We’re now pretty deep into 2020 and with that we’ve had some news on the next generation of console gaming, however we still don’t actually know much about the launches themselves. What we do know however is that both Microsoft and Sony are adopting very different approaches to the next generation and as a multi-platform owner I find that exciting.
Often during these times it’s interesting following the hype and the build up of the new machines and that’s something I personally follow quite closely. What I aim to do here is summarising some key facts that differentiate the 2 companies and speculate about what this could mean moving forward; but by no means is this meant to be a comprehensive list.
With events expected in August from both Sony and Microsoft as part of GamesCom it’s interesting to see where we stand now and what the future holds.
Sony are adopting a more traditional approach to the next generation. Not only is their machine directly numbered as a successor to the hugely successful PlayStation 4, but their mantra is almost identical to their launch of that machine too. At this point we’ve only had 2 presentations for the PlayStation 5; one of those was a GDC conference that was very much aimed directly at developers and was a bit of a missed opportunity to really show off the machine. The second event however was a very well-received showcase of games that hinted towards what the future may hold.
We also know that the new machine is being launched with exclusives to the PlayStation 5 that won’t be available on previous machines, and also with those games being locked into the new peripherals too. Sony also run with a relatively frequent State of Play event (similar to Nintendo Directs or Inside Xbox) which has led to some deeper dives into PlayStation 5 titles.
What we know…
- We have of course seen the machine itself, sporting a 2 tone design it has been met with a polarising response online.
- The console has an element of backwards compatibility, this will support PlayStation 4 games and even the DualShock 4 controller to play them. Not only this but PlayStation VR users are safe too as this is also supported on the new machine.
- We’ve had a clear view of some games that will be available on the machine; these include follow-ups to the hugely successful Marvel’s Spider-Man and Horizon Zero Dawn, but also new IPs such as Deathloop and Destruction AllStars
- The machine will be out towards the end of 2020
- We’ve had a clear view of the peripherals including the controller itself, headset, media remote and docking stations. These share a similar aesthetic to the console itself with the white and black design prominently featured.
- The PlayStation 5‘s only technical advantage over Xbox is the new SSD which is incredibly fast compared to what’s currently available on the market.
What we still want to know…
- When is it out? Whilst we know the machine will release this year we don’t have a firm date, or even a month.
- What exactly is available on launch? We know Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales will be a launch title but beyond this we don’t know what will be there on day 1.
- We don’t have a clear view of what backwards compatibility means. Mark Cerny detailed 100 games working at launch, though a further Tweet clarified that the aim is for the majority of PS4 games to work on the machine.
- What does the future hold for PlayStation VR? Whilst the current kit will work on the machine, will there be a PlayStation VR 2?
- What does the interface look like? What other features does the console bring?
- Probably the most important question; how much is it? With Sony’s Jim Ryan stating that they “emphasise value as opposed to price” it has led to some speculation that it could be quite a costly machine.
Xbox Series X
Microsoft’s approach to Xbox news has been quite different to Sony’s, unveiling their new flagship machine almost 6 months prior. The Xbox Series X was officially revealed, alongside the follow-up to critically acclaimed Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, back at the Game Awards in 2019. It wasn’t until May of this year when we really saw the first sign of what the console could deliver when they held an Inside Xbox event dedicated only to third parties which left people wanting more and has been widely considered a misstep in promoting their new machine. They quickly followed this up with a showcase of their own first party studios and more third party content which was on par with Sony’s show, however still left some questions around why the self-proclaimed “World’s Most Powerful Console” was delivering some sup-bar generational leaps.
With 2 shows and a mixture of smaller press releases we do however have a much clearer view of what the Xbox does and what services it provides. Microsoft have also laid out plans to reveal news every month for 2020, something they’re called Xbox 20/20.
What we know…
- Xbox is now more of a division than a console with all of Xbox Game Studios games landing on PC, console (both new and old) and even via cloud game courtesy of Project XCloud.
- We have seen the machine itself, including a full tear down from folks like Digital Foundry which showed the inner workings of the unit.
- The machine is both backwards and forwards compatible with new games launching on the current Xbox One range and all peripherals working across both generations.
- Xbox Game Pass is clearly Microsoft’s biggest focus, allowing gamers to choose where they play.
- The flagship machine will also be launching in November 2020, likely at a very similar time to Sony’s.
- On paper the Xbox Series X is indeed the most powerful console, the only specification where the PlayStation 5 exceeds is with the SSD.
- We know a lot of the key features of the machine including Smart Delivery and Quick Resume.
- We’ve also had a good view of the games planned for the console and also what will be landing in Xbox Game Pass.
What we still want to know…
- We also have no idea on the date the console will land.
- Microsoft have also been very vague about launch; similar to the PlayStation 5 we know only a handful of the launch titles, but we don’t know much else. Xbox is also on the back foot with Halo Infinite facing a delay into 2021.
- How much is it? It definitely feels like Sony and Microsoft are playing a game of chicken with the pricing as I am sure they both want to be very competitive.
- What does the future of Xbox Live Gold look like? With continuing speculation around the renaming of it and the fact there are now 2 prominent subscriptions available for Xbox, will anything here change?
- What other features will the Xbox Series X bring and what will it be like to use?
So what does this all mean?
It’s clear that both companies are adopting 2 very different approaches to target the same key audience. On one hand we have Sony’s more conventional generational leap which is clearly designed to shift units into homes and will likely see Sony excel in hardware sales moving forward. On the other hand Microsoft’s more service orientated approach will likely lead to fewer hardware sales but a much larger focus on Xbox Game Pass subscriptions and software movement. These different approaches will also mean that they’re going to be incredibly hard to compare the machines on paper.
Microsoft’s flagship Xbox Series X will clearly be the most powerful machine, designed to be the best way to experience games as a console gamer and will certainly have the edge for third party titles. They’ve also made some acquisitions in recent years that will hopefully lead to their biggest weakness, exclusives, finally being brought up to scratch. The options Microsoft are laying out are also incredibly, uncharacteristically consumer friendly not only giving smaller developers more confidence in their releases but enabling gamers to play however they choose (even at the cost of hardware sales).
Sony’s approach however will be in territory they’re incredibly familiar with. They’ll be launching PlayStation 5 on the back of the marketplace domination of the PlayStation 4 and the trust they have rightfully earned with the exclusives they have produced and distributed this generation. Whilst they’re playing hardball with the compatibility of their older hardware, this is likely something that will become moot in the years to come as more and more people adopt the newer machine.
As you can imagine a number of us here at Thumb Culture are quite excited for what Sony and Microsoft do next. Both companies are playing their cards incredibly close to their chest and as a result we’re just as in the dark as you are with what might be coming up.
This is likely to be the first out of many articles discussing what the next console generation may hold. With the next events potentially being just a few weeks away and the release fewer than 4 months I am sure we’ll see an increase in news and some big announcements on the horizon. Ultimately what brings us all together are games and with new hardware landing we’re going to be seeing a slew of new games and new innovations in the field that are sure to tease what the next 5 or 6 years will hold.
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