What Microsoft’s Next Gen-Console Needs To Have In Order To Stack Up To Sony’s PS5

Making a case for Microsoft, and how they can try to compete against the clear leader in the still-developing console war.
Xbox One X
The Xbox One X and the Xbox One S. Microsoft

The first details regarding Sony’s next-gen console have dropped, and if Mark Cerny is to be believed, the latest Sony console is an absolute beast. Sporting AMD’s newest 7nm Zen 2 architecture for its CPU running on 8 cores and 16 threads, and backed by AMD’s yet-to-be-released Radeon Navi GPU architecture, the upcoming PlayStation 5 is set to be within the range of a mid to high-end PC. Sony is also ridding itself of the terrible load times with the introduction of an SSD, which is something that should’ve been there in the first place. Couple that with new PlayStation VR capabilities, as well as backward compatibility for PlayStation 4 games, it looks like Sony has locked itself at the top of the console race.

That is not to say, though, that we can discount the boys in green. Microsoft has yet to announce their next-gen console, opting instead to release a new Xbox One S, this time going all-in with digital games. The Xbox One S All-Digital Edition was announced during Microsoft’s recent Inside Xbox presentation, which gave its playerbase a choice for a cheaper console sporting the same hardware as an Xbox One S, but with full dependence on its online service. This move comes from Microsoft’s current push into the digitization of its marketplace, going so far as to release the new console with a service that combines Xbox Live Gold and Xbox Game Pass: the Xbox Game Pass Ultimate.

This will not be enough for Microsoft, though. The tech giant is expected to reveal its next-gen console this year at E3, and as such, there is enormous pressure on them to match – or possibly even outperform – Sony’s efforts.

Xbox One vs PS4
The Virgin Xbox One vs The Chad PS4 Photo: Microsoft/Sony

Sony has widely dominated the console market for years now, with the number of PS4s sold nearing a hundred million, a feat few other consoles have performed. If Microsoft ever wants to break Sony’s streak, it has to do something drastic with its next-gen offering, and here are some key things that they should to do:

Make their next-gen console's cost more competitive

PS4 vs XB1 Price
The Xbox One was more expensive than the PS4, plus it also carried the awful Kinect. Photo: Microsoft/Sony

Back when Xbox One launched in 2013, it carried a pretty hefty price tag of $499, versus the PlayStation 4’s launch price of $399. That $100 difference is not small at all, and it might’ve been a good enough reason to pick the PS4 over the Xbox One, especially in the mind of a somewhat casual gamer whose library consists of multi-platform games.

Fast forward five years and we have the same situation again, with the Xbox One X costing $499 versus the PlayStation 4 Pro’s $399 price tag. Microsoft might’ve made the argument that their console’s 4K experience is better, but as we all know by now, gamers don’t focus solely on the graphics.

If Microsoft wants to take a bigger share of the console market, the company has to make its prices more competitive with Sony’s, seeing as a console’s price tag comes a long way in justifying its eventual purchase.

Offer functionality on par with the PlayStation VR, and no, not another Kinect (please)

PSVR3
The addition the PlayStation VR enriched the experience of having a PlayStation 4. Photo: Sony

Sony’s PlayStation VR was a success, not because of sales, or the number of critically and commercially successful games it released, but purely because it proved that Sony was willing to back and properly implement new technology for its consoles, opening up new possibilities and innovation. Although you can say the same about Microsoft’s Kinect, which launched with the Xbox 360 years ago, it was, simply put, one of the most horrid things ever developed. There is absolutely no case for the Kinect being an actual contribution to the success of the Xbox 360 as a console, and I’m personally glad that Microsoft finally put it out of its misery.

That said, the failure of the Kinect should not deter Microsoft from trying to come up with new ideas to supplement their console’s functionality. If PlayStation is moving into VR, then maybe it’s time that Xbox branch out into something as well. Case in point: I enjoyed playing the Forza series, and I can definitely say that the core audience of theirs does too. It would be awesome if Microsoft developed peripherals specifically for the next-gen console, which would allow for a much more immersive racing experience. I admit, this might not be as expansive as far as comparing implications with the PSVR, but showing that they are willing to break into another market while supplementing the functionality of their consoles would speak volumes to the consumers.

Unironically, more good exclusives – not timed ones

PS4 vs Xbox One Exclusives
List of console exclusives from the time of the console's release up to 2017. Should give you an idea of how far PlayStation is in terms of games. Photo: GameSpot

As a primarily PC gamer, I can think of a number of good reasons to own a PlayStation: The God of War series, The Last of Us, the Uncharted series, Bloodborne, Spider-Man, the Gran Turismo series, Horizon Zero Dawn, The Last Guardian, and the list goes on. When I think of reasons to buy an Xbox One, it basically comes down to: because I can’t be bothered to build a new PC and I only have a couple hundred dollars, or because I like Halo or Gears of War.

The console war between the PlayStation and Xbox can be broken down into one single component: who has the better exclusives. For a couple of years now, Microsoft has absolutely trashed its exclusives in favor of more buzzwords like “4K gaming” and “the world’s most powerful console.” It used to be that there was actually some competition, especially when Halo was in its prime; I distinctly remember enjoying first person shooters on consoles exclusively on the Xbox, and making the case that it’s a must-have for players who are invested in the genre.

That all changed with the introduction of the timed exclusives. If I didn’t know any better, I would absolutely say that Microsoft is knowingly sabotaging the Xbox with the inclusion of such timed exclusives. Would anyone even want to own an Xbox if you could play the same game on a better platform (PC), which sports higher graphical fidelity, offers more freedom on how you buy your games, and with a mostly free online service?

Probably the best move Microsoft can make in order to make its next-gen more attractive is to make more games exclusive only to the Xbox, because as of now, Microsoft and Sony aren’t even on the same level when it comes to the games they offer. If they somehow made games more of their focus instead of trying to one up Sony in terms of the console’s processing power, they might stand an actual chance.

Whatever Microsoft’s plan is, it will be interesting to see the next chapter in the console wars play out once the PlayStation 5 hits markets around the world next year.

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