With the launch of the PlayStation 5 and the Xbox Series X/S coming up very soon, people understandably want to know which system is right for them, which dovetails with the contentious “console war” debates about which plastic box is better than the other plastic box.
It’s well and good to get all the information and make an informed decision about which console to buy, since we’re talking about hundreds of dollars. But at the end of the day, we should remember that the big three–Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo–are all playing different games, measuring success differently, and succeeding in their own ways. As a result, the idea of a console war is sillier and less productive than ever.
There are plenty of reasons to be excited about the launch of the new consoles this year, and this post will round up some of them. Of course, you may not be excited about or interested in next-gen, and there are plenty of very good reasons to hold off buying a shiny new PlayStation or Xbox until 2021. But this story aims to highlight what gaming is doing right in 2020.
The Pure Power
If you are inclined to buy a new console this year, both the PS5 and the Xbox Series X are billed as incredibly fast, powerful systems that are promising a series of upgrades over their predecessors. In particular, the reduction in loading times is expected to be impressive across each console, helping people get into games faster than ever.
The power of the new systems also allows some games on PS5 and Xbox Series X to run at 120fps, which is double the current limit of the existing generation. This new frame rate limit promises to make games feel smoother, and it could be particularly exciting for multiplayer games. Recently, Microsoft announced that Halo: The Master Chief Collection will offer 120fps support on Xbox Series X, and Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War has been revealed to reach 120fps on both PS5 and Xbox Series X.
For Xbox Series X specifically, the horsepower of the new console has allowed developer The Coalition to reduce input latency for Gears 5. For both campaign and multiplayer, latency is improved substantially, which should go a long way to help the game feel more responsive on the next-gen console.
With PS5 and Xbox Series X only just entering the start of their lifecycles, it’s exciting to think about all the new gameplay systems and features that teams will discover and create as they continue working to unlock the power and potential of these consoles.
Pricing And Free Upgrades
The PS5 and Xbox Series X are not as expensive as many believed they might be. At $500 USD for each system’s top-line edition, that works out to comparatively less money than the price points for the PS4 and Xbox One at launch back in 2013, which come to around $550 in today’s money. Additionally, Sony and Microsoft are offering disc-free versions of their new consoles that allow players to get into next-gen at a lower price.
The cute little Xbox Series S console–which is no technical slouch–is only $300 USD, while the PS4 Digital Edition–which is exactly the same as the standard PS5 but with no disc drive–is $400. These are remarkably low prices for a next-gen console, considering how console prices had previously been trending upwards. The costs are also surprisingly low given the unavoidable costs associated with NVMe storage in particular. This driving-down of price is a good thing for fans hoping to save some scratch, provided they feel comfortable moving forward without discs and embracing a future where the games you buy aren’t really yours.
Along with a series of third-party developers and publishers, Sony and Microsoft are helping to smooth out the frustrations of the shift to a new console generation by giving players free upgrades to the next-gen editions of games when they’re released. If you’ve already bought titles like The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Destiny 2, Cyberpunk 2077, Marvel’s Avengers, Madden 21, or Borderlands 3, you’ll automatically get the next-gen upgrade for free when it’s released on the same console family. Microsoft has its own Smart Delivery system that allows you to pick up a game on Xbox One and get the Series X edition upgrade at no extra cost. Sony has a similar initiative where you can get a free upgrade from PS4 to PS5 for games like Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales, Sackboy: A Big Adventure, and Horizon Forbidden West. Not every game gets a free upgrade, however.
Another important next-gen factor for pricing is that, for the first time with a major next-gen console, you’ll be able to get one through a mobile phone-style subsidized program. Microsoft’s All Access program lets you get a Series S for $25/month or a Series X for $35 per month. Sony doesn’t have its own dedicated program like this, but retailer GameStop is offering payment plans for the new consoles, and we hope they become permanent.
Exciting New Innovations
In addition to flashier graphics and smoother frame rates, the new consoles promise to deliver new innovations beyond what was possible on current-gen hardware. For example, the PS5’s DualSense controller is making a big step forward with haptic feedback that promises some exciting functionality. In NBA 2K21, the adaptive triggers will become more resistant as your player becomes fatigued. Additionally, the controller will rumble with different intensity levels depending on how big a collision is.
In Spider-Man: Miles Morales, the haptic feedback makes the controller rumble to alert players to where attacks are coming from. Bethesda’s Deathloop uniquely uses the controller’s technology to completely block the player from firing a weapon when their weapon jams in the game. We also just recently learned how the PS5 game Astro’s Playroom will use the haptic controls in the DualSense, and it seems very encouraging and innovative. It’s exciting to contemplate what other next-gen games might have in store for the controller.
Astro’s Playroom – Cooling Springs | PS5 4K Gameplay
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For Microsoft, the Quick Resume feature on Xbox Series X, which allows you to suspend games and return to them exactly where you left off, is a standout feature of Microsoft’s new console. It’s a literal game-changer, and it’s made possible thanks to the extra horsepower in the machine, as GameSpot’s Michael Higham called out in a recent preview.
Subscription Services Are Taking Hold
The launch of the next-gen consoles also marks the proper kickoff of the PS Plus Collection service for PS5 users and the expanded profile of Xbox Game Pass on console and PC. Xbox Game Pass is a value-rich subscription package that gets you every first-party Microsoft game at launch–which now includes The Elder Scrolls 6 when it’s released–as well as a huge catalog of third-party games. Some maintain that Xbox Game Pass represents the best overall value for money for any subscription service across not only games but also TV and movies, and it’s not hard to see why. For Xbox Series X, Game Pass and backwards compatibility support mean many people will have access to literally thousands of games to play on the console from day one.
While Microsoft is pursuing a software and services-first approach for its next-gen strategy and doesn’t care much if you buy any hardware, Sony is sticking with a hardware-first approach. That doesn’t mean the company hasn’t adopted any attractive subscriptions, however. The PS Plus Collection, which is included with the cost of PS Plus, looks like a phenomenal offering with 18 PS4 titles in the collection at launch. This includes Sony exclusives like God of War, Bloodborne, Detroit: Become Human, and Uncharted 4, as well as third-party games like Batman: Arkham Knight, Battlefield 1, Final Fantasy 15, Mortal Kombat X, and Persona 5.
So Many Options
Unlike previous console generation changes, Sony and Microsoft are offering multiple options for how you can buy into next-gen. As mentioned above, both Sony and Microsoft have disc-free editions of their systems available, providing a less expensive alternative for those who are ready to embrace a fully digital future. This has never happened at the launch of a new console generation. Outside of that, Microsoft’s next-generation strategy is not strictly focused around any single piece of hardware. With xCloud, you can stream Xbox games to your phone or tablet, and play them almost anywhere. Additionally, all first-party Xbox games are also on PC–with cross-save and progression–so you have yet another option. Sony has been slower to embrace PC, but the company has begun to release its titles for computers, such as Horizon Zero Dawn. And using PlayStation Now, you can stream a giant library of PlayStation games to your PC.
It’s also notable that many games will continue to be released on current-generation consoles, so players don’t necessarily need to upgrade to the new boxes right away.
Console generation transitions historically tended to be painful moments when older games, consoles, and accessories were rendered obsolete. But not any longer. Both the PS5 and the Xbox Series X will support thousands of games from previous generations. The PS5 will play 99%of PS4 games according to Sony, while the Xbox Series X plays titles not only from Xbox One, but also from Xbox 360 and the original Xbox. Even the plastic peripherals you may have lying around will also be supported, as Harmonix recently announced that next-gen consoles will support Rock Band 4’s guitar and drum controllers so you can continue to be a living room rockstar.
Another nice benefit of the PS5 and Xbox Series X is that buying into these consoles instantly makes the games you already have much better, in many cases, without having to pay extra. Microsoft has gone to great lengths to enhance backwards compatibility games with things like auto-HDR and other improvements, while PS4 games on PS5 should experience a range of improvements right away thanks to the power of the new machine it’s running on.
The Switch Factor
While the conversation around games and new consoles in 2020 is understandably focused on the PS5 and Xbox Series X, the Nintendo Switch is actually the system that is poised for the greatest success this holiday. According to NPD analyst Mat Piscatella, the PS5 and Xbox Series X may face shortages, so the Switch is expected to be the top-selling platform in the US. The Switch remains a remarkable console that can be recommended to nearly anyone.
The Switch has some of the best, most highly rated games available anywhere, and its unique hybrid nature sets it apart from the competition. It has been some time since Nintendo purposefully went head-to-head with its console competitors, and that strategy continued with the Switch generation to great success. The Switch’s biggest 2020 hit, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, has sold a jaw-dropping 22.4 million copies, which is an astonishing figure overall, and especially for a game that is only available on one platform.
Nintendo is also releasing a marquee exclusive this year with Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity, which is a prequel to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. And Nintendo has the limited-time Super Mario 3D All-Stars Bundle, which will no doubt be a top-seller this holiday as it bundles three of the most iconic and beloved Mario games of all time into one updated package.
2020 (And Beyond)
2020 has brought great suffering, hardship, and distress to many for a variety of reasons. Gaming has been a wonderful way for many to pass the time, stay connected with friends, and relax amidst the pandemic and political upheaval across the world. The new consoles coming this year, and the enduring popularity of the Switch, should continue to provide a means of escape and entertainment, now with shinier graphics and more bells and whistles, and that’s something well worth getting excited about. Looking to 2021 and beyond, it’s fun to think about what kinds of innovations the new consoles will deliver once developers find their footing and discover how to make the most of their super-charged engines.