The next generation of computer game consoles is nowhere.
At the beginning of the 21st century, Sony was on top of things in the computer game market, with fans lining up in packed stores to shop for the Playstation 2. But a year later, Microsoft would release its first-ever computer game console. The Xbox was big, ugly, and powerful; the commercials advertised a replacement dimension to console gaming: stress on online multi-player and connectivity.
None of this was enough to topple Sony’s reign at the time, but the Xbox did announce the arrival of a replacement competitor. And since then, the battle between Microsoft and Sony has been a hotly contested one.
This year, both corporate titans are releasing their new consoles at a weird time: during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Gaming has really reached tons of latest audiences,” says Carter Rogers, an analyst at Nielsen’s SuperData. He adds that despite all the economic insecurity brought on by the pandemic, video games are even as popular as ever, and face less competition from other entertainment, like movies and live sports. Earlier this year, the Nintendo Switch console saw hardware shortages as games like Animal Crossing: New Horizons posted record sales numbers.
“For subsequent few months a minimum of, it’s mostly an issue of what percentage devices are often shipped out. Demand certainly won’t be a problem within the near future,” Rogers says.
Chris Plante reviewed Microsoft’s new Xbox Series X for the website Polygon. He says that in the last console generation, Microsoft went on beat on the Xbox being an all-in-one entertainment device: “Infamously, during their big reveal event, they spent the bulk of an hour talking about everything but video games.”
But Microsoft’s tune has now changed. Central to the plan this point around is many games, presented at a reasonable price.
“I think the most important thing on Xbox immediately is Game Pass. Which is their version of Netflix for video games, effectively,” Plante says.
For around ten dollars a month, Xbox offers access to a constantly updated library of over 100 games, including superstar franchises like Halo and Gears of War.
However, there aren’t many new games to play — something which may change because the generation wears on. Microsoft recently acquired Bethesda Softworks, makers of the Fallout series. They also acquired Double Fine Productions, Tim Schafer’s iconic development studio.
“They are just gobbling up studios,” Plante says. “People who like games like Fallout or Elder Scrolls, those games are going to be a part of Game Pass moving forward.”
So while Microsoft’s strategy might feel less ambitious this point around, Sony is popping some heads with the Playstation 5.
That starts with the design of the console itself — it’s a mostly-white exterior and is one among the heaviest game consoles ever, making it the topic of many a meme.
“There are some funny comparisons online,” says Elise Favis, who reviewed the new Playstation for the Washington Post. “I think my favorite is comparing it to a Nazi .”
Favis calls the console a “sensory experience.” that have started with its innovative new controller. “It has haptic feedback. Which is essentially a more sophisticated range of vibrations and sensations that you simply will feel within the palm of your hand. So for instance, you’ll feel the pitter-patter of rain drops.”
The system also features a powerful line-up of latest games, including Spider-Man: Miles Morales and a remake of Demon Souls.
But Chris Plante reminds us that if you cannot get your hands on a replacement console, you are not necessarily missing out just yet.
“I think the marketing machine of video games has broken our brains. There are great games beginning this fall, they’re gonna look amazing on the new consoles. But you’ll play them on your older console too.”