The PS5 isn’t worth buying at launch — yet

Avoid Buying PS5 at launch
(Image credit: Sony)

The PS5 June event has come and gone, and we learned an awful lot about Sony’s latest console. Not only did Sony show off a ton of games for its new system, but we also saw the PS5’s unusual physical design. All we need now is a release date and a price, and fans can start lining up to place their pre-orders for when the console launches at the end of this year — even though it might be smarter to hold off.

I’ve never been an early adopter of consoles, and it doesn’t look like the PS5 is going to be an exception. While I was impressed with a number of the games that Sony showed off yesterday, there’s simply no indication that enough of them will be in the PS5’s launch library. Like the PS4, the PS5 has the potential to be a great console — and also like the PS4, it’ll probably take at least a year or two to get there.

The idea of owning a new console the day it comes out is exciting, but there are a few good reasons why I’m going to hold off. I invite you to consider them, and join me in my current-gen contentment for at least a few months more.

PS5’s best games are a long way off

We saw some incredibly cool games during the PS5 showcase. My personal favorite was Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart, which demonstrated just how rapid the PS5’s loading times can be, as its two protagonists jumped instantaneously from one fully loaded enormous level to another. But there’s also Horizon: Forbidden West, Resident Evil Village, Returnal, the Demon’s Souls remaster and more.

Horizon 2: Forbidden West

Horizon 2: Forbidden West (Image credit: YouTube)

Not a single game on that list is currently slated to launch alongside the PS5.

While I don’t object to Sony showing off games that are still years off (one game, Pragmata, won’t launch until 2022), it’s a good reminder that a console’s best games are rarely launch titles. (The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is an exception, but the only one in recent memory.) If I want a PS5 to play the new Ratchet & Clank — which I do — it makes more sense to wait until Ratchet & Clank actually comes out.

This isn’t to say that there’s nothing good slated for holiday 2020. Games like Spider-Man: Miles Morales, Deathloop, Godfall, Bugsnax and Jett: The Far Shore will debut around the same time as the PS5, and I’d love to play at least two of them. But it’s worth asking, are these games that you need to play the second they come out? And if so, are there enough of them to justify buying a $500 (give or take) console?

Granted, you’ll be able to play plenty of multiplatform titles too, but that brings us to our next point.

PS5 games will be out on current-gen consoles

The PS5 won’t only play exclusive and semi-exclusive titles. It’ll also play the biggest third-party games of the holiday season. That means you’ll be able to play Outriders, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla and NBA 2K21 on the PS5 right away. In fact, a number of third-party releases have tentative PS5 confirmations, including Watch Dogs Legion, Dying Light 2 and Dirt 5.

Another thing these games all have in common, though, is that they’re also confirmed for the PC, PS4 and Xbox One. While the PS5 (or Xbox Series X, if you were considering the competition’s console) will run these titles better than its current-gen counterpart, there’s no reason to think that the gameplay experience will be fundamentally different. Think back to the PS4 launch, when a big part of the launch library consisted of then-recent titles like Assassin’s Creed IV and Injustice: Gods Among Us. Yes, the PS4 gave players a prettier, more fluid experience, but to this day, I’ve never heard anyone complaining that the last-gen versions were significantly worse.

If you don’t have a PC or current-gen console and want to jump into gaming, then by all means, pre-order a PS5 as soon as you can. But if you do, you’ll still be able to play the vast majority of this winter’s most anticipated titles. And while Sony hasn’t yet confirmed the presence of something like Microsoft’s Smart Delivery, which entitles you to next-gen versions of whichever current-gen games you purchase, the PS5 should still be backwards compatible with most of the games you buy this year.

Playstation 5

(Image credit: Sony)

PS5 will have the usual hassles

There are also the usual reasons to avoid a console at launch. You’ve heard them all before, but they bear repeating:

  • The launch price is as expensive as the console will ever get
  • There may be hardware or software issues to iron out
  • Consoles are notoriously hard to find at launch (especially during the holidays)
  • If a launch console breaks, getting a replacement is incredibly tough
  • A redesigned version of the console is just a year or two away

I’ll end with the story of the one time I did decide to buy a console at launch. I was in high school, and the PS2 had just come out. I had saved my allowance money for the better part of a year to afford one. When the system came via UPS, I dropped everything I was doing to hook it up — and used it to play PS1 games because I didn’t have any PS2 games to go with it. That weekend, I went to an EB Games to peruse the launch library, but I couldn’t find anything that caught my interest. Until Final Fantasy X came out months later, I essentially owned a very fancy DVD player.

I understand the excitement about the PS5, and I also think it looks like a promising system. But to buy one at launch seems premature, at least until Sony decides to give us an exact launch library. Otherwise, you could find yourself staring down a much more expensive device for playing PS4 games that you already own.

Marshall Honorof

Marshall Honorof is a senior editor for Tom's Guide, overseeing the site's coverage of gaming hardware and software. He comes from a science writing background, having studied paleomammalogy, biological anthropology, and the history of science and technology. After hours, you can find him practicing taekwondo or doing deep dives on classic sci-fi. 

  • kedmond
    I have an original PS4, not the faster Pro model. I anticipate that the PS5 will enable a far more enjoyable experience for my existing library. I'm surprised that you didn't think to mention that as a motivation to buy the console at launch.