I’m probably not going to pre-order the PS5, but if search traffic and social media are any indication, a whole lot of you are planning to. As such, I can only assume that an even greater number of you are on the fence.
Do you want to grab a PS5 on launch day and enjoy the next console generation starting on Day One? Or do you want to hold off and see whether the PS5 is really worth the cost of entry? (And remember, that cost of entry might be $500 — or more.)
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You’ve probably already heard a dozen arguments why you need to pre-order the PS5 the second you’re able, and another dozen telling you to wait until 2021, or the inevitable redesign, or the heat death of the universe. Instead of rehashing all the arguments, I polled the Tom’s Guide gaming crew to see if we could distill the discussions. With that in mind, here’s the single best reason why you should pre-order a PS5 as soon as you’re able — and the single best reason to give it a miss for now.
Why you should pre-order a PS5
I’m not a huge proponent of pre-ordering consoles, or any tech for that matter. But my colleague Adam Ismail put forth a very good argument for picking up a new console on launch day that’s both simple and elegant.
“If there’s a launch title that speaks to you, and you know you’re going to want it Day One, then you should pre-order,” he said. “Otherwise you’re going to have a hard time getting one.”
It seems almost self-evident, and yet it’s an extremely good argument. Suppose Spider-Man: Miles Morales is a PS5 exclusive launch title, as it seems might be the case. If you don’t pre-order a PS5, you may not get a chance to play the game until 2021.
There’s a chance that PS5 supply could meet the demand, of course, since Sony has automated a significant chunk of its manufacturing processes. On the other hand, history suggests that there are always console shortages at launch for one reason or another, and banking on the PS5 to buck the trend would be taking a big risk.
Look at it this way: Suppose the PS5 comes out November 20. Let’s also suppose it sells out instantly, and restocks are infrequent, as has been the case with every other console launch since the NES. Everyone will want a PS5 for Christmas, which means that you won’t be able to get one in December. January is when the resupply begins in earnest. That means you could get a PS5 in February.
If you were really, really dying to play Spider-Man: Miles Morales, three months is a long time to wait for the privilege. And a three-month window assumes that the PS5 won’t be unexpectedly popular, like the Nintendo Switch, which took about six months to stabilize its supply chain.
We don’t know exactly what the PS5 launch library will be yet, but we should learn a lot more within the next few months. If there’s a game in it that you really want to play, go ahead and pre-order a PS5. You may not need to, but why take the chance?
Why you shouldn’t pre-order a PS5
The biggest reason not to pre-order a PS5 at launch is this: There will be very few PS5-exclusive games at launch, at least from what we've seen so far.
When the PS4 and Xbox One launched, the vast majority of games available for either platform were also available on the PS3 and Xbox 360. Likewise, most of the launch-window titles on PS5, from action/adventure fare like Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, to RPGs like Cyberpunk 2077, to sports games like Madden 21, will also be available on current-gen consoles.
There’s no denying that these games will look, and perhaps even play, better on the PS5 than on the PS4. But will they play “$500-on-Day-One” better? Probably not. Furthermore, it’s not as though buying the current-gen version of a game will lock you out of a next-gen upgrade. On the contrary, many companies are offering free PS5 upgrades if you buy a game on PS4. There’s no unified guarantee, like Microsoft’s Smart Delivery system, unfortunately. But we should get more concrete details about free upgrades as the PS5 launch approaches.
No matter how many games the PS5 launches with, history tells us that relatively few of them will be exclusive titles. Consider that the PS4 launched with 20 titles; precisely one of them was a true PS4 exclusive. Consider also that the lone exclusive title was Knack, which was a dull, forgettable slog. The truth is, as long as you have a PS4, Xbox One or PC, you’ll be able to play 99% of the games you want to play for months after the PS5 launches. As such, there’s no rush to get one.
This calculus could change if the PS5 has a massive library of system-exclusive titles on Day One, of course. But neither the PS4 nor the Xbox One pulled off that particular trick, so it’s more likely that the PS5 will follow their lead: One or two true exclusives, with a vast majority of launch titles still available on other platforms. Running out to buy a next-gen console for a current-gen game library seems counterintuitive.
PS5 pre-order outlook
If you’re hesitant to pull the trigger on a PS5 pre-order, my objective here isn’t to talk you into it. Likewise, if you’re dead set on pre-ordering a console the second Sony says “go,” I have no desire to talk you out of it. Goodness knows that money is tight for a lot of folks right now, and goodness also knows that most of us could use a little fun.
However, if you’re simply not sure whether you need a PS5 as soon as it comes out, let this article be your gut check. Is there anything you absolutely need to play right away? Go ahead and get one. Are the games you want to play slated for a system you already own? Stick with what you’ve got. That’s the advice I’ve used myself for the past three console generations, and it hasn’t steered me wrong yet.