Can Microsoft strikes significant blow later since it still has some few cards up its sleeves?
The console war continues in this latest console generation, PS5 vs Xbox Series X|S. So far, Sony still beats Microsoft as in previous generations. However, this 4th war is still at its beginning. Can Microsoft strikes significant blow later since it still has some few cards up its sleeves?
Let’s take a look back for a moment before we see if Xbox Series X|S really has a chance to shine.
1st-3rd Wars Between PlayStation vs Xbox
Microsoft entered the console war in 2001 when they released the first generation of Xbox. At this generation, Sony already had a strong advantage because they already reached the second iteration of PlayStation.
PS2, released in 2000, even becomes the bestselling consoles of all times with 157 million units sold worldwide at the time of writing — 20 years after it’s released.
I think one of the biggest reasons why PS2 became such a massive hit is because of the PSX (PS1) games. There are so many legendary games from PSX such as Suikoden 2, Legend of Dragoon, Resident Evil, Xenogears, FF VII, Twisted Metal 4, etc.
Surely, those games brought unforgettable memories which in turn built a great impression and brand image of PlayStation. No wonder the first Xbox couldn’t put up a fight.
2nd generation of Xbox, Xbox 360 (released in 2005) has been the most popular Xbox until today. Microsoft learned so many things with its previous generation console. Performance-wise, between PS3 and Xbox 360, both of them are pretty close — shown in the benchmark of GTA V and Red Dead Redemption by Digital Foundry.
Xbox 360 also played to its strength with the games. While PlayStation is always strong with its Japanese-style games, like JRPG, Xbox 360 caters to gamers with western taste.
This was the era when the sales number came so close between the two. Xbox 360 has sold 85.50 million as of November 2020. Meanwhile, PS3 has sold 86.90 million. Besides Microsoft did right with 360, Sony was slipping with their PS3.
Sadly, the 3rd gen, Xbox One took a dive. There are numerous reasons why Xbox One became such a failure. First, while Sony kept focusing its PlayStation 4 to become a better gaming machine, Microsoft went too wide with very poor execution. Xbox One was also made to become a media hub, but it’s a disaster for the Asian market. There were so many contents provided in Xbox One couldn’t be viewed outside the US.
On the other side, PS4 brought so many amazing exclusive games such as God of War, Days Gone, Uncharted 4, Marvel’s Spiderman, Ghost of Tsushima, or The Last of Us.
Besides that, Nintendo was back into the action with its Switch in this generation. Previously, Nintendo was left far behind with Wii U which offers nothing in terms of unique value. However, with Switch, I do believe it offers a much distinctive feature than all of the consoles ever made by allowing it to be a handheld gaming device.
PS5 VS XBOX Series X|S
No matter you admit it or not, performance has been a crucial factor for a gaming machine — more so in the last decades when games become more demanding. On paper, Xbox Series X should be more powerful than PS5. However, in reality, game tests show PS5 outperforming Xbox Series X.
According to Digital Foundry, besides having more GPU performance (Xbox Series X with 12 teraflops compared with 10.28 on the PS5), Microsoft’s console has higher memory bandwidth and more compute units.
In Devil May Cry 5, for example, X Series X gives a slightly better performance in 4K and ray tracing. Yet, with high frame rate mode, PS5 runs noticeably better. It’s the same story with Assasin’s Creed Valhalla because this game produces a lot of screen tearing and regular drops below 60 fps on Xbox Series X.
An article from the Verge argues that it’s because the game developers have spent more time working on PS5 rather than on Xbox Series X. Microsoft spokesperson also gave a statement in that article.
“We are aware of performance issues in a handful of optimized titles on Xbox Series X|S and are actively working with our partners to identify and resolve the issues to ensure an optimal experience. As we begin a new console generation, our partners are just now scratching the surface of what next-gen consoles can do and minor bug fixes are expected as they learn how to take full advantage of our new platform. We are eager to continue working with developers to further explore the capability of Xbox Series X|S in the future.”
I do think it makes sense since game development plays a crucial part in deciding the game’s performance. However, it remains to be seen if Microsoft could finally push the performance update fast enough.
Besides graphic and performance, the games library available to the gaming machine is also important or even could be said as the most significant factor. That’s the biggest advantage PS4 has over Xbox One. Sony surely wants to do the same strategy with PS5. However, this time, Microsoft already prepares well.
Microsoft now owns so many prominent game developers such as Obsidian, Bethesda, id Software, Arkane Studios, Machine Games, Ninja Theory, and the others that are too many to be mentioned here.
So far, PS5 defeated Xbox Series S and X on sales numbers too, at least according to the estimation done by VGChartz. About 2.1 to 2.5 million units of PS5 were sold globally on its two launch days. On the other hand, Xbox Series X and S were estimated 1.2 – 1.4 million units sold.
Could Microsoft Actually Win the Console War This Time?
Nothing is impossible, I guess. For so many years, Intel dominated the PC gaming market over AMD. Now, AMD is the favourite for the PC gamer. However, there is a big hurdle for Microsoft to beat Sony in this generation. Time is the essence. How fast can Microsoft push the performance update and its game developers under Xbox Games Studios?
I think time is not on its side, yet. Because those 2 keys are not entirely up to Microsoft. Game developers need time to ensure their games could utilize stronger hardware on Xbox Series X. Surely, Microsoft couldn’t rush the game developers under Xbox Game Studios too to create great games. You just can’t rush perfection. Unless Microsoft wants a similar disaster to CD Projekt with its Cyberpunk 2077.
Despite that challenge, while Microsoft is waiting, I think there are few things it could do to improve the chances.
First, Microsoft has full access to the most popular operating system in PC gaming — Windows. Implementing cross-platform multiplayer between those two on all available games on both platforms is surely an interesting take. Integrating more connections between those platforms could make both platforms so much more interesting. For example, our Xbox game library could be accessed and played on PC or vice versa. Cloud-save between two platforms is also really beneficial for both.
Speaking of Windows and PC gaming, I honestly believe the worst thing Microsoft could do is discriminating against PC gamers for the sake of their Xbox players — like pushing Xbox Games Studios to make Xbox only games (unavailable on PC). Microsoft could gain profits from services too, not just by selling Xbox hardware. Xbox content and services grew 65% year-over-year ($1.2 billion), inclusive of games sales and subscriptions.
Second, Microsoft could also do more to penetrate some regions, like Southeast Asia. It’s true that mobile gaming dominates the region but still, I believe the number of console gamers could be bigger if Microsoft put more efforts. Because, apparently, Sony is not really into this region too. Rather than competing in Japan, where it’s almost impossible to win, I think Microsoft has a bigger chance in Southeast Asia if they really want it.
Finally, I think Sony is a really hard competitor to beat. It’s going to take a long time and big innovative efforts on Microsoft’s part. However, Microsoft already has 3 keys: better hardware with its current gaming machine, good ecosystem and access with PC gaming, and prominent game developers under its wings. It’s really up to Microsoft if it could play those 3 cards really well.
Feat Image via Games Radar