Sony and Microsoft have been competing in the game console market since Microsoft entered the scene in 2001 — long after the first PlayStation was introduced in 1994. The last major release from both companies came in 2013, with the launch of the PS4 and the Xbox One. While both consoles have been updated with some improvements since then, this is the next generational step for both companies.
Sometime before the holidays, the new Xbox Series X and the PS5 will launch. And, thanks to Sony’s presentation on Thursday evening — which finally showed us what the PS5 looks like and several games — we’re starting to learn a lot more about what we can expect.
Here’s what we know so far about Sony’s PS5 and Microsoft’s Xbox Series X.
Specs and design
Microsoft’s next-generation Xbox Series X console.
Microsoft says its Xbox Series X will be four times as powerful as its predecessor, the Xbox One X, supporting 8K resolution and a frame rate of 120 frames per second (FPS) — though you’ll only be able to take advantage of this higher quality video if you have an 8K-ready TV, and they don’t come cheap. The PS5 will also have 8K capability and can run 4K graphics at 120 FPS. This means sharper, smoother graphics.
The Xbox Series X looks sort of like a black computer tower. It’s simple. The PS5 is the opposite. Sony opted for a more futuristic style, with two white wings on either side of a black block wedged in the middle of the console.
Both consoles come with solid-state drives (SSDs) which will allow you to boot up games much quicker. Sony said it will release a version of the PS5 called the “Digital Edition” for people who prefer to download games instead of buying discs. You’ll just want to make sure you have a fast internet connection if you pick this model, since games are going to be really large and will take a long time to download (hours or days) on a slow connection.
The Xbox Elite Wireless Controller Series 2 is unveiled during the Microsoft Corp. Xbox event ahead of the E3 Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles, California, U.S., on Sunday, June 9, 2019.
Patrick T. Fallon | Bloomberg via Getty Images
It might seem minor, but gamers really care about controllers. After all, the controller is how you’re interacting with games for, sometimes, hundreds and hundreds of hours. So far, both look pretty impressive.
Microsoft’s Xbox Elite Controller: Series 2, which has already been released, comes with adjustable-tension thumbsticks and wrap-around rubberized grips. It’ll also have a built-in rechargeable battery with up to 40 hours of battery life.
Sony’s DualSense wireless controller for the PlayStation 5.
Sony, meanwhile, has added haptic feedback to its DualSense controller for the PS5. It says you’ll be able to feel virtual things physically. In theory, in-game sensations should feel more realistic to the player than simple vibrations, but we don’t know how well it works yet.
Marvel’s “Spider-Man: Miles Morales,” a PlayStation 5 exclusive.
Exclusive launch titles — the games available that are exclusive to either the PS5 or Xbox Series X — can be important. They’ll help drive sales, since people will want to buy a new console to play the latest games.
Sony revealed a compelling lineup on Thursday with various PS5 exclusives, including big titles like “Spider-Man: Miles Morales” and “Horizon Forbidden West.”
Here’s a list of other games that are coming exclusively to the PS5:
- “Gran Turismo 7”
- “Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart”
- “Demon’s Souls”
- “Sackboy: A Big Adventure”
- “Astro’s Playroom”
- “Destruction All Stars”
“Halo Infinite,” “The Medium” and “Scorn” will launch as exclusives for the Xbox Series X.
Both consoles will support backward compatibility for games made for their predecessors. That means you’ll still be able to play an Xbox One game on the Xbox Series X or a PlayStation 4 game on the PS5.
Microsoft Project xCloud will let people stream games to mobile devices, too.
Microsoft’s Project xCloud, currently in beta, promises to let gamers play their games anywhere on phones, computers and tablets, even if they aren’t near their Xbox. Right now, gamers can stream from an Xbox to a computer, but only over the home Wi-Fi network. xCloud should make that experience much more seamless, allowing gamers to pick up where they left off wherever they are.
Sony hasn’t talked a whole lot about its plans, but it has a partnership with Microsoft in which it will use Microsoft’s Azure cloud to offer game streaming. It currently has a subscription service called PlayStation Now which allows players to play games on their PS4 or PC, so we expect that to expand in some form with the launch of the PS5.
Pricing and release dates still unknown
Game enthusiasts and industry personnel walk between the Microsoft Xbox and Sony PlayStation exhibits at the E3 trade show on June 16, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.
Christian Petersen | Getty Images
Microsoft and Sony have spoken about the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic. Microsoft said in April that the outbreak wouldn’t change the timing of its next-gen console’s release, though it may slow down some game production. Sony said there have been no “major problems” in its game development pipeline.
We still don’t know when the PS5 or the Xbox Series X will launch, though. Sony and Microsoft have just said this year. And we don’t know how much they’ll cost.
New consoles typically cost hundreds of dollars at launch, though. The PS4 was $399.99 when it launched and the Xbox One was priced at $499. So, ballpark it around $400 – $600 plus the cost of new games, which typically run around $50 – $60 a pop.