The PS5 and Xbox Series X promise significant upgrades including ray tracing, solid state drive usage and 3D audio. They’ll also see improvements to everything else from controller configurations to connectivity. That doesn’t neglect the fact that users utilize consoles for tasks outside of gaming.
During the early launch window of Sony’s Playstation 3, owners could participate in Stanford University’s “Folding@Home” efforts to help find cures for cancer, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. At one time, consoles made up the largest number of devices to stream video services like Netflix. Besides the failed Kinect 2.0, Microsoft made great efforts to make the Xbox One more of a media hub through its HDMI In for its One Guide app.
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What will PS5 and Xbox Series X bring to the table outside of better gaming experiences? Here are 5 possible improvements ninth-gen consoles can make outside of gaming.
A revamped web browser
For all the power that eighth-gen consoles provide, both web browsers never seem as intuitive as what you’ll find on PCs, mobile phones and tablets. The PS4 and Xbox One browsers feature sluggish load times, inconsistent webpage layouts and compatibility issues. Basic activities like video viewing and shopping are a chore. Let’s use Tom Guide’s home page for example.
One would think having Microsoft Edge as the default One X browser would provide a desktop-like experience. Despite Microsoft Edge supporting keyboard input, it’d be nice to see support for mouse as well. A slew of missing photos and framing issues made navigating the homepage means it’s nowhere close. Meanwhile, The PS4 browser loaded the entire page alongside incredibly choppy navigation. That doesn’t even count error WV-33925-2 showing up a handful of times.
True mouse and keyboard support for either browsers would be a gamechanger in navigating web pages on consoles. Dashboard access to web apps could mean faster ways to access help whether from text or video. This would go a long way in making these browsers efficient enough for practicable use outside of the small optimizations.
Better social media integration
The PS4 and Xbox One X feature very limited social media integration with popular platforms including Facebook and Twitter. Sure, PS4 led the charge by allowing users to upload videos and photos directly to both, before limiting that ability. Xbox One also allows you to post saved captures on Instagram through its mobile app and once had a severely basic Twitter app.
There’s no reason next-gen consoles can’t feature fully integrated apps for Facebook and Twitter. It’d be nice to pause a game and simply ask a question without having to let go of the controller or use that clunky browser. Would be even better just to read what’s trending. If Sony could make captured content available for viewing on the mobile app, sharing video to Instagram wouldn’t be so cumbersome as well.
Remote Play and Xbox console streaming
Console streaming has evolved considerably since Remote Play was introduced to PlayStation Portable through the PS3. Both consoles allow users to play on either a PC or mobile device through their respective console streaming apps with some minor differences. It’s a great way for those who live in single television households to get a real console experience on pretty much any device. Both also allow usage of controllers as well. However, even on strong connections, resolution and framerate drops pop up occasionally even when run through an ethernet cable.
With 4K becoming the universal standard for next-gen consoles, it’ll be interesting to see if higher resolutions can be maintained at a smooth frame-rate for Remote Play and Xbox Console Streaming. Peripherals outside of controllers should be usable including keyboard, mouse and steering wheels. How about a way to play multiplayer on multiple screens from one console?
More accessibility options
In a 2014 Polygon feature titled Why Game Accessibility Matters, accessibility expert and consultant Ian Hamilton said that 20 percent of gamers have some form of disability. Though third-party accessory makers have made custom controllers available for quite some time, Xbox made a major leap forward in this area by releasing the Xbox Adaptive Controller in 2018.
The Xbox Adaptive Controller (opens in new tab) is a hyper-customizable device created for gamers with disabilities and works with specialty controllers like Quadstick’s Game Controller. Sony has yet to give an answer to Microsoft's game changing contraption with one of its own. However, it was the first to allow system level controller remapping. Hopefully the PS5 follows in that regard considering its massive install base.
As The Last of Us: Part II becomes gaming sales gold this month, Naughty Dog’s sequel is already being called one of the most accessible games ever. The PS4 exclusive features over 60 accessibility options. Both consoles should definitely make that more of a frequent thing.
True mod support
Mod communities are essentially the backbone of PC gaming. Some mods have been so well received that they’ve gone on to become full blown game releases. There’s a chance Grand Theft Auto V for next-gen consoles won’t be able to touch the visual levels of NaturalVision Remastered. As consoles and PCs become more architecturally similar than ever, user created mods should become the norm. This generation saw Bethesda give exclusive mod support for Fallout 4 on Xbox One before it went to PS4. Around the same time, Doom (2016), another Bethesda game, attempted to bridge the gap between Mod communities and console gamers through its SnapMap feature.
Last year, Microsoft and Paradox interactive announced that they would support user generated mods for Surviving Mars without pre-approval. Mod communities are large within the PC space. Microsoft and Sony opening this space to mainstream console players could possibly lead to new levels of creativity and may even encourage PC players to jump to console.