The Difference Between PS5 And Xbox Series X Isn’t What We Thought It Would Be – Forbes

Heading into a new console generation, there are usually two main areas in which the competition tries to make the case for their box over their rivals’.

The first, at least when we’re keeping Nintendo out of this, is power. The second, exclusives.

Though weirdly, the deeper we get into new console launch season, the more neither of these factors really appear to be the most pressing issue at hand. Rather, the biggest difference between PS5 and Xbox Series X(S) is a fundamental split in the philosophy of how we will buy and play games on the system, exclusives among them.

The power battle is…kind of a moot point, it feels like. Xbox Series X has more horsepower than PS5 on paper, but if that’s present in any meaningful way that will be apparent to most average consumers, I have not seen that demonstrated yet. Similarly, PS5 has been continually going on and on about its custom SSD, and yet if that produces things that are impossible to replicate on the Series X SSD, I haven’t seen that either.

The exclusives battle is something saved for further down the line. For first party games it’s Miles Morales, a spin-off, versus…really nothing major, after Halo Infinite’s delay, for Microsoft. We know Sony’s list of coveted sequels that will be out in the next few years, and now we have a good guess at Microsoft’s in the wake of their Bethesda purchase.

But the split here is one company moving in a direction where their rival is doing the opposite.

Microsoft is leaning hard on Game Pass this generation, more so than ever before. It has seen a spike of Game Pass subscriptions netting a 50% increase over this summer alone. Now they not only have their own first party games premiering there, but also Bethesda games (technically a first party now) and also additional deals with games like Destiny 2 that have been worked out in some fashion. And now with xCloud, it will be possible for those games to be played effectively anywhere.

Sony is simply not doing this, and are content to run in the opposite direction. They have spoken publicly about not wanting to put their games on their own version of Game Pass at launch because they’re so expensive to develop. And Sony is now a major force in cementing the rise in new game prices from $60 to $70. Godfall, a PS5/PC exclusive, just announced it would be flat-out priced at $70. No hemming about it being “cross gen” to justify that extra $10 like Call of Duty, it’s just $70 outright, and Sony has said that its own first party games will be priced up to $70 in the future.

This is the split now, and it’s something that quite clearly breaks in Microsoft’s favor.

I have no idea if Sony is right and Microsoft will secretly start losing loads of money when every single massive game from Halo Infinite to Elder Scrolls 6 is “free with Game Pass” instead of selling dozens of millions of $70 box copies, but from the consumer perspective, it’s certainly starting to turn some heads, if it hasn’t already.

Sony has been able to get away with keeping the status quo in place because of the quality of their exclusives. And while they might be able to charge $70 for Horizon Forbidden West or God of War 2, if that becomes the “standard” price for first and third party PS5 games, that is going to get a whole lot more people considering Game Pass where they don’t have to deal with those kinds of prices. Even for third party games, Sony might not control them, but they’re setting the industry standard. I can see a game like Godfall actively being hurt by a high $70 price as a new IP in a crowded genre, where in contrast, you have Microsoft doing a deal with Bungie to make Destiny 2 and its years of content part of Game Pass. For third party games that price at $70, I think “wait for Game Pass” will become an even more common phrase than it is now.

It is pretty clear the way the industry is moving. Game Pass subscriptions are skyrocketing. Amazon’s entire new cloud gaming model is based on subscriptions to companies rather than selling individual games. Sony may be able to get away with pricey individual releases for a while longer, but if Microsoft starts collecting a set of exclusives that rival their own, they might find they have a pretty large problem on their hands if they truly never develop anything with the same appeal and structure as Game Pass.

This is going to be an interesting Year 1, that’s for sure.

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