The next generation is upon us – the first wave of pre-orders has already been and gone, and lots of lucky players will be unboxing shiny new consoles in practically no time at all. Up until NVIDIA’s big reveal, it really seemed like consoles were about to catch up to PC in terms of performance across the board. PC gaming is still the definitive home of eSports, but with next-gen just around the corner, are consoles finally in a position to dethrone the king?

With some games, it makes no difference which platform hosts competitive play. Some big eSports names – Super Smash Bros, for example – can only be played on one. Games like FIFA and Street Fighter are generally played on a console, but it really comes down to one simple difference that the Xbox Series X has all but eliminated – the mouse. With a bit of third-party hardware, people have been able to use mouse and keyboard on the Xbox One for a while but moving forward, the Xbox Series X will support it upfront with compatible games. It makes sense – on an OS level, the Xbox Series X is just a PC with streamlined applications. The same could be said for the Xbox One, but the Series X’s improved hardware closes the gap like nothing ever has before. It’s important to remember that this isn’t “Console vs PC” or anything so dramatically inflammatory; it’s simply the end result of years of slow, steady convergence.

Microsoft has basically woven Windows and Xbox together to the point where there are no longer separate games – whether you’re playing on a PC or a console, you’re playing an Xbox game. If you want to plug your keyboard into your Xbox, that’s cool, if you want to use a controller to play Xbox games on your PC, go ahead! Hell, you’re going to be able to play Forza Horizon 4 streamed to your smartphone. There isn’t really a rulebook anymore, and the industry was always going to move in this direction as technology advanced. Everything will be centralized and integrated, exclusivity is becoming a vague term that basically means “Certain Sony games and other titles for maybe 12 months or so”. What does this mean for eSports, though? Will we see rows of Series X’s lined up at tournaments instead of high specced towers?

It’s an interesting question. If it was to be the case, organizers would have to ensure that everyone was playing with the same input method, because the disparity between controller and M+K is inherently extreme. There are obviously exceptions to that rule, but hosting a tournament where people compete on a mix of controllers/M+K is immediately establishing a handicap that will sway games immensely, especially in the FPS arena. The majority of competitive players simply prefer playing with a mouse for the extra degree of accuracy and speed it affords, and that’s something controllers will simply never be able to compete with. So if we do see the Series X become an eSports standard, it will most likely be with mouse and keyboard compatible games anyway.

The next point – and the one I suspect this will really all come down to – is the price. On an individual level, it’s much cheaper to buy a Series X than a similarly specced PC (some estimate that it would cost around £1600) which is obviously an attractive saving. But that saving comes with limitations – there are big eSports titles that are simply not available on PC, and there’s no way to tweak or optimize the performance/quality balance. Granted, it’s something that’s not entirely necessary on a console, but having those extra tools available can make a difference. Purely based on my own experience playing high-end content in MMOs, I wouldn’t perform half as well if I didn’t have the option to scale back certain flashy, screen-filling spell effects.

There are far too many different moving parts here to make an accurate prediction, but I’m going to do it anyway – The eSports scene will stay the same, even when it comes to eSports betting.

These next-gen consoles aren’t going to upset the status quo. They might streamline certain parts of it, and FIFA tournaments might look a bit sexier, but PC is going to stay at the top thanks to standardized M+K input, the resilience, and upgradeability of components, and just, well, good old fashioned tradition. It’s not entirely impossible that the Series X would become standard equipment in certain tournaments, but I find it hard to believe it would replace the PC any time soon.