This week we begin our countdown to the deliveries and arrivals of next-gen console gaming! Having managed to get my pre-order last week for a PS5 (just!) it seems a great time to start counting down to the release of next-gen consoles. The pre-ordering process hasn’t been the cleanest of moments for either company, although Microsoft did set aside a time and date for theirs unlike Sonys floodgate-opening moment (Sony even put out a public apology for this), whilst Game’s pre-order kept people waiting for ninety minutes only for their site to crash.
So to kick off our countdown to next-gen, I thought I would start with an overview of both consoles, the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S. First of all, there are some fantastic infographics out there clearly comparing every single element of either console (I highly recommend taking a look at Graphic News and The Gaming Setup), but let’s keep it simple and focus on the key elements that matter to most gamers, hardcore or casual. First up, value and cost. Sony and Microsoft are offering both disc and digital edition consoles. This means you can buy a version of both consoles without a 4k UHD Blu-Ray disc drive, with a considerable amount off both (£100 off the PS5 Digital Edition, half price for the Series S at £249.99). This is great for those who either don’t need a physical disc drive or who just don’t have the funds for the top of the range launch product. So value-wise, everyone has options.
Next up, power. Microsoft has Sony beaten here, with the Series X pushing out 12 teraflops of power compared to the PS5’s 10. The Series X CPU is also clocked at 3.8 GHz whilst PS5’s is 3.5. However one area Sony gives a knockout is in memory and in some ways, storage. Now whilst the PS5 only has a hard drive of 825GB, against the Series X 1TB (but only around 500gb on the Series S), it’s built-in a new and innovative way. A way that allows for 5.5 GB of hard drive throughput and a 448 GB/S memory bandwidth, double the Series X storage throughput and around a third more memory bandwidth. So what does all this technical speak mean? It means games can be created in new ways. Usually in any game, you have loading screens when you fast travel or die, or hallways where you go from one environment into a new one. This is because older hard drives took time to pull the data from the hard drive and form it on screen. These new SSD drives allow for environments to be instantly created. So not only is the experience better, and more gaming allowed, but it opens up new options for game designers. This is a once in a generation shift in game design which allows for new options to be chosen when making a game, opening up for fresh new stories and ways of playing. Always good news when we are heading into the fourth/fifth generations of these consoles namesakes.
So finally, the biggest element, games. This is a highly topical element, as not only are new games always being announced, but studios are being snapped up by Sony or Microsoft to become ‘first-party studies’, meaning they create games solely for PlayStation or Xbox. It is especially topical today after Microsoft announced this week that they would be purchasing ZeniMax Media. This is a HUGE purchase for Microsoft, not only in actual cost (bye $7.5 billion) but the ripples it is having across the industry. Why? Because ZeniMax Media owns Bethesda, which in turn owns a whole bunch of other developers. Between them, Microsoft now owns the developers of Fallout, Doom and Prey, oh and that little game Elder Scrolls. This purchase has taken Microsoft into the stratosphere. Over the last few years, their weakest link has been games, specifically first-party games. These games, exclusives to a console, are for many the reason for buying that console (whether PS or Xbox). With Microsoft being weak in this aspect for a while they just couldn’t touch Sony or especially the PS4. PS4 outsold the Xbox One 2:1, that is an astounding defeat! Many put that down to PS4 exclusives such as God of War, Last of Us Part 2 and Spider-Man, and that is just to name a few!! So what has Microsoft done? Bought one of the biggest developers there is one that is currently making two PS5 exclusive themselves (Deathloop and Ghostwire: Tokyo). This without a doubt shows intent to make sure Series X/S isn’t another One, but a true PS5 beater. The outcomes of this purchase won’t be felt for a while (Microsoft doesn’t take full ownership until 2021 Q3/4), and the bigger impacts this will have on exclusivity over future Doom, Fallout and Elder Scrolls games. When we get the full news on that, that will be the moment shocks may be felt across the industry.
For now, that’s a quick summary of next-gen gaming. Each week I will be posting a new feature story up until PS5/Series X release, next week a review of PS4 and Xbox One and how they set up the next-gen consoles.