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What to remember when reading about next-generation console rumors

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A quick guide to dealing with PS5 and Xbox Two rumors

Digital Foundry has released a comprehensive and helpful video that lists the things to keep in mind when reading rumors about next-generation consoles, and it’s absolutely worth the 14 minutes of your time. The video lays out many of the lessons learned from previous leaks of current-generation console news; the whole thing is embedded at the top of this post.

The advice boils down to eight lessons that are based a bit on common sense, but it’s still useful to see them all laid out in an orderly manner. The eight things to think about when looking at rumors and leaks are:

  1. Accurate leaks are scarce;
  2. Specs can change: hardware evolves pre-launch;
  3. Listen to Phil Spencer for “buried treasure” reveals;
  4. PC hardware comparisons: Are they still relevant?
  5. Patents are interesting, but secrets are rarely leaked this way;
  6. “Secret sauce” could be key, and proprietary tech is important;
  7. Remember the price point: Consoles should be affordable;
  8. Prepare for disappointment, but also for fun surprises.

There will be pretty of leaks, both real and fake, for the upcoming consoles before they’re released. But these rules and reminders really drive home how rarely early, unannounced specs are useful when it comes to understanding the actual, finished hardware.

Knowing a single spec in isolation doesn’t provide much context when so much depends on how the different aspects of the hardware interact, and how much optimization can be done within a closed platform. And even if a leak is “accurate” when it’s first reported, the information may change before the launch of the console.

In other words, we could end up knowing quite a lot about upcoming consoles before their official reveals without understanding how they will run or what their specifications mean. As the video points out, for example, the Switch is a woefully underpowered system on paper, but that doesn’t do much to hinder the magic of the console’s portable nature.

Besides, hardware information may be less important now than ever before, since so many rumors and early discussions have revolved around subscription services and streaming options. Much of the next-generation console battle is going to be a war of services, just as it is in the current generation.

And that uncertainty is really at the heart of all this good advice for judging leaks and rumors: Always assume we have an imperfect understanding of hardware that hasn’t been announced yet, and you’ll rarely be let down. What we don’t know will almost always dwarf what we think we understand about unannounced hardware. That will likely continue to be the case until Microsoft and Sony (and, eventually, Nintendo) are willing to go on the record.