It’s not a secret, with the PS4 Pro and the Xbox One X, that the PS4 and Xbox One are getting a wee bit long in the tooth. Both systems arrived almost five years ago now, and both had rumors and rumblings a few years before they arrived, warning shots across the bow to their predecessors that the new kids were coming to town. At this week’s E3 presentations, we got a few hints that the new systems will be arriving a bit sooner than we might have expected.
Microsoft’s E3 presentation closed with a note that they were working on the next Xbox, but that really wasn’t unexpected. Console companies are always working on their next product. What stood out was Bethesda, which announced a huge slate of upcoming, current-gen games, including new entries in the Wolfenstein, Doom and Rage franchises, a new mobile game set in the Elder Scrolls universe called Blades, and of course, more details about Fallout 76. But what most stood out were two games it announced that you won’t be able to play for a while: Elder Scrolls VI, and an SF action RPG called Starfield, both of which Bethesda said would be available for “next-gen” systems. Wait, what?
Like we said, it’s one thing for a console company to tell us they’re working on their next box. The PS5 and the Xbox One X 2 have probably been in the works for at least a couple of years behind the scenes at Microsoft and Sony. But a major developer creating games for these systems is another matter entirely. They may not have devkits, the custom consoles used to create cross-platform video games, yet, but if they’re making games for these systems, that means they at least have a rough idea of what these consoles are going to be on paper, which in turn means they’re a heck of a lot further along than we thought.
That doesn’t mean we should expect the next boxes at E3 2019, however. Keep in mind that Bethesda’s RPGs are monsters to develop in their own right, and both of these games are little more than trailers and promises at the moment. Skyrim took three years to develop, and the cycle of making the huge open worlds has gotten longer as graphics, sound, AI, and the other pieces have all gotten more technically complex. The fact that Bethesda has a robust set of games through 2019 at least tells us we won’t be seeing these games tomorrow, either. Similarly, that Rockstar is squeezing such gorgeous graphics out of a standard PS4 for its Red Dead Redemption 2 trailers is a sign there’s life left in these consoles. And it’s unlikely late adopters and 4K fans, who bought a Pro or a One X, are going to be swept off the table.
Still, if you needed a sign to start saving for a new console, there isn’t a better one than this. Both Sony and Microsoft want at least one third-party blockbuster to get systems out the door when they first debut, and there is no system-selling blockbuster like a Bethesda RPG. We likely have a few more years left with the PS4 and Xbox One, but if there’s a message out of E3 2018, it’s that the clock is ticking.