For the past 7 months and counting, the world has been forced to stay locked in their homes because of the advent of COVID-19. People were forced to find ways to entertain themselves while never leaving their house. Some people chose to binge Netflix or find a new hobby. One of the most popular choices, however, is playing video games. The video game industry has thrived due to the pandemic. After all, what else is there to do? Recent reports show that total consumer spending on video gaming reached $11.6 billion. This is an increase of 30% from this time last year. However, layoffs have been increasing and a second stimulus check has recently been delayed until after the election at the earliest. The timing could not be worse for the video game industry, as both Microsoft and Sony prepare for the battle of the century: the console wars. Not only will Microsoft and Sony have to battle each other, but they will also have to battle the looming pandemic that has stripped many of their discretionary income.
Microsoft plans to release the Xbox Series X on November 10th, 2020. Microsoft will also be releasing the Xbox Series S on the same date, with less storage and processing power but at a lower price. The price for the Xbox series X is currently $499 standalone. However, Microsoft is now providing the option to pay $34.99/month for 24 months for the Series X with no upfront cost. This move could have possibly been done to entice customers, who likely have received pay cuts or layoffs due to COVID-19, with lower prices. Sony plans on releasing the PlayStation 5 two days after the launch of the Series X, on November 12th. The starting price will be $499, the same price as the Xbox Series X. Unlike Microsoft, Sony will release a digital edition of their console. This means that the console will have no disc drive, so consumers must purchase all games digitally. This will matter little to many, since there are already many people who only purchase games digitally. The starting price for the PS5 digital edition is $399. However, the Xbox Series S costs $299, paid in full or monthly.
So, which company is winning the console war? Let’s start with Microsoft. The Xbox Series X is a powerful machine. It’s design is plain and simple; a sleek, black rectangular prism. It will include the latest AMD graphics processing that will allow games to run up to 8k resolution. This is a stunning video quality, but running games at this resolution will most likely stretch the console to it’s limit. Other features include a performance target of up to 120 frames per second, 1 terabyte of storage, and three air flow channels designed to cool down and silence the console. Similarly to the Xbox Series X, Sony’s PlayStation 5 is also a powerhouse. Like the Series X, the PlayStation 5 uses a custom AMD graphics processor that will allow the games to run up to 8k in resolution. Again, it must be noted that running either machine at 8k resolution is stretching the console to its limits; 4k resolution will be more easily run. Other performance characteristics promised from the PlayStation 5 include the ability to support 120 frames per second for compatible games, as well as ray tracing (enhanced in game lighting). That being said, these are things that the Xbox Series X also promises. Finally, the actual design of the PlayStation 5 is quite large. The console will be 15.4 inches tall and 4.09 inches wide, making it the largest gaming console in decades. It is larger than the Xbox Series X, which is only about 12 inches tall and 6 inches wide.
From this comparison, it seems like both consoles are quite similar (and they are). However, there are a few notable differences that set apart each console, the first of which being storage. The Xbox Series X has 1 TB of storage available on their SSD. This is a large amount of storage, which is especially necessary with the massiveness of next generation games (some of which can be over 100 GB). However, the PlayStation 5 only has an 825 GB SSD. This is a large amount; however, this is 175 GB less than the Xbox Series X, for the same exact price. Again, with the large size of launch titles, storage is key. Exclusives are another important consideration in the console wars. For clarification, exclusives refer to video game titles that will only be available to download for the Xbox Series X or the PlayStation 5. First, let’s begin with PlayStation 5 exclusives. The most notable title here is Spiderman: Miles Morales, which will release on the same day as the PlayStation 5. The first Spiderman title (released on the PlayStation 4) was a massive success, earning high praise for it’s stellar gameplay and intriguing story. Therefore, Spiderman: Miles Morales is a greatly beneficial property for Sony to have exclusive rights to. Other games that will be released for the PlayStation 5 only include Horizon Zero West, Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart, and Gran Turismo 7. On the other hand, Microsoft does not have quite as many significant launch titles. The only notable exclusive is Halo Infinite. Although this is a massive property, it is not planned to be released until December at the earliest. However, Microsoft’s acquisition of Zenimax has ensured sole ownership of significant properties in the future. These include games made by Bethesda (Elder Scrolls, Fallout, etc.), Id (Doom), and more. However, as for confirmed and current exclusives, PlayStation 5 can not be topped.
Physical features are another important consideration when purchasing a console. The PlayStation 5 is a massive device, standing at 15.4 inches tall. Although unlikely, it is certainly possible that people will be turned off by the large amount of space required to store the machine. Meanwhile, the Xbox Series X has a smaller, but wider build. Overall, physical size will most likely not be a determining factor, but the PlayStation 5’s gigantic build could convince some customers not to buy. As for hardware, both machines are fairly similar. Both consoles use customized AMD graphics processing, promises 120 frames per second gameplay, 8k resolution capabilities, ray tracing, and more. However, as mentioned earlier, the Xbox Series X has more storage space. One way to further compare the consoles hardware is by comparing the teraflops of both. More teraflops means faster computing power, and therefore a faster machine that allows for faster and smoother gameplay. The GPU of the Xbox Series X runs at 12 Teraflops, rather than the 10.28 Teraflops of the PlayStation 5. However, because of the way console games are designed, this will likely have little difference in gameplay aside from differences in frames per second and resolution. There are more considerations, but overall, aside from slight differences, both consoles are evenly matched.
In summary, both consoles have advantages over one another. Xbox Series X includes a unique financing option that involves monthly payments, giving it the edge over the PlayStation 5. The size of the Xbox Series X is also smaller, and the storage is larger. Also, PlayStation 5 has larger exclusive titles that will undoubtedly be a large factor in a customer’s purchase decision. Overall, each console has its pros and cons. However, only one console will reign supreme in sales and customer satisfaction. So, which console will become more successful?
In my opinion, the Xbox Series X will win the console war. Although the PlayStation 5 has many large titles, these games alone will likely not be enough to convince customers to pay $499 for. Also, those who own a PlayStation 4 will be able to buy these games anyway, leaving little incentive for them to purchase the PlayStation 5. Microsoft’s machine has larger storage, better pricing options, similar (if not better) hardware, a smaller and sleeker design, and decent exclusives of their own. For these reasons, it seems inevitable that Microsoft will beat Sony’s revenue from console sales. However, it is important to recognize the impact of brand loyalty. Although many factors are considered, most console consumers do not take the time to research hardware capabilities, financing options, size, and more. Rather, Microsoft fans will purchase the Xbox Series X because of their continued loyalty to the company, as will Sony supporters. Even though there is currently a lot of information about each console, only after mass distribution will the true value of each machine be revealed. Until then, all we can do is sit back, relax, and watch the story unfold.