Xbox Series X Needs to Crush the PS5 Out the Gate
Microsoft has been steadily readying its entire ecosystem for the launch of the Xbox Series X. Now, it's time for them to capitalize on their preparation.
2020 is a vital year for all of the major players in the video game industry. Sony is preparing to launch the PS5 at some point this holiday season, Microsoft will be doing the same with its recently revealed Xbox Series X platform, and even Nintendo is reportedly looking to release another iteration of the Switch, which might have some beefier internals. While all of the major console manufacturers have objectives of their own that they’re looking to achieve, no company has a more critical 2020 ahead than Microsoft.
For Phil Spencer and the Xbox team, the release of Xbox Series X seems like the culmination of everything that they have been building towards over the past few years. After essentially falling on their face with the launch of the Xbox One, Microsoft hasn’t caught up with PlayStation in terms of console sales whatsoever. Even on the first-party release front, Xbox Game Studios hasn’t had what you would call a stellar slate of games this generation. Titles like Gears 5, Forza Horizon 4, and Ori and the Blind Forest have been great in their own ways, but they’ve still somewhat paled in comparison to the likes of first-party releases from Nintendo and Sony.
If Microsoft wants to stand any chance of being the winner in the next-generation console race, they have to come out of the corner swinging this year and immediately get the edge over the PS5.
The writing seemed to be on the wall years ago that Microsoft had “lost” this battle in the ongoing console war–even though no such thing actually exists. This is why they began focusing more on creating a greater ecosystem for the Xbox One in the immediate moment. Microsoft has been at the cutting edge of implementations like backward compatibility, services such as Xbox Game Pass, and even accessibility like with products such as the Xbox Adaptive Controller. Plus, they also dropped some fat stacks to acquire more than one esteemed game developer around the industry to prove that they aren’t dropping out of this race any time soon.
Basically, Microsoft has been making a litany of moves over the past couple of years that would later go on to primarily serve their next console release. And while on paper, these have seemed like the moves that would bolster them when it came time to release the next Xbox, 2020 is the year in which we have to see that those decisions and bets have paid off. That’s why if Microsoft wants to stand any chance of being the “winner” in the next-generation console race, they have to come out of the corner swinging this year and immediately get the edge over the PS5.
Based on what we know so far, the Xbox Series X already seems like it has some vital edges over the PS5. Most notably, Microsoft is already loudly claiming that it has the “fastest” and “most powerful” console around. While we still don’t know what the exact internals of the Xbox Series X or PS5 will be (along with tons of other details), you’d imagine that Microsoft is already potentially privy to how their box stacks up against competitors if they’re making these claims.
Still, raw power alone isn’t everything and won’t win anyone a console bout. What does win them? Well, I’ve been told on the Internet that it’s the exclusives that fans really want. Even in that department, it seems like Microsoft could be coming out ahead of Sony when it comes to first-party titles later this year. Halo Infinite, while not an Xbox Series X exclusive specifically, seems like it could be the first killer-app that’s arriving on next-gen hardware. Of course, we have no idea what might be cooking up for the PS5 just yet, but based on previous timelines with some of Sony’s studios, I have a hard time envisioning what first-party titles could be released alongside the new PlayStation.
Naughty Dog is currently trying to get The Last of Us Part II out by May, and Sucker Punch is working on releasing Ghost of Tsushima this year, too. Then we’ve got Insomniac and Santa Monica Studio, both of which just launched Marvel’s Spider-Man and God of War only back in 2018. It’s too early for either to have their next game ready. Rumors have swirled, saying that Guerrilla Games could already be pretty well into development on a sequel to Horizon Zero Dawn. However, I still struggle to imagine that game arriving on launch day with the PS5. Japan Studio honestly seems like the best bet to release a first-party game, so maybe Mark Cerny will end up blessing us with Knack 3. You know you want it.
So not only will Microsoft potentially have the edge with both power and exclusives, but as already stated, Xbox’s ecosystem is just clearly better at this point in time compared to Sony. Not to mention that the entire ecosystem is going to seamlessly transition to the Xbox Series X, too. Do you already own an Xbox Elite Controller Series 2? Great, you can use it on your Xbox Series X right away. Have you started playing all of your games via Xbox Game Pass? Well, it’s not going anywhere in the console transition. Plus, there’s already the sticking point that Xbox’s entire platform is backward compatible. We have no fear of games from the original Xbox through the Xbox One getting lost in the next-gen console shuffle. Even though we know the PS5 will be compatible with PS4 games, we don’t know if it’ll work with PS1, PS2, and PS3 just yet.
Even if they don’t stay ahead of PlayStation throughout the generation, it’s more critical than ever before for Xbox to explode off of the starting blocks with this next-gen leap.
It’s worth noting that DualShockers Editor-in-Chief Lou Contaldi already thinks Sony is off to a better start with the PS5 purely just based on the logo that has released. He claims that Sony is poised for “pLaYsTaTiOn DoMiNaNcE” once again, simply because the PS5 logo resembles the PS4 logo. Sony’s message is simple and average consumers will easily understand that a console jump has been made thanks to its familiarity. Contaldi purports that the Xbox Series X name, by comparison, is too confusingly similar to products like the Xbox One X. Still, I’ve never ascribed to the often-cited, imaginary notion that Granny won’t understand which Xbox her grandson wants for Christmas when she goes to the store this holiday season. Confusing product names have never prevented consumers from eventually picking up the devices that they’re actively looking to buy. Just ask Nintendo and their ever-puzzling naming conventions with the 3DS lineup.
To me, the biggest thing working against Microsoft later this year with the launch of the Xbox Series X is that Microsoft themselves have made clear that you don’t need an Xbox console, specifically if you already have a PC. While it’s a very pro-consumer move to stay consistent with both your ecosystem and first-party releases across two platforms, this decision is one that almost inevitably lessens Microsoft’s potential for console sales with the Xbox Series X. Heck, even previous Xbox executive Mike Ybarra has stated that he won’t even be picking up an Xbox Series X and will instead be snagging a PS5 and sticking with his PC. Tapping into the PC crowd is an incredibly smart business move from Microsoft to be certain, but it also means that they might never again lead the console market when it comes to sales.
It’s only the first month 2020, and we still have miles to go before we get the full view of what Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo for that matter have planned this year. Yet, to not see the Xbox Series X surging out of the gate later this year and initially besting the PS5 would potentially be a pretty big disappointment for Microsoft. Even if they don’t stay ahead of PlayStation throughout the generation, it’s more critical than ever before for Xbox to explode off of the starting blocks with this next-gen leap. Spencer and crew have carefully planned for this year for quite a long time, and now they just need to bring it all home.