There are a great many ways to play games, from the online browser side-scrolling Dinosaur game to the latest advances in virtual reality technology. Still, when we talk about a competitive space for the tech entertainment medium, all eyes fall on the longstanding Microsoft vs Sony rivalry. In November 2020, the latest phase of the console war began, with the Xbox Series X and the PlayStation 5 launched as the new pinnacle of home console gaming.
Logistical issues led to a somewhat tepid launch, as did a bouncing back game development sector, but it’s now been long enough that Microsoft and Sony have had time to get out a comprehensive offering. So, it’s a good time to square up the competitor consoles, see why their competition is so important for consumers, and which one is currently out in front.
The core gaming experience on each console
For anyone who owned an Xbox One or PlayStation 4 and then purchased the next-gen model, the first thing that they’ll notice is the opening of the software and the UI. For Sony backers, you get a mystical entrance, one that truly says that you’ve just purchased an upgrade that’s worthy of your money. Those who went for the Xbox Series X were met with the exact same as they had with the console that launched in 2013.
Furthermore, PS5 owners get to explore the new features of the new DualSense controller and the power of the hardware through a fun series of mini-games in Astro’s Playroom. Xbox leans heavily into its console family ties, enabling all players on Xbox consoles to enjoy a similar experience. Given that the Xbox has struggled to keep up since the 360 and PS3, this, perhaps, isn’t the best stance.
However, easily the most telling factor in this clash is the exclusive games. Software sells hardware, not the other way around. As was the case with the Xbox One vs PlayStation 4 battle, Microsoft’s showing for exclusive games has been woeful at best. As shown in the analysis breakdown by TG, the PS5 has 12 major exclusives 20 months into its existence. In that same time, Xbox players have only received three.
Now, you can discuss how a new DualSense controller is £5 more expensive than a new Xbox controller – which seems warranted given all of the additional features in the Sony controller – but in the end, Sony’s had more games to entice players – and better-quality ones at that. This is why Microsoft has hastily paid billions to try to acquire Bethesda Softworks and the PR nightmare that is Activision Blizzard.
There is one key area that, until recently, Xbox was able to hold up as the area of competition that it’s winning.
Competing on all fronts forced Sony to act
Easily the biggest draw for the Xbox console system for several years now has been its subscription service, the Xbox Game Pass. Knowing that competing on all fronts is essential for tech entertainment platforms across the board – as we’ll dig into soon – Sony recently amped up its subscription service to match Xbox on price but deliver more games. That said, Xbox still has the caveat that their exclusives will launch on Game Pass.
The Game Pass was the key battleground that Xbox had the edge – and arguably still does – which is why PlayStation had to try to match them. It wouldn’t be the ideal choice for Sony, but it’s made gaming as a whole much better for customers as competition forces offerings to improve. The same can be seen in the streaming wars with Netflix, Disney+ and Prime Video snapping up major IPs, while it’s even more profound in iGaming.
A lot of iGaming sites have many of the same games, which essentially quashes the battleground that video game consoles and streaming platforms – if you swap games for movies and shows – mainly deal with. Instead, and a bit like the rise of game subscriptions, platforms created a new battleground with promotions and bonuses.
Now, even the sites with the most popular games and best UI – which are essential components to the experience – can’t rank among the top online casinos in the UK without competitive promotions. There’s a lot of room to operate here, too, as it’s essentially a made-up part of the industry. So, there are matched bonuses, free spins, bet-and-get promos, and even no deposit bonuses that give completely free funds to play with.
Meeting other competitors in each area of the competition is what makes tech-driven entertainment industries good for consumers, especially so in console gaming. Gaming certainly isn’t cheap, and even though Microsoft’s Xbox falls behind the PlayStation 5 in many key areas, its very existence means that Sony will keep making its ecosystem better.