If you think video games are for kids, now is the time to improve your perspective. GWI research indicates that gamers are on average in their mid-thirties and have the income and passion to invest in the hobby. Console gaming is big business, and it’s growing.
When it comes to newer consoles, it can sometimes seem like all the opportunities are in the aftermarket: Due to supply chain issues, most resellers just haven’t been able to keep current generation systems on their shelves, even a year after their initial release. Whether or not you’ve been able to stock up on current-gen consoles like the PS5, Xbox Series X | S, or Nintendo Switch OLED Edition, however, there is plenty of room for resellers to take advantage of the gaming boom. Wherever they get their console, gamers are likely going to need a whole new setup to get the most out of it.
What drives the need to upgrade
This claim begs the question: what’s wrong with their old setup? In many ways, the current generation consoles are incremental upgrades – some of them even use the same controller as the previous generation, and Sony and Microsoft are still releasing new versions of games on both generations. The people who line up to buy new consoles are doing so to take advantage of the new technical capabilities that must be supported by every device in the signal chain in order to function.
Chief among the new features are the visual specifications of the current generation console, made possible by the HDMI 2.1 standard. Both the Xbox X | S series and the PS5 support Variable Refresh Rate (VRR), Fast Frame Transport (QFT), and Automatic Low Latency Mode (ALLM). All of these features add up to make games look better and perform better. Here’s how:
- ALLM automatically sets a connected and compatible display to its lowest latency.
- QFT reduces the latency between the console’s graphics processor (GPU) and the display.
- The VRR continuously adjusts the screen frame rate to match the frame rate output of the console’s graphics processor (GPU). Unlike normal videos, games don’t have a fixed frame rate because their video stream is interactively generated in real time. Without this feature, the GPU can get out of sync with the screen refresh rate, resulting in large visual artifacts also known as “screen tearing”.
Current Generation Displays
In order to actually use all of these new features, consoles must be connected to a display with an HDMI 2.1 connection. If the customer is looking for a new TV, other considerations can dramatically improve the gaming experience.
First of all: the size. “Buy the biggest screen you can afford” is the common rule of thumb, but there are real calculations you can use to gauge a customer’s needs. The recommended screen size is based on a number of factors, including resolution, furthest viewer, and task. In the case of games, people make analytical decisions based on what they see on screen, and not just passively watching like they would a movie or TV show. That means they need a bigger screen, a closer viewing position, or both. AVIXA, the Association for the Integrated Audiovisual Experience, offers a free display image size calculator on its website that can help resellers make the right recommendations.
Gaming consoles offer some of the most impressive ultra-high resolution content on the market. Both the PS5 and Xbox Series X are capable of outputting 8K video at 60Hz, so they’re a perfect match for the cream of the display tech industry. Customer needs will vary depending on their system, although lower-cost current generation systems like the XBox Series S and Switch do not natively output 4K, but will automatically scale to that resolution.
Since games require users to examine the screen in fine detail for hours at a time, the ability to fine-tune settings for viewer comfort is important. Each user must strike a balance between producing enough light and contrast to discern every detail without straining their eyes. There is no magic preset – the right settings depend on the individual and the brightness of the room.
Not all displays allow the user to adjust picture settings in HDR mode; for games, make sure any display you recommend has the ability to create custom display settings. If a TV is used for gaming as well as other applications, like watching movies or sports, look for displays that offer the ability to save custom profiles with presets for sports and movies.
If the customer has a state-of-the-art display and a current-gen console, they can expect to be impressed with stunning visuals and smoother gameplay than ever before, right? Well, no, unless they improved the other links in the signal chain as well. If the customer plans to connect their new equipment with old cables, they will miss most of the features they have upgraded to. ALLM, QFT, and VRR all require certified Ultra High Speed HDMI cables.
When considering 4K to 8K resolutions and refresh rates of current generation consoles, consumers should also be aware of the length limitations of HDMI 2.1 copper cables. HDMI does not specify absolute maximum lengths – which are established during certification testing of a manufacturer’s actual products – but their own lab tests indicate that the Ultra High-Speed HDMI 2.1 copper cable can travel up to 16 feet (5 m) while still meeting specifications. Only certified cables will reliably achieve this result. If the customer plans to position their console further away from their screen, they will need an active fiber optic solution to provide the video signal.
Audio for immersive gameplay
Microsoft and Sony have both invested a lot of R&D to make gaming an immersive, multisensory experience. To this end, they have both added three-dimensional audio capabilities to their current generation consoles. This feature is intended to improve player performance – players will be able to hear enemies creeping up behind them and know, based on the object-based audio delivery, which direction to turn. They must, however, have compatible audio endpoints to deliver this experience, and there is no one-size-fits-all standard for immersive audio.
Microsoft has adopted the popular Dolby Atmos standard for the Xbox X | S, which is available in a wide variety of audio products from various manufacturers, from installed speakers and soundbars to headphones. Sony has taken a different path. They developed a proprietary 3D audio engine, Tempest, for the PS5. At launch, Tempest was only fully supported on headphones, and at this time, support for external speakers is still in beta. The result is that the correct audio setup will depend on the customer’s gaming and console preferences.
Serious gamers – especially those who compete online or play massively multiplayer games – may also need more than their standard router provided by their ISP. Gaming doesn’t have to be a bandwidth consumer – it all depends on what is being played. That said, network latency can be decisive in competitive games. If a customer is used to relying on an unmanaged network for gaming – or worse yet, a Wi-Fi connection – it’s time to upgrade.
Network latency has the most impact on reflex-based games like First Person Shooters (FPS). For Call of Duty Where Fortnite enthusiasts, a ping time that would be perfectly acceptable for video streaming, conferences, or even other games can put them at a serious disadvantage compared to the competition. 20 ms is a recommended target. This is low latency that cannot be achieved reliably with wireless connections, and will only be achieved with a wired connection if the customer has a managed switch with the ability to reserve band. bandwidth for their gaming system. 30 Mbps per gaming system plus overhead should meet their needs.
Xbox Series X (left) and Xbox Series S (right)
Capture the action
About a quarter of console gaming audiences sometimes stream their gameplay live, which introduces a range of additional considerations. Both the Xbox X | S and the PS5 allow push-button streaming directly from the console, but this basic functionality ignores some of the activities that are at the heart of live streaming. In order to sync a live feed with the streaming platform’s chat and alerts – and add production effects and scene changes to the feed – the customer will need a capture device.
If the player can’t interact with their audience, thank viewers, answer questions, and take advice, what’s the point of being live? Using a capture device and laptop or monitor, streamers can set up a second display as both a trusted monitor and audience engagement dashboard. There are both dedicated game capture devices, like the Elgato HD60 +, and professional-grade AV capture devices like the Vanco 4K to USB video capture device.
Sony PlayStation 5
Enter the ranking
The game is not just about the console and the screen. It’s an immersive experience supported by a whole ecosystem of devices. It is a valuable market which requires the best technological components to reach its full potential. Even setting aside the consoles themselves, there are plenty of opportunities for dealers to achieve a high score as players level up.
Key points to remember:
- Customers Need More Than a New Console to Completely Improve Their Gaming Experience
- Screen, cables, audio system, and network equipment all need to be compatible to take advantage of the latest technical advancements in gaming.
- Requirements and compatible hardware vary by console and playing habits