Now is a terrible time to buy a video game console.
Burying the lede is considered a sin in journalism, so there you go. It’s right there.
I understand that there are always some pretty good deals on video game consoles these days, because despite Sony’s enormous lead with PlayStation 4 consoles sold over Microsoft’s Xbox One, Microsoft isn’t going down without a fight. Just today, in fact, Microsoft cut the price on their system by 50 bucks. 50 bucks! And that’s before any additional bundling or sales from retailers, which have pretty consistently provided amazing deals on both current-gen systems.
Here’s the thing, though: You can’t make an informed buying decision right now, because in two weeks, you will know much, much more than you do today.
We and other outlets are pretty sure this year’s E3 is going to feature a lot of new console hardware, arguably as much as we saw three years ago, just prior to the launch of the PS4 and the Xbox One. Not only are we expecting the announcement, release date, and price of the all-but-confirmed PlayStation 4 “Neo” (or PS4K or PS4.5 or whatever your preferred colloquialism is), we’re also probably going to hear about not one, but two new Xbox consoles: a new, slimmed-down Xbox One console that might have support for 4K video, and a new, much more powerful Xbox console that will debut next year, a unit that will supposedly blow past even the increased horsepower of Sony’s rumored hardware.
Even if you just want to buy a controller, you probably don’t want to do it now. Microsoft is also expected to debut a new gamepad to go with its smaller Xbox One, and that’s the piece of hardware we arguably know the least about! And to add to that, Microsoft’s Xbox Elite Controller has seen some of the most positive responses a controller has ever seen from the public and the press, enough that it was difficult to find one to buy (for $150, no less) — so what’s stopping Sony from dipping its toe into those same waters?
We don’t know anything about a new PS4 controller — at least, I don’t — but it’s almost E3. Anything can happen. Last May, if you had told me there would be dozens of Xbox 360 games playable on Xbox One today, I would have thought you were delusional. If you had told me last April that there would be a Kickstarter campaign for Shenmue 3, I would have walked away to keep myself from saying something mean. And here we are again, because E3 is bananas.
We already know a few fairly surprising things are happening, and there’s no reason to believe there aren’t other, more “unbelievable” announcements and developments on the horizon. This console generation has thrived on “the big surprise” — Sony’s announcement of no on-disc DRM, Microsoft’s abrupt about-face on its own DRM policies, the removal of Kinect from the Xbox One box, PlayStation VR, and now Neo and Scorpio.
Consider this the first day of the worst 11 days of 2016 to buy a game console, to buy a controller, to invest in any platform at all. If you find yourself at a retail store or on a website with a game console in your cart, ask yourself: Will I feel fine if i know about a better version of this console in under 300 hours? And will I feel fine if there’s a quieter, more power-efficient and smaller version of this thing available in two months?