As surely as night follows day, the arrival of a new console generation means a big, big change for PC gamers - a dramatic rise in system requirements. The initial reveal of the PlayStation 5 and its specs will essentially set a new minimum benchmark for AAA gaming. We saw it with Gen 8, Gen 7, and Gen 6, and we’re barreling toward the same situation with Gen 9.
It’s not all doom and gloom for you and your trusty rig though. This sweeping change usually takes around 6-18 months after a new console generation’s launch to really take effect. All those cross-platform titles straddling PS4 and PS5 will mean games are geared towards current hardware just as much as they are next-gen goodness. For the short term at least.
While we don’t have the confirmed specs for the 7nm Navi GPU, many of you with high-end hardware will also no doubt have graphics cards and processors that are already a match for the 2020 console. The very nature of evolving hardware means Sony and Microsoft have to stick a flag in the sand at some point, finalising the specs before mass production can begin. Between then and the console launches, PC gaming tech will advance and leave it behind.
The only problem is if we’re not prepared to advance with it. If we take a look at 2013, before the PS4 launched, for example, all of the biggest AAA titles had reasonable specs. The trusty GeForce 8800 GT was still going strong and could play just about anything you could throw at it, along with a small 2GB stick of DDR3 RAM and a modest dual-core processor. That system could let you play Metro: Last Light without an issue.
Fast forward 18 months to early 2015 and suddenly you have The Witcher 3, Rise of the Tomb Raider, Dying Light, and, shudder, Batman: Arkham Knight. The system requirements for these games are nearly unrecognisable compared to the likes Bioshock Infinite, Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, and Saints Row IV.
It’s because every 5-7 years in step with the new consoles, we get a major step up in technology. A rising tide lifts all boats, as the old saying goes. PC gaming will leave these consoles in the dust within a few years, but those few years are the shortest, sharpest jolt you can experience as a PC gamer on a budget. Your options are pretty open here, whether that’s splashing out shiny new hardware now, or holding on until a year into the console generation where you can begin to buy far faster GPUs and CPUs than those available in in the consoles, ensuring you stay one step ahead.
The very nature of console generations means that right at the end of a console generation is where PC gaming’s light shines brightest. Right now, at this moment, high-end PC gaming is so far beyond even the mid-step upgrade consoles like the PS4 Pro that it’s a night and day difference. Higher frame rates, stronger graphical fidelity, and more reliable support at high resolutions. Once the hardware ceiling is raised though, in early 2020 or whenever it happens to be, we’ll enter a mad season in terms of PC upgrades. Games will no longer be developed in mind of your GeForce GTX 1060, they’ll be built towards the PS5’s 7nm Navi GPU. Console gaming is still big business for AAA publishers and it’s here where a lot of attention will be focused.
Back in 2014, Felix said the best time to upgrade and overhaul your PC is around one year after a new console generation launches. What do you think though, are you going to plan ahead and get a beefy upgrade now? Or are you going to wait until we’re a bit deeper into the 9th Gen before taking the plunge? Let us know what you think of the situation below!