I don’t think we can blame the pandemic for Sony and Microsoft’s strange approach to the next-generation of gaming. The missteps began as soon as we learned new hardware was on the way. The confusion surrounding PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X has only become more pronounced as we near their supposed launches.
If both consoles release this holiday season, you’d think we’d know why we should be excited. At the very least, you’d think we’d know what a PlayStation 5 is. Microsoft has at least shown us the Xbox Series X is a real, physical thing, and yesterday we saw some games running on it. Sony, on the other hand, has adopted a college lecture approach to teaching the masses about SSD performance and shoulder-button tension.
When discussing PlayStation 5 and the oddly named Xbox Series X, both Sony and Microsoft have moved away from the huge showcases that provide full pictures of what to expect from the hardware, its performance, and the games you’ll play on it on launch day and beyond, and are now feeding us a steady stream of crumbs. Here’s how load times are faster. Nibble nibble. Here’s what ray tracing looks like. Nibble nibble. Here’s something cryptic about enhanced rumble. Nibble nibble. Here’s more 4k! Nibble nibble. Here’s an hour-long lecture about SSD.
I thought Microsoft’s showcase of third-party games would give us an idea of why we should be interested in Xbox Series X. While I walked away wanting to play most of the games that were shown during the stream (a credit to the vision of the devs), I didn’t learn why I should play them on Xbox Series X. The messaging tied to a lot of these new titles is something along the lines of, “You can play it on both Xbox One and Xbox Series X.” Why should I buy new hardware if I can play it on the system I already own? Why is it better on Xbox Series X? What makes it different? We just keep hearing blanket statements that they will be enhanced on Xbox Series X. I spend enough time gaming that I definitely want to play in the best way possible, but I just don’t have any demonstrative reasons as to why these new consoles will, in fact, be the best places to play. How big of a load time reduction are we looking at? How often will the resolution or framerate be better? Is ray tracing really a game changer?
And is Xbox Series X all I have to look forward to? Microsoft says the true name of its next-generation efforts is just “Xbox,” implying there will be other console options, perhaps like Xbox Series S.
Is there a game of chicken being played between Microsoft and Sony? Outside of the price point and release date, I doubt it, but if you look back to the unveilings of Xbox One and PlayStation 4, Microsoft dropped the ball with its messaging and Sony mopped the floor with them. Xbox One had to always be online, couldn’t play used games, came packaged with Kinect, and was $100 more than PlayStation 4. From day one, Sony ran away with the generation.
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In the years that followed, Microsoft rebounded nicely. Xbox Game Pass is the best deal in video games, Microsoft built up an army of well-respected developers to make games for Xbox and Game Pass, and Xbox One X ended up being a hell of a mid-generation machine.
The one thing we know for certain about Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 is that the specs are locked for both, and they deliver huge leaps forward over the previous generation. Now we just need to know why that’s important, because more power at this scale usually is. I hope Microsoft and Sony open the floodgates to show us everything these machines are capable of. Enough with the smoke and mirrors and tech talks. Show me the games. Show me what the hardware can do. I need to know what’s coming next if you want me to be excited. I’m sure I will be, but I just need to know what the next-generation is.