PS5 v Xbox Series X: Who will win the next-gen console race?

3 weeks ago
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The PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X

It’s like the excitement just before Christmas, only without the tinsel and fairy lights that don’t work anymore.

For gamers, anticipation has been building and this week it is finally time to get at those presents under the tree.

From Tuesday, people will be unboxing the latest Xboxes (if they managed to get a pre-order in on time) – with new PlayStations following just days later.

It’s a big moment, not only because there are new experiences to look forward to, but because it’s a taste of what the future holds.

Microsoft and Sony executives always say in interviews that it’s not a competition between the two – and get frustrated sometimes if you ask them about it.

But in reality, gamers compare them all the time, and so does everyone in the industry.

With most people not having enough cash to buy two new consoles this month, they’re facing a choice – which one to buy?

Who won last time around?

PlayStation heads into this new era of gaming having come out top in the previous generation.

Sony’s PS4 significantly outsold rival Microsoft’s Xbox One.

When it was first released, the PS4 focused solely on becoming a hub for gaming. Slogans such as “4 The Players” made it pretty obvious the machine was all about gaming.

Sales of previous generation games consoles. PS4 - 112.4 million. Xbox One - 52.8 million. (Source: Ampere Analysis) Nintendo Switch - 63 million. (Source Nintendo).

Meanwhile, the Xbox One team was spending a lot of energy on advertising its broader offering including the Kinect camera and live television capabilities.

At the start , the Xbox One limited which older titles you could access on the console as well – this turned many gamers off.

Nintendo’s console at the time, the Wii U, also failed to capture the public’s imagination.

With a competitive price tag and a conveyor belt of exclusive games, PlayStation took an early lead and sales kept rising.

What can we expect this time?

This time, Microsoft and Sony are offering different visions for the future of gaming.

Xbox has certainly learned lessons from its 2013 Xbox One launch.

It is making its new machines very gamer-friendly and focusing less on all the other things a console can offer.

Microsoft is also going big on its Netflix-like subscription service Game Pass – offering gamers access to more titles than you can shake a stick at for a monthly fee.

However, don’t expect a big blockbuster exclusive to convince you to part with your cash on day one. Game Pass is made up mainly of experiences that are available already.

The latest Halo game, which was supposed to be a launch title, has been delayed.

Spider-Man

Sony

A screenshot of Halo Infinite

Microsoft

Meanwhile, Sony is following a similar strategy that worked for it in 2013, selling discs and downloads for premium prices.

But at launch, it will not have a brand-new exclusive blockbuster game ready either – although an updated Spider-Man adventure featuring Miles Morales will appeal to some.

What about the hardware?

Sony argues that “generations matter”, and so the PS5 is very different to the previous devices in its look and feel.

A step up in graphical capability compared to the current generation and almost instant loading times are the first thing that jump out when you turn on the console for the first time.

PlayStation 5

Sony

Bosses are also promising their new DualSense controller will make players experience games in ways they have never before, by adding more realistic and dynamic vibration to complement what is happening on screen.

Microsoft wants its latest machines to be part of its “family” of consoles.

It has a vision similar to how Apple approaches the iPhone – each device has slightly different capabilities but they’re all still compatible with each other and run the same apps.

The Series X is being promoted as the most powerful console on the market – for those interested in the best graphics and performance.

And its digital-only little brother, the Series S, is offering next-generation gaming for less than the cost of a Nintendo Switch (albeit with lower performance capabilities than the Series X).

The flagship PS5 and Xbox Series X consoles will make a significant dent in your wallet – and your living room too.

The devices are huge compared to the previous generation – and each one will set you back around £450.

An Xbox Series X and Series S

Despite the expensive price-tags, these are more subtle upgrades compared to previous generational changes.

However, both companies are confident there’s still a compelling case for gamers to get their wallets out.

Both Jim Ryan, the boss of PlayStation, and Phil Spencer of Xbox spoke to the BBC for

a new gaming podcast, Press X To Continue.

Mr Ryan said the PS5 was “a quantum leap forward compared to the previous generation”.

Mr Spencer said gamers would see “a real difference in the speed and feel of your games, and I’m looking forward for people to experience it”.

Press X To Continue banner

Strong presales of both systems suggest their confidence is well-placed, although analysts suggest the PS5 may continue its lead from the previous generation.

The consultancy Ampere Analysis expects sales of 13.5 million Xbox Series X and S consoles by the end of 2021, and 17.9 million PS5s.

Of course, hardware is only half the story.

“Xbox Game Pass has become increasingly important to Microsoft’s competitive positioning,” said Piers Harding-Rolls from Ampere Analysis.

“Sony does not currently have an adequate competitive response to Xbox Game Pass.”

The Xbox Series X is released on Tuesday 10 November. The PS5 is released in the some countries including the US and Japan on 12 November, with a global release the following week.

A list of game-changing consoles - showing the Atari 2600 from 1977 up to the PS5 and Xbox Series X

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