Another console war is looming. Verbal skirmishes and tit-for-tat squabbles are already breaking out between PlayStation and Xbox supporters, despite the next wave of hardware trickling into homes at a snail’s pace. Listen closely, and you’ll hear the rising drumbeat from gamers on the front lines betting Microsoft will get the drop on Sony this time, despite past drubbings on the sales charts.
There is some justification for Xbox fans to feel this way, with Microsoft currently positioning itself as the more consumer-oriented and -- potentially -- more interesting of the two companies.
With a $300 price point, the Series S model of the platform is the cheapest next-generation console on the market right now (if you can find one), while the higher-end Series X matches the top PS5 price point. Microsoft’s Game Pass service is building massive enthusiasm, as subscribers have access to over 100 titles, including new releases from day one, for one low fee, on an Xbox device or PC.
Although exclusives are in short supply, Microsoft aggressively buying up developers such as Bethesda Softworks and pledging to support indie games should pay dividends down the road. Even some of the new console's features, like Smart Delivery automatically installing the next-gen version of a game, give Xbox the appearance of being far more user-friendly.
Read more: Four reasons why we still love Nintendo
Sony, by comparison, has lost control of the narrative a bit around its plans and strategy for the PlayStation 5.
There's a growing perception that the PS5 will become indifferent or even hostile toward indies and smaller studios as it shifts focus to AAA titles that carry $70 price tags -- a line of thinking reinforced by the exodus of developers from the platform, some forcibly, others voluntarily. The decision to shut down the PS3 and Vita stores was one the company surprisingly-yet-wisely backed away from after causing an outcry among players. And whether Sony will come up with an answer to Game Pass is a source of much debate, with some observers believing the lack of a great alternative alone could turn the tide in Xbox's favor.
All valid observations. And, yet, as a PS5 owner, I don't feel pessimistic about the console's future one bit.
Am I saying Sony will come out on top in the end? Not necessarily, but I've never much cared for the console wars anyway -- and I’m old enough to have been around for just about all of them. What I can say with complete confidence, however, is if you're a person who loves gaming, the PS5 will absolutely be a platform worth owning, which is all that really matters.
So regardless of what system sells more over the next decade, give or take or what PR fiasco Sony creates next, I'm going to enjoy being a PS5 owner. Here's why.
Image credit: Sony
No. 1: The exclusives
Are there people out there who are going to buy a PS5 just to play God of War? Umm, actually, yeah!
The notion that a game could be only fun or worth your while if it costs $70 and is pumped out by a big studio is, of course, nonsense. On the other hand, PS5's lineup of exclusive franchises and AAA originals such as Returnal, Demon's Souls, Ratchet & Clank, Horizon Zero Dawn and Gran Turismo are part of the console’s huge draw -- and that's only a sampling of what's out now or coming relatively soon. We may very well see a new Last of Us, a new Spider-Man, a new Uncharted ... need I go on? Not all of these titles will appeal to all audiences, but it may take only one or two to sway somebody who’s on the fence about which console to purchase.
PlayStation simply has a deeper catalog of hit exclusives than Xbox. And while their rollout on PS5 has come at roughly the speed of a leaky faucet, the drip, drip, drip is expected to continue to pick up steadily in 2021 and beyond.
In other words, all those complaints about your brand new PS5 collecting dust will almost certainly be silenced in due time.
No. 2: The controller
Count me in the camp of people who have always felt a PlayStation controller was more comfortable, more natural, more ergonomic than an Xbox controller. And, now, with Sony's DualSense controller for PS5, the playing experience is more engrossing than ever.
Features like haptic feedback, adaptive triggers, motion sensor and touchpad aren't gimmicks. All of these capabilities have serious implications on gameplay in various titles, dramatically enhancing the ability to control what's happening on screen or become totally immersed in the action.
And, again, the DualSense just fits in your hand like a glove, somehow even more than the already awesome DualShocks that came before it. Considering how important an aspect the controller is when gaming on a console -- you are holding the thing roughly 100% of the time you're playing, after all -- this is no minor or trivial aspect behind what makes the PS5 a great machine.
Image credit: Sony
No. 3: Free games
Sure, Xbox Live subscribers are treated to free games, too, but the offerings are nowhere near the level of quality or name recognition PlayStation Plus users receive each month. Since these services are required to play online, chances are you’re going to have access to them.
Each month, Plus makes three games available for free for a limited time, and typically there's at least one massive hit or well-known franchise available. Here are just a handful of titles that were made available in the last six months alone: Final Fantasy VII Remake, Shadow of the Tomb Raider, Battlefield V, Control: Ultimate Edition, Just Cause 4 and Horizon Zero Dawn. Some fairly notable new releases launched free during the same stretch as well, including Oddworld: Soulstorm, Destruction AllStars and Bugsnax.
It's a huge perk, one many Plus users look forward to each month. I haven’t even mentioned the Plus Collection, a library of classics such as God of War, The Last Of Us Remastered and Mortal Kombat X that are always available at no additional cost.
Meanwhile, a good chunk of the games Live gives away are indies, or titles like Fortnite, Rocket League and Call of Duty: Warzone that are free with both services. The only truly notable exception in recent memory is Gears 5.
Simply put, nobody is flat out giving away more AAA titles than Sony, and it's not particularly close.
Follow the leader
There's no denying Xbox has a lot of good things going for it. Yet, even one of its biggest selling points, Game Pass, is negated somewhat by Sony’s giveaways.
And the fact of the matter is Microsoft has to make these kinds of bold plays right now because, by most measures, PlayStation has outperformed Xbox in sales again and again. If Sony ever senses for a moment it's losing market share -- perhaps even if it's not -- a "counterpunch" to Game Pass is inevitable.
The fact that Game Pass is also accessible on PC is of some benefit to Sony as well, as it means gamers with the right set-up can buy a PS5 and still play Xbox games.
With all of that in mind, it seems a tad premature to say Xbox is coming for PlayStation in the next generation of console wars. But then that's also a silly discussion to get caught up in the first place. The PS5 has great games. So does the Xbox, paired with some intriguing features services. There's been room for both for some two decades and counting, and that's probably not about to change anytime soon.
Lead image credit: Sony