Are PS4 and Xbox One Finally Out of Date? 

We’re all aware of Xbox Series X|S and PlayStation 5’s tumultuous opening 12 months by now. Chip shortages stifling availability, scalpers extorting those of us genuinely wanting to get our hands on a ninth-generation console. PlayStation more than Xbox but now, in 2024, those issues are historic. Pretty much anywhere they’re on sale we can walk into a store and pick-up an Xbox Series X|S or PS5 right off the shelf. For these reasons, the inevitable grace period for those on prior-gen hardware was extended. The transitional period of cross-generational compatibility – expected to last a couple of years given the period’s duration between last-gen and current-gen – is still being felt today, although the balance of new titles exclusive to modern consoles is starting to turn.

Back in January 2021 Sony were expected to cease production of all PS4 consoles barring the 500GB Slim model. At the same time, the Japanese tech giant pledged support for PS4 for at least another 3 years. In January 2022, Microsoft stopped production of all Xbox One consoles after discontinuing the digital One S and One X that Autumn prior (however, the disc equipped Xbox One S was absent from this announcement). A million PS4s were still reportedly manufactured in 2022, with Xbox One S’s still available directly from Microsoft. Clearly, the shortages suffered by their current-gen line-ups meant both tech giants couldn’t afford to stop production of their aging hardware altogether, especially seeing as – predominately in Sony’s case – a slew of cross-generation games were in the pipeline.

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Despite both consoles being readily available today, uptake has been comparatively slow. However, slow in this instance must be stressed as a word not exactly befitting of the numbers sold. As of December 2023, Sony has sold approximately 53 million PS5’s, whilst Microsoft – despite keeping their sales figures under wraps – are estimated to have shipped around 27 million Xbox Series X|S units. The spanner in the works for both companies is the aforementioned slow uptake though. Take Sony and it’s active PS4 users. As of Q2 2022 there were reportedly still 92 million gamers logging into their PS4’s. This is off the back of 117 million PS4 sales worldwide. The figure some 18 months later is likely to be less, of course, but we can do a rough estimate ourselves using PS4’s all-time sales minus PS5’s current units sold – that’s 117 million minus 52 million, leaving 65 million potential PS4 players (assuming all gamers who bought a PS5 stopped logging into their PS4s – unlikely, but you know, this illustrates the point succinctly enough).

The Xbox One series sold 58 million units as of December 2023, including 4 million units sold in 2020 and 2021. Interestingly, 32% of PS4 owners – or 20.8 million gamers – also have an Xbox One. Currently, in 2024, Microsoft’s Xbox Network has 120 million monthly active users. If we subtract Xbox Series X|S’s 27 million sales then we’re looking at 93 million monthly users playing on Xbox One, PC, via apps, or other platforms (again unlikely, but you know, this illustrates the point succinctly enough).

Yes, these are a lot of numbers, and if any of this has gone over your head just know this: there are still, to this day in 2024, millions of players still playing on last-gen hardware. This is significant. Both Microsoft and Sony cannot possibly alienate such substantial numbers, even if we are into the current generation’s fourth year. So, the question of whether PS4 and Xbox One are finally obsolete becomes somewhat moot. The question, really, falls upon the viability of cross-generation games. Is developmental focus on both former and current-gen hardware leading to a lack of innovation? Are developers focusing too much on creating games that’ll function on aging hardware, forgoing all the bells and whistles providing by current-gen?

Both the PS5 and Xbox Series X|S are supremely powerful consoles. On paper, they blow their predecessors out the water. It’s no secret 1st and 3rd party games suffer performance downgrades on decade-old hardware. Some games are simply locked at 30fps when running at 1080p on PS4. Horizon Forbidden West forgoes native full HD when played on Sony’s eighth-generation console. Elden Ring on Xbox One stutters and flutters, clearly showing age-related creaks in Microsoft’s eighth-generation hardware. We surely don’t need to go too deeply into Cyberpunk 2077’s performance on past-gen consoles, which, despite CD Projekt Red’s 2.0 update, still doesn’t perform as the Polish developer intended on Xbox One and PS4.

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The accusation levied upon developers is that they’re deliberately underutilising current-gen capability – ray tracing, 4K at 120fps, that sort of thing, to get their games playing on aging hardware. But is this true? Should cross-generation development cease altogether?

In some games, there’s clear evidence in its gameplay design that it has been built with old platforms in mind, given their proliferation for hidden loading screens every time the characters squeeze through a tight gap. Final Fantasy VII Remake suffered the same abundance of hidden loading screens. Thing is, ask yourself, is this a problem? Is as many gamers as possible getting to play the best games such a bad thing? Is a hidden loading screen really that much of an issue?

There’re further accusations that developers are focusing their efforts on old-generation hardware then upscaling for new. However, games like Resident Evil Village were both developed with current-gen hardware in mind, then downscaled for older consoles. The Callisto Protocol is evidently subpar on old hardware – texture resolution pop-ins, reduced framerates, simplified environmental design, low-poly shadow quality. These downgrades simply aren’t present on the current-gen version of the game.

Perhaps a year or two ago, developers might’ve kept an eye on older hardware, but as already mentioned in this feature, the balance is starting to shift in favour of current gen. Marvel’s Spider-Man 2, for example, is PS5 only. Insomniac Games have stated on record that they opted to focus solely on Sony’s modern console so they could take best advantage of its technical prowess, which perhaps implies the potential to be held back in development should their Spider-Man sequel have been released for PS4 as well. They likely preferred to pool all their resources in developing for the PS5, rather than syphoning a section of their workforce expertise elsewhere.

Downgraded versions of PS4 and Xbox One games aren’t outside the realms of possibility mind, just look at Hogwarts Legacy releasing for past-gen hardware a few months after the game’s initial current-gen release. Microsoft, for their part, are circumventing the need for players to upgrade their hardware to play the latest and greatest titles altogether. Starfield and Forza Motorsport, for instance, are playable on Xbox One so long as they’re streamed via Game Pass Ultimate.

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This does beg the question if consoles as a whole are becoming obsolete, given that all Microsoft gamers require is a strong, fast internet connection to play the most up-to-date games. But that’s a question for another feature, perhaps. For now, what’s evident is this: No, PS4 and Xbox One are not obsolete. In fact, given the rough numbers stated in this feature, their player bases are still larger than current-generation gamers. For this reason, there’s no incentive right now for developers – or indeed Microsoft and Sony themselves – to exclude them from new games. How long this will go on for remains to be seen, but with Microsoft starting to offer their exclusives to other platforms, and Sony attempting to refresh their PS5 in an era where no new 1st party exclusives are planned, the future certainly looks very different now for both companies than to what it did a decade ago.

Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, GamingBolt as an organization.

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