Should you buy a PS4 or Xbox One right now?
The Nintendo Switch has been out-of-stock for the last few weeks, but it's not alone. Now the PS4 and Xbox One are selling out at major retailers. Demand for consoles is at an all-time high right now, and it's no big surprise.
Why is the Nintendo Switch specifically selling out? It's because of a bunch of factors: demand caused by much of the world's population being stuck indoors for the foreseeable future, as well as massive interest in Animal Crossing: New Horizons, a recent game for the system. This Bloomberg article in February warned that component supply issues were going to be a problem and hit supplies worldwide by April. It seems they were correct.
So, with the Switch being elusive, you might be wondering if it's worth picking up an older games console like the PS4 or Xbox One instead. In the UK, overall console sales in the week of March 16-22 were up 250%, according to GSD figures analyzed by GamesIndustry.biz, so demand is high. The outlet cites massive gains for all three consoles, and as mentioned, retailers are selling out of the older consoles too.
First of all, while the regular Switch is selling out everywhere, there are still places selling the handheld-only Switch Lite. That unit doesn't have the benefit of detachable Joy-Cons, and you can't plug it into your TV, but it plays all the same games and the Switch is still fantastic as a handheld-only proposition. Plus, it costs less than the other unit, at $199.99/£199.99 as its retail price. Here's where you can still get it:
If you're stuck indoors for the next few months, though, is it worth picking a PS4 or Xbox One up to pass the time? We'll explore this below, and show you where to get each console for the best price.
- The best Nintendo Switch deals
- PS4 vs PS4 Pro
- PS4 Pro vs Xbox One X
Is now the right time to get a PS4 or Xbox One?
Truth be told, if you don't have either a PS4 or Xbox One yet, you're either a mobile or PC player, or you're not massively engaged with the world of games. Both of these consoles are long-in-the-tooth, having launched in their original forms back in late 2013. And both consoles have successors coming later this year, the PS5 and Xbox Series X.
That means if you buy a console now, in a couple of years it's likely you won't be able to play the biggest and best games being released, because they'll be targeted at the newer consoles. It's worth knowing that before you buy. Microsoft, though, has committed to releasing games compatible with all its hardware for a couple of years after the newer console's launch.
It's also worth noting that both the PS5 and Xbox Series X will play PS4 and Xbox One games respectively through backwards compatibility. So, with an eye on the long-term, the next-gen consoles are by far the better bet. There will be a hard point when games stop being released on PS4 and Xbox One entirely. That's just a reality of how games are made and sold, and it's always been this way.
Still: the surge in sales for all consoles reveals that people are more concerned with the short term right now. And as a short term purchase, the PS4 and Xbox One are absolutely going to help you kill time over the next few months of being indoors. They both have enormous catalogues of great software, and you'll spend a lot less on these machines than you'll likely have to drop on a PS5 or Xbox Series X (neither have confirmed pricing yet).
First up, then, is the PS4, the most successful games console of the generation. The cheapest unit is the PS4 Slim. It doesn't output in 4K, but it'll always be cheaper than buying the PS4 Pro, which does output in 4K.
The PS4 has the edge over the Xbox One in terms of software. Check out our list of the best PS4 games for recommendations, but modern classics like Spider-Man, God of War and Horizon Zero Dawn can only be found on PS4. These have helped the console pull ahead in sales over the Xbox.
The PS4 is still pretty hard to get hold of right now, but here are a few places with stock in the US and UK:
And here's a quick price comparison for the PS4 Pro:
Next up, then, there's the Xbox One. There are two hardware variants here, too: the Xbox One S and the Xbox One X. The former is a slim version of the original 2013 console, while the pricier Xbox One X is much more powerful, capable of outputting games in 4K. In addition, both Xbox units have an impressive backwards compatibility feature, meaning you can play older games released on the Xbox 360 and 2001's original Xbox. That's something you won't get on PS4, which doesn't work with PS3 games, though it can stream them via PS Now.
Note that there are two variants of the Xbox One S. The All-Digital edition comes without a disc drive, so you won't be able to buy physical or secondhand games for it. Make sure you get the console that suits your needs.
New Xbox consoles come with a trial for Xbox Game Pass, a Netflix-style service that charges a flat monthly fee to play all the games you want from a pretty vast selection. This is again something that's better than the PS4's rival PS Now service, even though the latter has been upping its game of late. The best Xbox games don't quite compare favorably to the PS4's software line-up, but in some cases, the hardware enhancements of the Xbox One X will give you a better playing experience of games that are available on both platforms (here's a list of enhanced games).
As with the PS4, the Xbox One S is hard to find in-stock right now, but here are some places that have it in the US and UK:
And here's the same thing for the Xbox One X:
Are you bored as hell right now? A console will help
User activity is peaking across online gaming platforms like Steam, Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network, and it's no surprise. If you know other people who play games and you've got a console on the same platform, it's a way to hang out together virtually while pubs and cafes are out of the question.
While you need to pay for membership to access online multiplayer gaming services like PS Plus and Xbox Live Gold, once you're on there, you've got a rich option of free games to enjoy, like Apex Legends, Warframe, Call of Duty: Warzone or Fortnite. Collectively, that's hundreds of hours of fun without the need to spend any extra money. You can pick up a ton of older games on both for very little money if you shop around, too.
While waiting for a PS5 or Xbox Series X is the better long-term decision, getting a PS4 or Xbox One right now might just make these slow days go by a little quicker.
- PS5 games: what's coming to Sony's next console?