Daily Reaction – New Consoles, Old Habits

PS4 & PS5

Old habits die hard. In my time with the PS5, I’ve sought out Platinum Trophies. I’ve played Call of Duty with friends across platforms (and console generations). And I’ve spent too many late nights grinding out gear in Destiny 2 to get ready for the new Raid. In many ways, it feels like nothing has changed, short of the enormous white and black monolith that now graces the top of my entertainment center and the insanely fast load times.

Anyone expecting the PS5 to bring a massive shift to gaming was right, but it’s perhaps not quite as obvious as past generation breaks. Centering the PS5 on backwards compatibility with your PS4 library and cross-platform compatibility means that none of your habits need to change. You don’t need to figure out when to retire the old console. You don’t need to leave behind friends who haven’t upgraded yet. You can play all the games you were already playing. You can maintain those old habits, just with much faster load times, improved visuals, and an incredible new controller.

When Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War released, I jumped right in with my Call of Duty crew to play a whole bunch of multiplayer. Despite none of them having the PS5 yet, our old PS4 party group carried over to the PS5, voice chat worked no problem, and we were able to team up without any hiccups. It was seamless, and you couldn’t even tell that everyone wasn’t on the new console.

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I didn’t get to jump into Destiny 2: Beyond Light until the weekend after it released, but I’ve since spent far too many hours gearing up for Raid day tomorrow, and I’ll be joining my normal Destiny group of friends who will be playing across both PS5 and PS4. I instinctively pushed for the Platinum in Astro’s Playroom. I completed Spider-Man Miles Morales 100% because I can’t leave an indicator unchecked in open-world games. I’ve also never put a disc in my system despite it being the disc-based version. That’s a carryover from my move to all-digital over the course of the PS4 generation, though it was the “old habit” that made me spend the extra $100 on a disc-based version of the console. (Yes, one of my consoles was provided by PlayStation for our review. Our second PS5 that we purchased for my wife is also a disc-based version, however.)

New Console, New Habits

The truth is, last generation slowly set us up for this new generation and everything that comes with it. Instead of the shocking change that can come with a brand new console—just look at the radical changes Microsoft originally tried to make with the Xbox One seven years ago—we’ve been conditioned over time to accept the onset of digital gaming, cloud services, cross-platform multiplayer, and living games that we constantly go back to. The innovations for this generation are improvements to current gaming habits, not uncomfortable shifts that grate against what we’re used to.

Sony’s approach to the PS5 was taking what worked and evolving the ecosystem, not requiring people to jump from one platform to another, leaving a ton behind. There are absolutely benefits and changes to the PS5, things I noted in my review of the console as one of the biggest generational leaps we’ve ever had. But that leap is more focused on the player than ever before. We have the new consoles, but we can continue to practice those old gaming habits we have, playing our favorite games, teaming up with old friends, and being able to play our way.

I’m certain that the PS5 generation will also bring a similar gradual shift in overall gaming habits and mentality. What that looks like by the time the hypothetical PlayStation 6 comes out is anyone’s guess, but there are some key indicators that suggest growing strength in digital games and cloud services. After all, Sony apparently has something to announce in the future as a response to Xbox Game Pass. And developers haven’t even fully grasped the tool set they have with the PS5. Even Sony’s Jim Ryan doesn’t think we’ll see the full potential of the system start to be realized in games for a couple more years.

And then there are all the new little tricks that the PS5 enables for both developers and players. The new Call of Duty features adaptive triggers that make guns actually feel different, having resistance and kick. Some immediately had to turn it off due to how different it felt, but embracing that new aspect has given me an almost sixth sense on the controller (ah, what an apt name the DualSense has, then).

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Elements like Activity Cards and the ability to jump nearly instantly to any point in the game really change not only how we play, but how we think about engaging with our games. Being able to pull up a notification about an Astro’s Playroom speedrun level and start the level literal seconds later is incredible. Using Activity Cards to navigate the world of Miles Morales and its side quests lets you get right to what you want to be doing. It took me a long time to embrace using this feature, mostly because of those old gaming habits, the ones that die hard. By the end of this generation, I expect use of these cards to be just as much of an old habit.

What’s been the most interesting aspect of this new generation to me is just how easy it’s been to transition. Where I kept my PS3 in the TV cabinet for years after the PS4 came out—perhaps in some misguided hope that I’d actually return to it—I’ve already relegated my PS4 to my office where it serves simply as a streaming device for PS5 Remote Play so I can access the new console in multiple rooms. And with my whole PS4 library now on an external hard drive connected to my PS5, I even play PS4 games via backwards compatibility on my PS5 through my PS4 via Remote Play if I’m in my office.

We may have new consoles, but those old habits made this generational transition one of the easiest yet as Sony embraced the player and the ecosystem. And the PS5 will slowly evolve those old habits with even more new gaming habits that we’ll carry into future console generations.

What old gaming habits of yours have carried through to the PS5?

Daily Reaction reacts to the video game industry. Have suggestions for the column or subjects you’d like us to react to? Let me know in the comments below and be sure to check out previous Daily Reactions for more dives beyond the headlines.

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