The stage is set for the next-generation console battle, as Sony and Microsoft go head-to-head this November with the release of the PlayStation 5, and Xbox Series X and S.
If you want to get onboard from launch, it’s time to pick a side, as preorders go live in anticipation of a surge in demand.
The Green Corner: Xbox, Game Pass, and Halo Infinite
Nov. 10, 2020, two new Xbox consoles are launching worldwide: the Series X and the Series S. The Series X ($499.99) is an ultra-HD powerhouse, targeting a native 4K resolution. The Series S ($299.99) aims for a lower, 1440p (half of 4K) resolution and also foregoes a disc drive.
Both devices will target a baseline of 60 frames per second. Microsoft claims both will hit 120 frames per second on titles like Halo Infinite and Gears 5. Without seeing the hardware in action, though, we’ll just have to take Microsoft’s word for it (especially when it comes to the Series S).
Buying a console at launch can often feel like a raw deal. Few titles are available, and those that are tend to be iterative sports titles or underwhelming tech demos. Microsoft plans to address this issue with Game Pass, providing a library of over 100 titles people can play from the outset. Most of these are titles already available on last-gen systems.
Game Pass doesn’t scrimp on quality, either. First-party titles, like Forza Horizon 4, Minecraft, and Sea of Thieves (plus every Halo game), will be available at launch. There’s also a rotating selection of decent third-party titles, as well. At this writing, Resident Evil 7, Monster Hunter: World, and Wasteland 3 are all available.
Microsoft also announced it’s partnering with Electronic Arts to bring EA Play to Game Pass for the holidays. This means you’ll get all Microsoft’s exclusives, EA’s first-party titles, and a rotating lineup of third-party games with your subscription.
The biggest disappointment for many who were awaiting the release of the next-gen Xbox consoles was the news that Halo Infinite was being delayed until 2021. This was Microsoft’s killer title to get consoles into living rooms for the holidays in 2020. The new consoles will now launch without any big-budget exclusives and lean heavily on Game Pass and future promises, instead.
Fortunately, that future looks bright. Below are some of Microsoft’s Xbox first-party exclusives:
- A new Fable game.
- The next-generation Forza Motorsport title.
- A new game from Rare called Everwild.
- Obsidian Entertainment’s first foray into the open-world fantasy RPG genre, Avowed.
There are other “timed exclusives” and “Xbox console debuts” to come next year. These include a follow-up to legendary PC mid-2000s shooter, S.T.A.L.K.E.R., Geiger-inspired horror show Scorn, and Hellblade II—the next chapter in Ninja Theory’s Senua Saga.
How Much Does It Cost?
The Xbox Series X will cost you $499.99, while the Series S will cost $299.99. Game Pass Ultimate, which includes Xbox Live Gold (required for online play) and access to Game Pass for PC costs $14.99 per month, but you get your first month for $1.
If you’d rather just pay for a regular Game Pass Console, it’s $9.99 per month. However, you’ll also need Xbox Live Gold to play online, which costs another $9.99 per month ($24.99 per quarter). Game Pass Ultimate is by far the best value, with over 100 games (even more on PC) and online play.
Microsoft also offers the Xbox Series X and Series S under their All Access plan. For $34.99 (Series X) or $24.99 (Series S) per month, you can get an Xbox console with Game Pass Ultimate. After two years, the console is yours, and you can extend Game Pass if you want. This option is marginally cheaper than buying each console and a Game Pass Ultimate subscription.
In addition to the hardware, one game might cost you up to $70 for this generation. Some publishers have already committed to the $10 price hike over last-generation’s $60.
For the best possible savings, we recommend you avoid the all-digital Series S. Then, you’ll always be able to purchase physical releases anywhere, including the secondhand market.
What About Backward Compatibility?
Microsoft confirmed that both the Series X and Series S will be fully backward compatible with the Xbox One, Xbox 360, and original Xbox. The Series X will play titles that have been enhanced for 4K, while the Series S will get its own enhanced versions.
For maximum backward compatibility, make sure you pick up a Series X with a disc drive so you can play any of your older discs. Digital titles will also work, whether you already have them in your library or purchase them from the store.
The Blue Corner: PlayStation, PS Plus Collection, and Spider-Man
Sony will also launch two consoles in November: the PlayStation 5 ($499.99), and the PlayStation 5 Digital Edition ($399.99). Both will launch on the same day, but the release is staggered in two waves. The consoles release November 12 in the U.S., Japan, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, and South Korea, and November 19 in Europe, and the rest of the world.
Outside of the price, the only difference between the two devices is the presence of a physical disc drive. If you want the best deals possible or also want to use your PS5 as a Blu-ray player, the more expensive console is probably the better option.
Sony’s earliest PS5 first-party “exclusive” will be Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales, a follow-up to 2018’s critically acclaimed Spider-Man. While exclusive to Sony consoles, the game will also launch simultaneously on PS4.
You can expect a game that’s shorter in scope, with Sony also promising a more compact experience, reminiscent of Uncharted: The Lost Legacy. The game’s launch window is “holiday 2020” which means it might not be quite ready for the November 12 launch.
The PlayStation 5 does include one pack-in game called Astro’s Playroom. A follow-up to the PSVR Astro Bot Rescue Mission, the game guides new players around the PlayStation 5’s dual-sense controller. It should provide a fun distraction for new owners.
Sony’s answer to Game Pass is the PlayStation Plus collection. It’s required for online play and provides members with additional benefits, like free monthly games and discounts. On the PS5, members will also be able to download 18 of what Sony calls “generation-defining” PS4 games.
This list includes first-party titles, like God of War, Uncharted 4, and Days Gone. There are also a handful of third-party titles, like Battlefield 1, Fallout 4, Persona 5, and Final Fantasy XV. It’s a far cry from the more than 100 games available on Game Pass—especially since titles like Spider-Man and Horizon Zero Dawn are oddly missing.
When it comes to first-party exclusives, Sony’s future lineup includes Horizon Forbidden West, Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart, and the hotly anticipated Demon’s Souls remake. Final Fantasy XVI will be a PlayStation-console exclusive, and a follow-up to 2018’s God of War has also been teased for 2021.
What Will It Cost Me?
The PlayStation 5 will cost $499.99 or $399.99 for the all-digital edition. PlayStation Plus is required for online play, and will now provide access to a collection of games for $9.99 per month, or $59.99 per year. Sony hasn’t yet announced any monthly payment plans that compete with Xbox All Access.
Like Xbox titles, some PlayStation 5 games will also cost $70 this generation. However, you can always save money by shopping around or purchasing secondhand copies if you buy the console with a physical disc drive.
What About Backward Compatibility?
Sony announced the PlayStation 5 will be 99 percent compatible with PlayStation 4 titles. The company also confirmed the “top 100” PS4 games had been tested, and that they worked on the new console. However, the company stopped short of claiming blanket compatibility.
Unfortunately, neither PS5 console will be compatible with titles created for pre-PS4 Sony consoles—at least, not at launch.
Struggling to Choose?
If you’re finding it hard to choose which console you want, you can always wait. Alternatively, if you’re flush with cash, you can buy both. For most people, the decision will be guided by the exclusives available on both platforms. Unfortunately, at launch, those games are very thin on the ground.
It’s no secret that Sony’s exclusives have been consistently excellent throughout the PS4’s life span, with Microsoft somewhat lacking in this department. That could all change this generation, though, with big-name studios, like Obsidian Entertainment and Double Fine, joining Microsoft as first-party developers.
If neither console piques your interest, waiting is probably best. If you don’t have an Xbox One or PlayStation 4, those consoles will be headed for a significant price drop.
Of course, you could also buy neither and build your own gaming PC, instead.