Xbox Series X vs. PlayStation 5
Xbox Series X vs. PlayStation 5 is a debate that’s running rampant these days and with good reason. But while most people focus on teraflops and other seemingly overcomplicated tech wizardry, we’ll focus on the bigger picture: each platform and its ecosystem.
Now, make no mistake: Teraflops and hardware, in general, are incredibly important. The better the hardware, the higher the frame rates and resolution the console will be able to deliver. That’s pretty straight-forward stuff. But when both consoles offer relatively similar performance (as will be the case this holiday season), gamers and potential buyers shouldn’t focus too much on the spec sheet, but rather on the nuance that each ecosystem will provide in the long-term.
For example, the Xbox One X is a much more capable console when compared to the PlayStation 4 Pro. It’s miles ahead hardware-wise on paper, and such tremendous power translated well into performance. To date, it is the most powerful gaming console ever released, even though it paled in comparison to many gaming PCs even when it was launched.
But sheer horsepower is nothing if you don’t have the right games to offer to your audience, and Microsoft certainly lacked in that department. Sony, on the other hand, had their well-established IPs and exclusives which made their console much more alluring. Sure, the strongest Xbox could pull off true 4K, but it didn’t have God of War, Horizon Zero Dawn, Death Stranding, Spider-Man, etc. The list is lost and exhausting but in the best possible way.
If you weren’t a fan of Halo or Forza or Gears of War, there was no actual reason to empty your wallet for an Xbox One X, regardless of what is packed under the hood.
Fortunately, Microsoft got the message loud and clear and went on a huge, historic buying spree during which they acquired multiple top-tier gaming studios, in an attempt to compete with Sony on even footing. This move wasn’t just a reaction to player demand, but rather an investment in the future of Xbox.
Because of this, it is only natural to expect both upcoming consoles to have many mind-blowing release titles that’ll make your mouth water. Still, even in such a “war,” Microsoft has decided to take a different approach, one that is without precedent in gaming history.
They’re looking to become a service provider, an all-encompassing giant (which they already are) that’s above the banal and petty squabble of “who has the best line-up of games.” They want to provide it all, regardless of your platform choice. They’ve already started doing this, and as a result, you can play all of their games on PC as well. Forza, Gears, Halo, and all other former Xbox exclusives? They’re now multi-platform titles and you can play them to your heart’s content by subscribing to the Xbox Game Pass for just a couple of bucks per month. Furthermore, Microsoft said they won’t be releasing any Xbox Series X exclusives in 2021, meaning every game up to that point will be a multi-platform release. Whether or not that includes the PlayStation 5 will depend solely on the developer.
Microsoft wants Xbox to become a service, a tool that is used for gaming and media consumption. But you don’t have to own one to enjoy its benefits. You can also play through Microsoft xCloud (their cloud gaming service) or on PC. Some of their recent titles even support cross-platform saving, so you can start on one device and continue on another. They’re actually putting gamers first, and that’s no marketing spiel either, as surprising as it might sound.
All in all, the gaming industry will look a lot different come 2021, with the focus shifting from console-specific titles and sheer one-dimensional gaming to services and ecosystems.
For this article, we won’t be talking about any specifications. If you’re into that sort of (important) thing, you can check our separate Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 tech breakdowns. Instead, we’ll focus on the long-term pros and cons of each console.
Xbox Series X vs. PlayStation 5 | The Architecture
First of all, you should know that by purchasing either next-gen console you’ll basically be buying a fairly compact gaming PC. Both Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 will have desktop-grade processors and graphics cards. This is a new one, seeing how prior console generations had wildly different architecture which often made game development a nightmare, especially when it came to multi-platform releases.
This time around, however, the differences between all three platforms (PC, PlayStation, Xbox) development-wise will be fairly negligible. As a result, we should be seeing many cross-platform releases over the coming years — a big plus for everyone involved. Developers will rake in more profit, and gamers won’t have that age-old dilemma that’s a result of console exclusivity. That’ll still be a thing, of course, but nowhere near as present as in years prior.
This will also mark the first time in gaming history that all platforms will be similar in strength. Console gamers will no longer be sentenced to 30 frames per second and 1080p (if not even less). Instead, they’ll get all the modern bells and whistles: high refresh rates, maxed out graphics, 4K, ray tracing, and so on.
Xbox Series X vs. PlayStation 5 | The Ecosystem
Perhaps the most important thing that you need to keep in mind going forward, is the fact that you’re not just buying a console, a “block” of hardware that’ll run games. Instead, you’re buying into an ecosystem that includes paid online play, current and future support, developer backing, infrastructure, nuanced perks and offers, and so on.
The main reason why Sony and Microsoft can sell consoles at a loss is that they make it up over time — they’ll sell you games through their own separate game stores, along with additional controllers, online passes, subscriptions of all kinds, etc. They have so many ways to lure you in and, even more importantly, keep you tied to their branding, philosophy, and ecosystem over multiple console generations.
It is, therefore, paramount to do your research and be fully aware of what you’re getting yourself into because as things stand, Sony and Microsoft offer different “products” and “environments.” At first glance, there are many similarities, but once you go a bit deeper, you can start to notice a stark difference between the two companies.
Over the years, Microsoft has successfully corrected course and is now more open and quicker to react; they’re listening to their players and are making all the right moves across the board. They know that by giving more to their players they’ll receive more in the long run as well — a win-win situation. That’s why a service like Xbox Game Pass exists and is insanely successful.
For $9.99 a month, you’re getting unlimited access to over 100 “high-quality console games” like NBA 2K20, Ori and the Will of the Wisps, GTA V, Forza Horizon 4, Rocket League, Gears 5, PUBG, Halo 5, Sea of Thieves, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, etc. The list is long and impressive, and it’s not final either — new titles are added on a monthly basis. Heck, Microsoft Studio exclusives are added to Xbox Game Pass on the day of their release and you can play them to your heart’s content without spending a dime over that monthly fee.
Sony, on the other hand, is like a stringy old geezer. It’s not exactly a comparison you’d expect to hear, but it doesn’t make it any less true. They didn’t even allow cross-platform online play up until recently, and they’re laser-focused on creating as much revenue as humanly possible through any means necessary. Now, in all fairness, that’s a perfectly sound business philosophy and it’s been prevalent in the gaming industry for decades, but when you see what Microsoft is doing, it’s hard not to feel like Sony is out of touch with the times.
They’re still in the past and have shown no willingness to adjust to the current status quo. Now, if you’re a gamer who wants to get as much bang for your buck, then Sony probably isn’t the right option. If you just want exclusives and the best possible single-player titles, then it feels like the PlayStation 5 will still be superior, at least for the foreseeable future. Sony knows that triple A titles move the needle and are doing all that is within their power to offer gamers as many mouth-watering exclusives as they can.
Xbox Series X vs. PlayStation 5 | Backwards Compatibility
Both consoles will technically be backwards compatible, although there’s a huge difference in execution. The Xbox Series X will support any title that was ever released for an Xbox console — that’s four generations and nearly twenty years of history. The PlayStation 5, on the other hand, will only support PlayStation 4 titles. In a head-to-head comparison, it’s fairly obvious which console has the edge.
If you’re just looking to play the latest and greatest games, then both consoles will practically provide you with the exact same experience. If, on the other hand, you wish to go through the back catalogs and to enjoy a couple of classics you grew up on (or didn’t play back when they were released), the Xbox Series X is the only logical choice.
In the end, it all boils down to what you personally want from a next-gen gaming console. An all-encompassing solution that’s basically four consoles in one, or an option that’s more oriented towards the future (and the recent past)?
Xbox Series X vs. PlayStation 5 | The Price
Price always plays a big role, and with good reason. For the next generation of consoles, however, we’re kind of entering uncharted land. Because both consoles will basically be small form-factor PCs (hardware and architecture-wise), no one’s quite sure how much they’ll go for. A lot of people are expecting these gaming behemoths to go for around $500 or $600, but that could end up being an optimistic stretch.
Building an equivalent PC would require up to three times as much, and even if Sony and Microsoft decide to sell their consoles at a loss, they certainly won’t be giving them away for such “chump change.” This is definitely going to be a hard thing to market, seeing how many people are accustomed to the $300-$500 range that was so prevalent over the years.
Still, gamers wanted high frame rates and resolutions, and the only way to achieve such a thing was to cram in as much power as possible into next-gen consoles. So it is only natural to expect a higher price tag as well. Both Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 will be fantastic options budget-wise when compared to similarly spec’d PC offerings, but they still won’t come cheap.
This brings us to yet another previously unknown conundrum: if the asking price is high, what’s stopping anyone from actually purchasing a full-fledged PC? Well, that’s a dilemma everyone will have to sort out for themselves, in accordance with what they’re after.
If you just want a user-friendly gaming solution, then a console will be your best bet — as always. If, on the other hand, you’re looking to get the best of both worlds, then you might as well invest a bit more money and get an actual gaming PC. It might not be as visually attractive, but it’ll get the job done for both business and pleasure.
At the time of this writing, there’s no official confirmation in terms of price, but it’s fair to assume that both consoles will cost up to $750. Anything above that would be too outlandish (although still fair).
Xbox Series X vs. PlayStation 5 | Closing Remarks
In the end, which console you end up going for will probably depend on your personal preference. Most console gamers already belong to one “tribe” or the other. Still, Sony isn’t doing much to persuade Xbox faithfuls and convert them — they’re resting on their laurels. Microsoft, on the other hand, has completely shifted strategy-wise and is now not only selling the best hardware but has better services as well. They’ve also acquired multiple game studios over the last couple of years, so expect a slew of announcements over the coming months. They know they’re missing those strong, jaw-dropping exclusives that will sway hesitant buyers.
One thing is for certain: both next-gen consoles will be immensely powerful and should allow you to game comfortably for many years to come. In that sense, there’s no wrong choice.