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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Game On: PlayStation 5 announcement invites comparisons to Xbox Series X

Despite the industry setbacks caused by COVID-19 restrictions, the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 are still on track to hit store shelves “holiday 2020.” Microsoft and Sony are likely working overtime to ensure it happens, as the consoles couldn’t come at a better time. In May, NPD Group reported that consumer spending on video gaming in the U.S. reached $10.96 billion in Q1 2020, a 9% increase from the previous year. Gaming has been on a gradual rise for many years, but this recent surge is attributed to stay-home orders.

While the Xbox Series X was initially revealed on Dec. 12, Sony decided to play the slow game and wait until June 4 – initially. Sony pushed it back further to June 11 in light of the national protests against police brutality. Sony’s announcement read that the company “wanted to stand back and allow more important voices to be heard.”

June 11 came and went with some exciting news regarding the PlayStation 5 and a handful of games coming to the platform. While loads of people on the internet are poking fun at the physical appearance of the console – likening it to a Wi-Fi router or “what we thought the future would look like 50 years ago” – no one can mock its beefy hardware specs or game lineup. Among those announced were “Horizon Forbidden West,” “Sackboy: A Big Adventure” and “Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart,” all PS5-exclusive sequels to critically acclaimed franchises.

The most exciting thing is the new “DualSense” controller. PlayStation controllers have always been “good enough,” but few strides have been made in the direction of good ergonomics. The PS5 controller is shaped more like an Xbox controller this time around, and that’s OK – you can’t put a trademark on hand comfort. The DualSense is uncommon for implementing haptic feedback and adaptive triggers, which will put resistance on the left and right triggers depending on in-game events. For instance, drawing a bow could take more effort than navigating a menu. The more immersive, the better.

Microsoft has some serious catching up to do. Worldwide, the Xbox One has sold an estimated 46.9 million units compared to PlayStation 4’s formidable 106 million. The generation prior was a much closer race – Xbox 360’s 84 million to PlayStation 3’s 87.4 million. But Microsoft made substantial public blunders leading up to the Xbox One’s release in an industry where first impressions are key. So far, the Xbox Series X has enjoyed a steady stream of announcements and positive reception from media and would-be consumers alike.

I predict the Xbox Series X will fare better than the Xbox One, but PlayStation 5 will continue Sony’s chokehold on worldwide sales. According to VGChartz, the PlayStation 4 has sold 36.67 million units in North America and 46.05 million in Europe. Xbox One sales are 31.05 million in North America and 12 million in Europe. Japanese sales are even more elusive for Microsoft, where PlayStation 4 has pushed 9.15 million units compared to Xbox One’s 120,000. It’s a tight race in the Western Hemisphere, but in the east, Sony eats Microsoft’s lunch.

When it comes to games, that contrast shows. I’ll come clean – I’m an Xbox guy – but I’d be lying if I didn’t say I missed out on popular Japanese role-playing games like “Persona 5” and “Star Ocean.” There’s been improvement there – Xbox got “Final Fantasy XV,” “Kingdom Hearts III” and the “Yakuza” series – but the console has a long way to go. There was a time when all arguments about exclusive games could be ended just by mentioning “Halo,” but that series has somewhat fallen from grace, and military/sci-fi shooters aren’t exactly a rare commodity in 2020.

Once again, it looks like Sony has many games lined up to be exclusive for its console. On the other hand, Xbox Series X owners will have potentially massive libraries of games to play at launch. While Sony has only promised most PlayStation 4 games will run on the PlayStation 5, every Xbox Series X owner will be able to play the entire Xbox One library at launch, as well as boatloads of Xbox 360 and even original Xbox games. For collectors who hang on to their old video games, that’s a huge selling point. Microsoft also is touting “Smart Delivery,” which offers free upgrades to Xbox Series X versions of games that gamers already own on Xbox One.

Both consoles boast solid state drives and CPUs powerful enough to allow even the most graphically intense games to run at 60 frames per second with 4K resolution and short loading times. Suffice to say, they are powerhouses. Neither Microsoft nor Sony has announced a price for their hardware – given gaming companies are historically eager to announce price points of $400 or lower, it’s safe to assume both will launch sometime in November in the $450-$500 range.