A new year, a new decade and a new clash of titans. In 2020, Microsoft and Sony will throw down once again, this time with the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 next-gen consoles. Both are scheduled to release later this year and suddenly it feels like 2013 all over again.
I love it. I love a little healthy competition. The end of a console generation often produces some of its best games, as developers have had years to master each system. And the start of a new generation is always exciting, with more powerful hardware ushering in a whole new era of video games.
Sure, the console wars bring out the worst in fanboys, but that’s part of the fun. It means people are passionate about the video games they play, even if that passion doesn’t always manifest in the healthiest fashion.
I wrote recently that Sony was going to win this next console war just like it did with the PS4 vs the Xbox One for one simple reason: Sony is going to have true PS5 exclusives, whereas Microsoft is taking a very different approach.
But that’s not the end of the story, and it’s important to look at this from every angle. Microsoft has some cards up its sleeves as well, and exclusives—while clearly very important—aren’t everything.
The biggest card up Microsoft’s sleeve is Xbox Game Pass. There is simply no other service like it in the video game industry right now, or at least none that offer the same level of value and functionality. With Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, gamers get access to tons of games each month on both Xbox One and PC, and access to Xbox Live With Gold. This service will continue with Xbox Series X and it gives Xbox gamers something truly unique and valuable that Sony simply can’t match.
What’s more, the “Series” part in the Xbox Series X moniker means that we should expect more than just one Xbox sku this coming generation. We can almost guarantee there will be a more expensive, more powerful Xbox Series X as well as a cheaper, less powerful Xbox Series S. But there could also be an even cheaper unit that foregoes a physical disc drive and comes as part of a Game Pass contract deal.
If Microsoft is willing to essentially give these cheaper units away as part of a two-year Game Pass Ultimate subscription, that would be yet another huge advantage over Sony, bring tons of budget-conscious gamers into the Xbox fold.
So that’s clearly a point in Microsoft’s court, though I still maintain that Sony has an edge with generation-specific exclusives. Sony also has a better track record with exclusive content than Microsoft, and that’s only more true with Microsoft’s generous Play Anywhere policy.
Either way, the good news is both these systems will likely be very powerful and inspire more competition across the gaming industry. More competition is (almost) always a good thing! Even better than that, we’re entering a new era of cross-play for many of the most popular games, so even if you go with an Xbox Series X and your buddy buys a PS5, in Fortnite and Call of Duty and hopefully many, many other games you’ll still be able to play together.
Cooperation, it turns out, is also a very good thing.