We’re at the end of a console generation and it’s exciting and exceptionally frustrating at the moment to see how things are developing with the drip feed of hype and information about the next generation of consoles.
Both machines are going to be powered by similar AMD systems on chips, both with lead with SSD technology and on paper it looks like the Xbox will have more grunt in the GPU department than the Playstation, while the Sony console will have a faster solid state drive. There are plenty of deep dives into the architecture, The Verge have a good piece, as do Extreme Tech., if that’s what you want to pick over.
At this point I’m happy to assume that the Xbox One Series X is going to remedy the initial launch mistake that MS made with the Xbox one: it simply wasn’t as powerful as the Playstation. Afterall, the One X is significantly more powerful than the PS4 Pro.
The problem is gaming performance is going to be the battleground, PR is and Sony can run rings round MS all day long when it comes to hype and expectation building. This problem is exacerbated by the completely different approach the two companies are taking to the next generational launch.
Sony is ironically going for a very traditional next genration launch. It has a new console which will have new and exclusive games. It has tech demos (who remembers the T-Rex from the PS1 launch?) that looks astonishing and while backward compatibility is there, it’s not full and isn’t at the front of what they’re talking about.
Microsoft is trying something different and will (and arguably already are) suffering for it. Rather than drawing a line like Sony, MS is attempting a generational shift that allows you to bring everything with you, while also continuing and expanding the upgrade process that saw older backwards compatible games look and run better on the Xbox One X. Series One X games will looks spectacular but you’ll still be able to play them on Xbox One/S/X.
Microsoft’s approach is brilliant in that you’ll already have an established library of games that will run better and look better than they did on the older hardware but it has allowed Sony to make the semi valid point that PS5 is going to have exclusives that can only be made on their console that aren’t potentially hamstrung by the need to run on older tech.
Given the overwhelming victory for Sony in the current gen, in terms of both perception and installed userbase, Microsoft need to really hit it out of the park at launch, in terms of games, power and price. They’ve already slipped up in terms of the PR, so have a lot to do to make things right. Fingers crossed they do because I happen to think their approach is the right one; I’m one of those people who have said for years the switch to X86 architecture should lead to iterative upgrades that mean generational improvements without the end user having to repurchase a library of games for no other reason than to line the pockets of publishers.
The problem comes for those who make up the majority of console buyers, not the hard core or experienced gamers but those who will play CoD and FIFA every year and not much else. It will take a misstep from Sony to have these punters change their opinion and pricing is probably the only way that Sony can mess this up. Next gen is going to be expensive, how expensive may be the make or break moment for MS.