Tomorrow, Nov. 10, the Xbox Series X and S will launch. On Thursday, Nov. 12, the PlayStation 5 will follow suit. I've had the opportunity to review both systems, and they're both pretty great. But for many, waiting and seeing will be the best option, at least for a while.
Let me get this out of the way now: If you have money to burn and want your games, including backwards compatible games, to play the best they can on a console, go for it if you can find one of the new consoles in stock. But if you're still happy with your PS4, Xbox One or have a capable PC, read on.
The games are still on what you have
To start, both systems have few games that won't be available on the consoles you probably already have. The PS5 is launching with more exclusives, like Spider-Man: Miles Morales, Sackboy: A Big Adventure, Astro's Playroom and the Demon's Souls remake. Of those, Miles Morales and Sackboy will both be on the PS4 as well. Third-party exclusives, like Bugsnax and Godfall will also be on PC, and the former will be on PS4 and Mac, too. That leaves the Demon's Souls remake as the real draw, but you could break out an old PS3 and play that.
On Xbox Series X and Series S, there aren't any exclusives launching with the consoles. The two we expected this year, Halo Infinite and The Medium have been delayed to 2021. Upgrading your Xbox will be like upgrading your PC in that the games will play better, but you won't have access to new ones. You could subscribe to Xbox Game Pass for over 100 titles to play and access to new Xbox Game Studios games at launch, but you could get that access on Xbox One, or, with Game Pass Ultimate or the PC version, your gaming PC or gaming laptop.
Other third-party titles on both platforms, like Assassin's Creed: Valhalla and Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War will be cross generation and on PC as well.
Good luck finding one
Of course, if you haven't pre-ordered, you may not be able to find a new console to buy anyway. I can't tell you if this will be as bad as the RTX 3080 launch, but pre-orders certainly sold out fast.
It sounds like there will be stock at launch, and possibly afterwards. But some stores, like Best Buy won't let you buy the new consoles in stores in an attempt to keep eager gamers from lining up outside a store in the midst of the novel coronavirus pandemic. That will put many units online or for curbside pickup, and possibly in the hands of scalpers (not like scalpers can't go to stores, too).
Simply for your own sanity, it may be better to wait until production ramps up and the systems become more plentiful.
Waiting will also give you a better sense of when games are coming. A trailer for the PS5 says that Gran Turismo 7, Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart and Returnal are all expected in the first half of 2021, with Horizon: Forbidden West anticipated in the second half (the latter is another game that will also be on PS4). On Xbox, we still need a firm date for Halo Infinite.
Patience is a virtue
And waiting, eventually, brings bundles. When I bought my PlayStation 4, it came with Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection. I grabbed a Nintendo Switch with Super Mario Odyssey. And eventually, both of these consoles are likely to come with games, subscription services, or both.
The PlayStation 5, specifically, also needs some time to put out a software update for one of its best features: the ability to use a standard, PCIe NVMe SSD to expand storage. And hopefully, in that time, the prices on the expandable storage for the Xbox will drop from its eye-watering $219.99 for 1TB.
Historically, we've also seen redesigns of systems a few years in. In general, I don't suggest waiting years. It's one thing to suggest people wait for a few more games, it's another to say to wait for a smaller system. But if you do wait that long, which means you have far more patience than me, that's also often when the price drops. If the $499 price tag for the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 and $399 for PS5 Digital Edition are rich for your blood, you can hope for that, but who knows when it will happen?
2021 may be the sweet spot
When Microsoft and Sony started developing and marketing these consoles, neither were expecting a global pandemic. That surely affected game development and definitely affected millions of people's paychecks. Both consoles are very good and I believe they will prove to be worthwhile.
But next year, you'll see a wider array of games, including exclusives for Sony and Microsoft's consoles (Xbox exclusives will also be on PC). You may start to see bundles then too, which are simply a better deal. Features are likely to be more fully baked next year. Also, there are likely to be more monitors and televisions that support HDMI 2.1 so you can get that full 4K 120 Hz experience.
There is no shame in playing on the console or PC you currently have for a few months (and if you updated to the newest parts, your PC is already more powerful, but that's a different story). Will the games look their best? Probably not, but cross-gen games largely have fewer differences anyway. For Xbox players, games that support Smart Delivery will be ready on Xbox Series X and S if you bought them on Xbox One.
And then, when you do make the console generation jump, either as your primary gaming machine or as a partner for your PC, it will be in a fuller, more vibrant time for both the PlayStation and Xbox Series X and S. And, thanks to cross-gen games, you won't have missed too much.
Note: As with all of our op-eds, the opinions expressed here belong to the writer alone and not Tom's Hardware as a team.