Usually when a new gen comes along, the highlight is always about the new graphics that those consoles can generate. Increased polygon counts, number of enemies on screen, and Teraflops that a GPU has, those are the usual terms that are thrown around by the official Sony, Xbox and Nintendo(before the Wii) representatives. But the reality is that the overall graphics of any said game have reached some sort of saturation point: Games on the PS4, Xbox One and Switch look good enough that most people are content with it. Not to say that they don't want better graphics, but if you had to choose between getting a Switch and Breath of the Wild for half the price of what seems to be a 499,99 console both from Sony and MS, Nintendo will probably win the dispute. That is, only if the graphics were the main appeal of those new products.
The main feature of any gaming console was, is and always will be games. It dosen't matter how powerful or fast your hardware is, if you don't have the software to back it up, you might as well have released a brick in the market. With that said, assuming that all competitors got that aspect locked down, it's down to the console's other features to sell one over the other. Up until now, they have almost exclusively been related to the graphical power of said consoles, or rather how pretty the games on them were. Back then, gaming was not as popular as it is now, so in order to captivate both the old and new audience into spending a hefty sum into something that was not essencial in everydays live, it was easier to awe them with realistic or incredible graphics than only trying to convince them of how awesome said games were. But as the time went by, and GPUs became more and more powerful, the payback that those same tatics had have dwindled. It has become harder to distinguish how much prettier or how much more detailed games are compared to the previous gen, and that will be even more apparent with the new consoles that are bound to release this year. So how does these console manufacturers adapt to this new reality, in order to convince the consumers to buy their new hardware and to not go to their competitors?
The answer to that question lies in the details.More especifically, in the other features that makes up the overall gaming experience, such as sound, lightning effects,loading speeds, increased player interaction and so on. Games nowadays are still very much held back, in certain regards, by the different components of the hardware. Loading assets and keeping a good draw distance so to maintain a sense of immersion are still somewhat rough around the edges due to the loading speed to which the system access it's memory. Lighting, while good, dosen't behave as naturally as it does in reality. The sound made in games are still very much held back by either the sound chip and system or simply because there is not enough tools presented in the game engines or the hardware itself to make it more realistic, to make it seems that something is just comming out of the corner, that you can, just by listening, tell the distance betwenn you and said creature. Those small additions to these home consoles arsenals is what will make them stand above the competition.
Imagine yourself playing the new Resident Evil while you are in a big scary and dark mansion, with all lights off in the halway that you are in, only with the moonlight comming off the windows as your only source of illumination. But as you walk down the corridor, a cloud passes by in front of the moon, robbing you of it's light, and making everything pitch black. Moments later, you hear footsteps comming on your direction. You know that, if you don't act now, it will be too late by the time the cloud has completed its trajectory and return to you what was once yours. As you close your eyes, you can hear the sound reviberating through the dark, moisty walls of the corridor you stand in. Using your ears as your guide, you pinpoint the direction of the sound and determine that it is comming from just up ahead, right after the corridor makes a turn to the right. You ready your weapon, and wait for the mysterious entity to come within your line of fire, depending on your hearing to know when to open fire and fight for your life. This new, exciting situation was brought up not because of the new powerful hardware and it's new graphical capabilities, but because of how it allows developers to force you to use your other senses into the game design itself.
The situation described above is one of many examples that could happen, given the newfound importance given to these other tools that said consoles will have. Invisible enemies being detected by the movement of their life-like shadows, pinpointing enemies positions due to the sound they make, playing tricks through lightining and the reveberation of sound, having enemies cooperate with each other in order to give new gameplay oportunities are some of the gameplay experiences that we may very well expect out of the PS5 and Series X.The next gen consoles from Sony and Microsoft will be a different kind of revolution than we are accustommed to.
My (locked) thread about how difficulty should be a decision for the developers, not the gamers.