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Opinion – Waiting On The Next-Gen Plunge

We're about a month away from the release of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, and the video game world is fixated on the impending next generation. With all of the anticipation surrounding the new systems and the wave of announced titles accompanying them, the whole industry is transitioning into next-gen mode, but that doesn't mean you'll be left behind if you wait a little while to make the jump.

Let me say this first: Buying new consoles on day one isn't a bad idea. If you're excited about the hardware and games, there's no reason you shouldn't get a new system on release day. In fact, that's exactly what I'll be doing. However, despite all of the fervor around the new technology, you shouldn't feel like gaming as a hobby is going to pass you by if you aren't waiting in line on November 15 and/or November 22 for the latest offerings from Sony and Microsoft.

I was talking to an acquaintance recently who was disappointed by the gaming press' current focus on next-gen products. As an owner of a PS3 and Xbox 360, he got the sense that those consoles are going to be useless once the new crop comes out next month. He asked me if he needed to buy one of the new systems before the holidays, and I told him "no."

Gaming is, first and foremost, about the games. On that front, sticking with a current-gen system is a surprisingly viable option for the near future. The biggest names on launch day – Battlefield 4, Call of Duty: Ghosts, Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, Watch Dogs – are cross-platform and cross-generation. That support doesn't end after the holiday season; even games that are releasing well into 2014 – like Dragon Age: Inquisition – are also supported by current-gen systems. 

Several high-profile titles scheduled for release in the coming months aren't even coming to next-generation hardware. Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2, and Dark Souls II are current-gen exclusives.

That's one of the best parts of the gaming industry: The transition happens gradually. Like when films moved from DVD to Blu-ray, the shift doesn't happen overnight. Early adopters can get in on the ground floor and play those rare launch-window gems, and everyone else can still engage with gaming in familiar ways. Everybody wins. 

Yes, waiting means that you are late to the party for exclusive games like Dead Rising 3 and Killzone: Shadow Fall. There are also plenty of things we don't know about how these new consoles work and how their features improve your experience – that's stuff you're going to miss out on as well. If those are major concerns for you, then you're probably already planning to take the next-gen plunge early. That's great; I'm not saying that waiting is the right choice for everyone. My point is that if you're not sure if this holiday season is the right time for you to invest in a PS4 or Xbox One, you still have plenty of great content to hold you over for a while.

Of course, if you want to keep gaming, you need to buy a new system eventually. Cross-generation support is going to taper off throughout 2014 before disappearing completely. As fewer games have PS3 or Xbox 360 incarnations, "next generation" will simply become "current generation." That part is unavoidable, but if you can't afford a new console, didn't pre-order one in time, or just aren't sure, don't worry. You have some time yet.

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