Summer is here. The air is warm. Thunderstorms are rolling through and new video game consoles should be getting shown to us soon. There may be no E3 this year, but the anticipation around the opportunity to see more of the highly anticipated Playstation 5 and Xbox: Series X is extremely high. We know what the Series X looks like after Microsoft unveiled it at December’s game awards, and are still awaiting anything beyond a Wired article in relation to the PlayStation 5.
The last generation is largely considered a victory for Sony with the PlayStation 4 outselling the Xbox One and having a deeper and stronger library of games. Of course, Sony has not been without their own faults this generation.
Microsoft embraced the new trend of crossplay, allowing gamers to play games with each other no matter the console they owned. Sony strongly pushed against it throughout the generation with only a handful of exceptions to major titles like Fortnite and Rocket League. On the other side though you have PlayStation with very strong exclusive titles like Uncharted 4, Street Fighter V, Marvel’s Spiderman, God of War, Persona 5, Horizon Zero Dawn, and the list can really go on. The Xbox One tried to continue some of their long-lasting titles such as Halo and Gears of War, but the reactions to Gears was that it was good, not great, and the less said about Halo 5‘s campaign the better.
While it’s hard to predict a company’s overall strategy going into a new generation, we can make some educated guesses. In the last few years, both companies have positioned themselves for the next generation. We’ve heard chatter and it’s always worth noting what has made each successful in the past. The first PlayStation arrived on the scene in 1994 and the first Xbox in 2001. Over the decades they have found what worked for them and it would not be surprising to see them stay in their lane, as it were, while appealing to both long-time fans and new ones. With all that said, let’s take a look at the tale of the tape, at least as it stands right now.
PlayStation 5: Strong games, more power
Going all the way back to the 90s, when the PlayStation was entering the scene against Nintendo and Sega, they made their name by releasing high-quality exclusives. During the PS2 era, they continued this trend and that console is well known for having one of, if not the greatest game library of all time. They slipped up in the PS3 era. Their launch price point was too high, the system was too hard to develop for, and they flat out failed to keep up with the innovative ideas coming out of the Microsoft camp. For the PS4 era, however, they learned from their past fails, simplifying the formula. The price tag has been competitive, they made sure they had the best exclusives, and even though they took heat for fighting against crossplay, it was part of what made them who they were. You buy a PlayStation because they have games you can only play on a PlayStation.
Because of that, it’s hard to see them not keeping with the status quo as they enter this next generation. And that theory is reinforced by what we’ve seen so far through info released through Wired (with talk about 8K visuals and an SSD that sounds transformational) and the Unreal Engine 5 reveal. Sony knows what they do best: have great games and a powerful console. They’re gonna stick with that and present as a powerful workhorse.
Xbox will innovate through service
It’s odd to think that Microsoft, for as big a name as it is, has truly never “won” a console generation. Even the mighty 360 was still barely outsold by the Playstation 3. Xbox’s first foray into consoles saw a horrible launch that almost announced it dead on arrival. Had it not been for Halo and a little thing called Xbox Live we might be discussing the two console giants Nintendo and Sony instead of Microsoft and Sony. That said, the 360 era is where Microsoft truly made its name. Not only through incredible first-person shooters like Halo 3, but by offering everyone’s favorite online service Xbox Live, reinforcing the social element of gaming.
When we look at the Xbox One, we can see signs of Microsoft once again trying to make the services they offer the selling point for their console. Xbox made a huge push into the realm of crossplay this generation and is fully embracing the idea that anyone should be able to play any games they want. This includes older games. As gamers grow up they want to play their old favorites without hanging on to mothballed consoles from the past. As such, Microsoft has fully embraced backwards compatibility. They have already advertised that the Xbox: Series X will continue to support this.
Our commitment to compatibility means existing Xbox One games, including backward-compatible Xbox 360 and original Xbox games, look and play better than ever before. Your favorite games, including titles in Xbox Game Pass, benefit from steadier framerates, faster load times and improved resolution and visual fidelity – all with no developer work required. Your Xbox One gaming accessories also come forward with you.
If Xbox can’t beat Sony with buzzy exclusives then they are going to try and win fans over with the ability to play just about every game under the sun on their console. One of the ways they do this through Gamepass. A feature that was released on the Xbox ONE, Gamepass allows players to stream games to their console and play them whenever they want. Similar to something like a Netflix for games. The library on Gamepass is incredible and it is probably the best service on any console at the moment. This is an area that the Series X can take advantage of.
This generation of consoles could define what video games are for years to come. Is Xbox’s progressive idea of ignoring exclusivity and streaming games the future or will the traditional style of Playstation featuring exclusives and strong boxes win out? It’ll be fascinating to see which way video game lovers lean come release time and how each company evolves its strategy in response.