When I started writing this, it was July (which feels like forty-seven years ago with the way this year has been going). It was right after the Xbox Games Showcase and I was full of animosity towards Microsoft’s new system. I wanted everyone to know. Why on Earth would anyone want to buy the new Xbox Series X when pretty much every game they announced during the showcase was going to be released on PC as well? Sony had unveiled the Playstation 5 a month earlier, and I was blown away with what they were offering. As someone who mostly plays on consoles, it felt like Sony was going to deliver that singular, next-gen experience I so desperately craved and it was going to have exclusives that I wanted in my hands at that very moment. It all seemed so crystal clear to me that Sony was the way to go when heading into the future of gaming, and if you thought anything else, well, you were just crazy.
I decided to wait before publishing my opinion until I knew more. It seemed a little premature, and you know what? I’m glad I did. Who would have guessed that only two months after Sony and Microsoft’s new consoles were announced, each of their outlooks on that “next-gen” experience would be vastly different from what they had originally stated. One company that had said they were looking only to the future would now be embracing backwards compatibility and the other that wasn’t really focusing on exclusives, would end up spending an obscene amount of money to secure one developer.
Apparently, a lot can happen in just a couple of months…
Ever since I was young, video-games have been a major part of my life. I was five (now I’m thirty-five) when my parents bought the NES. I can remember being extremely upset with my parents whenever they would shoot a duck in Duck Hunt, but games like Super Mario Bros. and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Arcade Game would become unforgettable favourites of mine. Since then, I’ve owned most of the major consoles at one point or another. Growing up, I was always the kid that just wanted all the systems. I wanted to experience each game, no matter which company they were developed for. I was so passionate about video-games that I just had to play them all, and that’s something I don’t think will ever change until the day I die. With each new generation of console, graphics and gameplay would improve exponentially. When a new console would be announced, a flood of excitement would overwhelm me and my mind would race with all the potential the future would hold for that console. I can remember thinking just how wild the Gameboy Advance SP was with its light-up screen. That was some serious next-gen shit right there. No more sitting underneath a lamp, titling the screen a certain way for me.
This year would be no different (well it would be different in the sense that a light-up screen wouldn’t be the thing blowing my mind). We were going to see the new Playstation and Xbox consoles. My body was prepared for greatness and I was going to make sure I secured a pre-order for launch day, no matter the cost. The only console I had ever purchased at its official launch was the Wii, while everything else I received was birthday or Christmas presents. I froze my buttocks off standing outside a Future Shop overnight and it ended up becoming one of my least favourite systems ever, so I was cautiously optimistic that whatever console I was going to purchase this year would erase that nightmare from my memory.
On June 11th (my birthday no less), Sony held a Future of Gaming presentation. It began with a Grand Theft Auto V announcement. Yes, Grand Theft Auto V is the new Skyrim, and it would be releasing on PS5. It was kind of lame to start with that, but I think it’s great that any PS5 owner will have the game as long as they have a PS+ subscription. After that, it was just bananas what they announced. Spider-Man: Miles Morales was revealed. Insomniac’s Spider-Man is a great game on PS4 and knowing that we will be playing as Miles in that universe and with that game engine honestly blew my mind. We also got to see reveals for Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart, Demon’s Souls, Horizon Zero Dawn 2, Gran Turismo & Godfall which all look like a ton of fun. Even unknowns like Bugsnax, Stray & Goodbye Volcano High piqued my interest. I was really impressed with what was shown and knowing that any exclusives down the road like God of War, The Last of Us, Uncharted, Infamous & Ghost of Tsushima could potentially be coming in the future would be reason enough to spend the money on a PS5. After all the game reveals, we got to take a look at the system itself and it was interesting to note that the PS5 would have two versions that you could choose from. There will be one console with a disc drive and one that’s digital only. The new controller also features haptic feedback which brings a whole new depth to the gameplay. Vibrations will feel different depending on what’s happening and triggers will adapt to what kind of weapons you’re using. No price or release date was announced. The only hint we got was that some of the games mentioned were releasing Holiday 2020, so we were left to wonder when exactly we would see the PS5 release this year.
Next up, we had Microsoft’s Xbox Series X unveiling which was held just over a month later on July 23rd and was wildly different from what I was expecting. Their stance on next-gen is that you’re not required to upgrade to their new Xbox Series X console just yet if you don’t want to. You can pay for Xbox Game Pass and have access to new titles like Halo Infinite, but you don’t need the Xbox Series X to play it. Halo Infinite will be readily available on Xbox One, PC & Xbox Series X. Not only that, but all their new titles will release for Game Pass on day one of their release. This means if you bought the Series X or only have a PC, as long as you have Game Pass, you’ll be playing new titles just like the people going out and buying them individually. While in theory, this is extremely consumer friendly (since Game Pass for the first month is $1, $15 the following month) what’s the point of going next-gen on consoles with Microsoft when I can just play their new games on my current Xbox One or my PC? What’s the driving factor for someone that mostly plays on consoles, to purchase the new Xbox, when my current one will get the job done for now? Sure, games like Halo Infinite will look and run better on Series X, and exclusives like the new Fable, State of Decay 3, Everwild (Rare Studios) and Avowed (Obsidian Entertainment) will only be available on the new Xbox Series X & PC, but what is pushing me to purchase their new console since these are still potentially years away from being released? In the end, it seems Microsoft just wants you in their ecosystem and I’m sure it’ll work, but the showcase didn’t impress me.
With both showcases done and my mind made up that I was going with the PS5, the waiting game started. As the days passed, anticipation reached a breaking point. What price would they cost? When would we be able to place pre-orders? What games were going to be available at launch? I needed a game plan and I was stressing out. Unfortunately for Microsoft, the new Xbox price leaked early and they were forced to officially announce it on September 8th. The Xbox Series X would release on November 10th, 2020, and cost $499 USD. Not only that, but we also received news that there wasn’t just the Xbox Series X releasing, but an all digital version of the console called Xbox Series S. The Series S was a cheaper version at $299 USD and with the Game Pass being so affordable, Microsoft seemed poised and ready for a fight. I was now second guessing myself and wondering whether or not going with the PS5 was a wise choice. Joining Microsoft next-gen was a dream come true for anyone not wanting to spend a fortune on a new video-game system.
The battle lines were drawn and now everyone was waiting for Sony to make their next move…
Sony had another PS5 showcase planned for September 16th. They just had to announce a price and release date for the masses to (hopefully) be pleased. With that said, they absolutely delivered on that and much more. Right out of the gate, Final Fantasy XVI was announced as a PS5 exclusive. Demon’s Souls would be a launch title. Oh, and the sequel to 2018’s God of War would launch in 2021 on PS5. Despite all the hype for next-gen though, Sony’s tune had changed drastically in regards to leaving the previous generation behind. Some of the PS5 launch titles like Spider-Man: Miles Morales were now going to be available on PS4 as well, with the option to upgrade later for free. Deathloop, originally a PS5 exclusive, was now going to be a timed exclusive that would eventually release on PC. A new feature for PS+ users called the PS+ Collection, would contain a library of 18 PS4 games at launch on PS5. Along with all this info, we also got a price and release dat. On November 12th, 2020, we could get our hands on it. The Digital Edition would cost $399 USD and the Regular Edition would cost $499 USD. Sony’s stance on going completely next-gen had changed, and you can be damn sure it was because of Microsoft. The very reason I laughed at Xbox because of their games releasing on PC simultaneously with their new console as well as the option to upgrade to Xbox Series X when you felt comfortable made my rant moot because Sony was now apparently doing the same thing. Now, my tune had changed and I felt bad man.
Usually, consoles don’t release this close together. It has typically taken years in-between releases, but now, we have two console giants releasing their latest & greatest two days apart. There’s no room for error if you’re only picking one up, so, in the end, which one do you choose? Honestly, it’s a tough call. Both offer excellent value and I really do believe you can’t go wrong either way, but ultimately it’s the games. I’ve always loved seeing the graphics improve, but it always comes down to the games for me, and Sony has everything I want this holiday season. Shortly after the September 16th PS5 showcase aired, we were told that pre-orders would start on the 17th. That didn’t stop retailers though. Wal-Mart sent out a tweet saying you could pre-order now and everyone else followed in their lead. Mass hysteria followed with pre-orders being nabbed up insanely fast. I was lucky enough to secure a PS5 Digital Edition pre-order and I can’t wait. I’m actually having a hard time deciding what I’m going to pick up at launch (I might have to hint to the wife for some Christmas ideas). Demon’s Souls and Spider-Man: Miles Morales are day one for sure, but I also want Sackboy: A Big Adventure, Destruction All-Stars and Godfall. Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is supposed to be released within the PS5’s launch window, so now there’s another one to put on my immediate radar. On top of their next-gen games, we’ve got access to our PS4 games (with some such as Borderlands 3 & Witcher 3 allowing free upgrades to the new hardware) and the PS+ Collection. Needless to say, there will be plenty to do on November 12th.
I’ll probably invest in a Xbox Series S in the future, since Microsoft just recently announced that they purchased Bethesda for 7.5 billion dollars. Yes, I’m talking about that Bethesda. You know, that Elder Scrolls, Doom, The Evil Within, Wolfenstein type Bethesda. Nobody is pulling punches this time, not even Microsoft, especially if the only place I can play Elder Scrolls 6 is on an Xbox. However, with only third-party titles to choose from for the time being, it’s all about the PS5 exclusives for me.
So, what started out as a rant against Microsoft and Xbox turned into something different. I got so caught up in the console wars that I didn’t stop to think that what Microsoft was doing was actually good for the industry. If they hadn’t have set the bar so high with backwards compatibility and flexibility when investing in the future, we probably would have seen a very different PS5 launch this November. As a kid, I never really cared about that kind of stuff. If Mario was on Nintendo and Sonic was on Sega, I knew I needed both, and the begging to my parents would begin. After witnessing the past couple of months, it’s not like that anymore. It’s not so cut and dry. I mean, exclusives are a big deal to me, but there’s so much more to it than that, which got me thinking…
What exactly does “next-gen” mean to us strictly console gamers? PC gamers get excited about new graphics cards, but console players have to invest in a full experience that will last for at least a decade. We don’t get to pick and choose what goes into the device we’re buying, we just go with the games and maybe some new console features. What does it take for a company to win you over and entice you into buying their latest hardware and games? Before, it was about having the best graphics and games, no question. While that’s definitely still the case, it seems as though value is the driving factor more than anything else when purchasing the latest tech. Both companies are providing an insane amount of value right from day one, and that just means better for the consumer. Sure, having that ridiculously fast SSD for insane load-times will be nice, but the real next-gen experience is about getting as much bang for your buck as humanly possible. Now that I’m not a blind console warrior, I really believe that no matter who you go with this console generation, I think it’s safe to say they’re both really good choices.
Less than a month to go folks! – NVJ