With the release of Sony’s Playstation 5 and Xbox’s newest generation of consoles expected at the end of the year, the newest generation of consoles could represent a shift in the way we look at gaming consoles from now on as each company takes a different stance on the way in which their consoles are released.
The Xbox Series X marks a continuation and a solidification of Microsoft’s plans to release different versions of the same console; acting as different skews with different levels of power. With the release of the Xbox One X and Xbox One S, acting as the more powerful and budget options respectively, Xbox began its test to spread over more gamers’ budget. Those who want the most powerful console available will opt for the X version and those on a tight budget will go for the S. The release of the Xbox Series X is more of an update to the company’s most powerful console than it is a complete refresh like we’ve been used to with the transition from Xbox to Xbox 360 and so on.
Sony’s strategy is more familiar. They are striving to release another numbered console; showing their intention to keep the same model they’ve kept since the release of the original Playstation in 1994. The PS5 will be an update to all things PS4, but as of now most of the information we have is very technical, appealing mostly to independent game developers and hardcore tech-heads who want to get into all of the details. But still, the direction is clear: Sony will be running the same race it has been, but its competition in Microsoft may be running a totally different race.
Both consoles boast backwards compatibility meaning you’ll still be able to play all the games that you have in your library from the PS4/Xbox One generation. Indicating, once again, a shift in the mentality of these console releases.
Microsoft seems to be moving more in the direction of emulating PC gaming, providing different skews and giving players the opportunity to buy games on the Xbox Game Store and play them on PCs as well as their Xbox console of choice. With more frequent, incremental updates to the hardware they release, Microsoft acts as a more approachable way for casual gamers to constantly update their hardware in comparison to the PC’s higher barrier to entry.
Moving forward, we will see how the competition shakes out between Microsoft and Sony. If the two continue to split in different directions, their competition could be more similar to their current competition with Nintendo, whose market seems to be almost entirely different, despite a considerable amount of overlap. Sony was caught on their heels after the release of their hugely expensive PS3 in comparison to Microsoft’s, Xbox 360. But in the end, Sony caught up and surpassed Microsoft in sales and carried that momentum to the PS4 which handily beat the Xbox One both in sales and in mindshare. Does Sony’s continued pursuit of numbered consoles foreshadow its lack of awareness of a changing ecosystem? Or is Microsoft’s venture into new territory unwize? Either way, the consumers are the victor in this competition and we’re all eagerly awaiting to see what both of these new consoles have to show us.