feel like they’re regretting a great experience by investing now instead of a year from now. Here’s a hint: you’re not.
First off, there’s more content for these consoles than ever. Not just quantity, but quantity of quality at that. This was the generation that proved that even though a firmware update could rewrite everything the console stood for into something better (or worse!) and potentially make it the last batch of consoles anyone ever needed, people wound up feeling their natural Circadian console rhythm and the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 were simply no longer fresh. Seven years is longer than the usual half-decade these things are supposed to last and it’s starting to show.
That said, this was also the first generation in which you didn’t need big bucks to get a console games to store shelves; you didn’t need the store shelves at all! Introducing Xbox Live Arcade and the PlayStation Network seems like old hat to those who were downloading games on demand from Steam when they launched, but they opened up a whole bunch of cheaper games from a smaggle of new developers that otherwise wouldn’t have been able to. Even if the PlayStation 3 launched a year later and wound up way behind in the North American races, they still wound up with a plethora of games as well.
Secondly, everyone still owns one. If you buy a game today, chances are there might still be someone else playing it, too. Unless you’re a titan of industry like Ubisoft, Electronic Arts, or Activision, you’re still not developing for these new systems, you’re developing for the current ones and will continue to do so for the next few years. There are 77 million Xboxes in the wild and approximately the same amount of PlayStation 3s, so publishers are still going to design for the hardware with the install base, rather than the one with none. (As a result, many of those “next-gen” games are gonna look like upscaled current-gen games” anyway.)
Finally, they’re cheap. Okay, there are many more reasons you should whip out that plastic now instead of later, but one of the biggest is that it’ll hit you a lot softer now than later. Sure, these consoles cost twice as much as the last-gen consoles of the previous transition – inflation be damned – but they also offer far more value than those consoles ever did. Analysts are blowing their own minds with guesses on how much this new hardware will cost and whether or not they’ll have subsidized options if you sign a contract (I think they will), but they will no doubt be considerably pricier than current offerings. Keep that in mind.
So should you sink the dollars for a current console? Absolutely! Sure, the number of blockbuster games is gonna fall off starting next year, but let’s be honest, you’d be stupid not to.