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The Xbox One X and PS4 Pro prove the old console cycle is dead

For almost all of console gaming history, a game’s graphics were written in stone. Barring remakes and re-releases, Mario 64, Final Fantasy VII, Chrono Trigger, etc, look the same to everyone playing. Unlike PCs, where visual fidelity correlates strongly with your rig (and wallet), consoles democratized the gaming experience.

The PS4 Pro and Xbox One X change all that. For the first time, console gamers have the option to play the same games with better graphics within the same generation. But by the same token, they are also proof the traditional console cycle, predicated on dramatic jumps in visual fidelity, is on the way out.

And it’s about time.

Better graphics, same games

The Pro and X allow developers to enable graphical enhancements for existing games. These high-end console offer advantages like higher resolutions, faster load times, prettier visual effects, and/or better frame rates. That’s all great, of course, but you have to pay an extra $ 100-$ 200 for the benefits.

That’s led to some mixed reactions. To sum up the complaints I’ve read since the Pro and Scorpio were first rumored:

  • Better graphics are nice, but it’s a slap in the face to people who recently bought the “low-end” consoles and can’t afford an upgrade.
  • The Pro and X aren’t worh paying an extra $ 100 – $ 200 for when you’re ultimately playing the same games
  • Consoles are supposed to ensure a consistent, equal experience for everyone involved. The Pro and X separate gamers based on what they can afford.
  • Few people own 4K HDR TVs, so the improvements aren’t as dramatic.
  • The PC Master Race people will tell you that if you want the best graphics, you should build a computer – never mind the fact that consoles offer better bang for your buck.

There’s merit to each of these arguments, but I think they misunderstand Sony and Microsoft’s ultimate game plan.

Fighting over graphics is a losing battle

Sony and Microsoft aren’t simply hoping everyone who can afford it will buy the more expensive console. When Sony recently said the PS4 Pro accounted for “one in five” PlayStations sold, apparently that figure “exceeded expectations.”

In fact, I suspect it’s the opposite; there’s a reason Sony and Microsoft require developers to make any future games compatible with all versions of the PS4 and Xbox One.

Basically, the existence of the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X have the side effect of showing that you don’t need the most powerful games available to play the best games available. After decades of console wars over x-bits and whatever-flops, that’s a big deal.

It’s also not entirely surprising, because leaps in graphics just aren’t what they used to be.

Credit: Nintendo / Instagram
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