A slide TV manufacturer TCL presented during one of its briefings today has caused no small amount of ruckus online, given that it appears to point towards a next-gen console refresh cycle kicking off next year. There is no evidence that this is actually happening and a great many reasons to think it isn’t.
The only companies that know what Sony and Microsoft’s long-term upgrade plans are for the current console generation are Sony, Microsoft, and the company that designs the SoCs, AMD. Anyone else is speculating. Sometimes a peripheral manufacturer or game developer will let something slip, but development knowledge like this is kept under tight wraps and TCL isn’t in the “need to know” category.
Beyond the fact that Sony and Microsoft wouldn’t have shared this information, there are other facets to consider. While both consoles have launched mid-cycle console refreshes in the past, the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 have fewer next-generation titles available at this point in their life cycles than any previous successful platform launch in history.
The Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 are both ~18 months old. Typically consoles launch with a mixture of platform exclusives and some third-party games available on both the previous generation and the new one. Microsoft has put a huge focus on backwards compatibility this generation, so the lack of exclusives for its platform is less surprising, but Sony doesn’t exactly have a ton of next-gen titles, either. If you strip out remakes and upgraded PS5 titles that also debuted on the PS4, the list is even shorter. Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart and Returnal are both well-regarded, and there are more games shipping between now and mid-2023, but the chance of a near-term upgrade is vanishingly small given how little use players have gotten out of hardware they already purchased.
Things Were Very Different in 2016
When the PS4 and Xbox One launched, one major reaction we heard from lots of players, especially Microsoft customers, boiled down to “This is it?” After losing gobs of money on the Xbox 360 and PS3, both manufacturers had targeted more restrained tech specs for their next iterations. Microsoft compounded its problem by making a $100 bet on the future of game controls that didn’t really pan out. Furthermore, 4K TVs, which had been quite new in 2013, were more common by 2016. With a new console generation still some years away, it made sense to launch high-end SKUs that would offer console enthusiasts a better platform to game on.
None of these factors are in play in 2022. The PS5 and Xbox Series X were fabulous deals at launch relative to the amount of gaming PC you could get for the same amount of money. Backwards compatibility and services like Xbox Game Pass have been big draws for Microsoft, while Sony has aimed for more of a regular console cycle with exclusive launch titles, but the adoption rates of both platforms have been depressed by semiconductor shortages, and price gouging. 18 months after launch, at least some would-be adopters are still waiting for these factors to resolve themselves.
Finally, despite TCL’s most fervent hopes, 8K TV is not on the horizon. 8K TV sales have actually fallen and accounted for 0.15 percent of all TV shipments in 2021. This isn’t going to change in the near future, for multiple reasons. Game engines and consoles are nowhere near ready to tackle 8K as a playable resolution and there is no time table for when that is likely to change. There is no push to introduce 8K content on any service. The semiconductor shortage shenanigans that have roiled the market for years now are easing, but they aren’t gone yet, and it’s going to take at least another year before the market entirely returns to normal.
We haven’t heard so much as a whisper about a mid-generation upgrade for either console yet. We don’t expect to for a while.