Sony’s PlayStation 5 and Microsoft’s Xbox Project Scarlett could end up being evenly-matched in terms of computational power and graphics capabilities. But the strategies used by their parent companies could still make for radically different experiences.
Let’s start with the similarities. Both devices will be powered by cutting-edge CPUs and GPUs with blazing-fast performance and unmatched console graphics. Both chipsets will be custom-made for each company by semiconductor giant AMD. The big differences, then, will likely come down to the games. And some early decisions on the part of both Sony and Xbox could have serious down-stream effects on the types of titles each console is able to offer in the ensuing years.
PS5 vs. New Xbox: Two Styles of Games
Sony chief executive Kenichiro Yoshida told the Wall Street Journal on June 28 that the company plans on selling its next-gen console as a “niche” device aimed at hardcore gamers. That will involve prioritizing the release of exclusive, AAA-titles to recreate the success of last year’s God of War and Spider-Man releases.
Microsoft has also announced its own roster of iconic Xbox-exclusives, like Halo Infinite and Gears 5 that will be used to coax diehard fans. But it also has other irons in the fire, thanks to the hundreds of independent games studios it recruited as part of its ID@Xbox initiative. These games may not all be blockbusters. But there will be a lot of them.
The program lets indie studios of any size partner with Microsoft and self-publish titles on Xbox and Windows devices, a system akin to Apple’s iOS App Store. Sony has somewhat of a similar offering with PlayStation Partners, but the WSJ report suggests that indie games will take a backseat to heavily investing in big-name titles.
PS5 vs. New Xbox: The Gamers’ Choice
This means the console war will evolve into more of a content war Sony already has shown some success in competing in this landscape, using its in-house studio to produce exclusive titles gamers can’t get anywhere else like Spiderman.
These titles helped the company’s current-generation console sell more than 96.8 million PS4 units worldwide. Microsoft stopped reporting Xbox console sales in 2015, but industry analysts estimated that it was somewhere around 40 million Xbox One units as of February 2019. That’s a big difference.
Sony’s dominance is often credited to its impressive roster of exclusive titles like Horizon Zero Dawn and Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End. So it makes sense that they’re doubling down, already announcing a new God of War release. But investing too much in only a handful of games might also be risky.
ID@Xbox, by contrast, will ensure that Microsoft has a steady drumbeat of unique, indie titles every month. Plenty of them will be forgettable or niche, but one of them could end up being the next Minecraft. Gamers may also grow tired of Sony’s exclusive titles, whereas Microsoft has a plan to ensure at least some variety.
Of course, cloud gaming, depending on its quality, could heat up the content war even further.
PS5 vs. New Xbox: Cloud Gaming Could Change Everything
Cloud gaming services like Microsoft’s xCloud and Google Stadia will soon make console hardware more optional. Gamers will eventually be able to play any title they want from their smartphones, tablets, or laptops once the internet infrastructure is up to snuff. The days where hardware can be a key selling point for consumers may be ending, increasing the pressure to produce tantalizing titles.
Sony has all but but formally admitted defeat in the game streaming department, announcing a cloud gaming partnership with its long-time rival Microsoft on May 16. That means the PS5 can now benefit from Microsoft’s cloud computing infrastructure, but in turn, it could cede some of its exclusive titles to the Xbox.
The full details of the Sony-Microsoft deal remain fuzzy, but it’s likely that Microsoft will want in on a few on the PS5’s biggest releases. In a market where offering the most content often leads to success, that could prove to be a massive asset for the Xbox Scarlett. For Sony, the success of the PS 5 will hinge largely on the output of its in-house studio.
Gamers will have a lot of decisions to make when it comes to the next-generation of consoles. Fortunately these decisions will be pretty fun to make.