Bigger, brighter, and better than ever, the new video game consoles are here! Let’s dive into the nitty-gritty to see which one will fuel your next generation of gaming.
When I was eight years old, I would beg my parents to go over to my cousin’s house so that we could play on his Xbox together. When it was time for me to leave, my parents would drive me away from cherished moments playing Xbox with my cousin. After getting dragged home, another battle waged on between my three brothers over who got the most time on our family-owned PlayStation. Since PlayStation 1 and the original Xbox, the war between consoles has been an ongoing debate over which console is better: PlayStation or Xbox; and this week, that war continues as (much like our cell phones) the old consoles begin to be obsolete and the new consoles offer upgraded graphics, faster load times, newer games and bigger memory through the PlayStation 5 and the Xbox Series X. With new consoles comes competition over design, functionality, user-friendliness, games, esports, and subscriptions. These new consoles have launched this week; who will be the winner: Sony’s PlayStation 5, Microsoft’s Xbox Series X, or neither?
Most people don’t know this, but console design is subject to the same design criteria and criticism as all other manufactured products. Most people may undervalue a design’s ability to combine functionality, standalone beauty, and aesthetics within a room. The design must always be usable…
Unfortunately, both PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X have both been memed to death for looking like ugly versions of a wifi router and mini-fridge, respectively. They aren’t the prettiest pieces of tech in the room, but they do come with their own perks. Let’s compare and contrast.
APPEAL – I was sitting in my living room, anxiously awaiting the PlayStation 5 physical reveal, hoping it would look cool, sleek, and modern when I got slapped in the face with an inverse ice cream sandwich-looking box. The console is much bigger than Sony’s previous console, the PS4 (or any other console ever for that matter), coming in at around three inches taller and wider and about 2 inches longer than the PS4. This matters because configuring where and how to fit this alien-looking present from an alternate future in your current 2020 modern-day home set up is both physically and stylistically hard.
TYPES & COST – The PlayStation 5 comes in two types, identical except for one feature to differentiate them: the PS5 at $499 with a disc drive and the PS5 Digital Edition at $399 without a disc drive. With all movies and tv shows moving towards digital, video games are no different. All video games for all consoles can be purchased directly from an online store onto your console. The price option to opt-out of a disc drive to instead go digital is a welcomed and smart option for Sony and the consumer.
CONTROLLER – Designed to be a true game-changer (literally), the new PS5 controller features “Adaptive Triggers”, which directly adds realistic pressure to the L2 and R2 trigger buttons on the back of the controller to in-game objects that would require extra effort, like the springs of a jumping robot in Astro’s Playroom or drawing the hunter’s bow in The Pathless. “Haptic Feedback” is a feature that rumbles and vibrates the controller when something in the game explodes or stomps towards you and with the new PS5 controller, the vibrations are sensitive to whatever direction the source came from creating a truly immersive experience. The new controller will bring on new meaning to console esports, especially with the new PS Tournaments startup (PlayStation’s crucible where people from all over the world can compete with each other through online esports games like Mortal Kombat 11, a kung-fu fighting game, and FIFA 21, a world-class soccer game). The future of console esports is bright for fans of PlayStation. There is a lot to nit-pick, but the PlayStation 5 is still definitely something to be excited about.
APPEAL – The Xbox Series X, while being trolled for looking like a mini-fridge, is a clean piece of tech. The Xbox Series X is bigger and boxier than its predecessor, weighing in at the same height, around four inches long and around three inches skinnier than the Xbox One (Microsoft’s previous console); the big, black obelisk from 2001: A Space Odyssey has matte black finishes and a mesh-like top.
TYPES & COST – There are also two new Xbox options: the Xbox Series X at $499 and Xbox Series S (I know, terrible name dissociation) at $299. The differences between these two consoles are extensive, that being Xbox Series X has more power, memory, visual prowess, and a disc drive while the Series S has those things in a lesser amount (including no disc drive). Creating options for gamers to trek forward into a new generation of gaming is always a good thing.
CONTROLLER – The new Xbox controller is extremely similar to the Xbox One controller with the “why fix what isn’t broke” mentality. There is a new-looking D-pad, improved grip, and a more compact feel to it. Overall, there is a lot to like when considering the Xbox Series X or S.
Like a lamp for a lightbulb, game consoles are the vehicles for which video games can shine their stories. Throughout the history of console launch day titles (games that have an accompanying release date with the new console), players have consistently been left questioning “… is that it? Why didn’t I wait until there was a substantial catalog of games to play before buying this new console?” Although in the past launch game titles have been either nonexistent, minimal, or lackluster, both PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X boast some pretty incredible launch games and early 2021 games to look forward to. Like TV’s and phones, technology over time improves. Because these new consoles have been developing for over seven years, features like game load times and video game graphic resolutions on both consoles will be dramatically better than the last generation and similar enough so that gamers can focus on which console exclusive games they want to lavish their weekends away on. Buckle up and have your water nearby— there is A LOT to cover.
The PlayStation 5 spreads their launch day money over a variety of game genres that offer something for everyone: cutesy, action, or adventure. The very well received Astro’s Playroom, where you play as PlayStation’s mascot Astro the little robot, and, from the creators of Octodad: Dadliest Catch, the big buggy world of Bugsnax where you find all sorts of food-bodied critters and feed them to villagers, are two epically cute adventures that will be free to play games from day one. Sackboy: A Big Adventure will be the grand return of the familiar LittleBigPlanet sack-doll hero, this time in a classic Mario-esque, open-world game style. The highly anticipated Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales which tells the story of Miles, who most people will recognize as “Black Spiderman” from the hit movie Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, will be web-slinging it’s way into the launch day titles as well as The Pathless, where you play as a mystical master archer gliding through a cursed island. The fated PS3 remake in which you play as a medieval knight fighting ridiculously powerful foes, Demon Souls will return on launch day as a fan favorite along with newcomer Godfall where you master playing a gladiator in a fantasy world filled with stunning visuals and intricate combat. Esports will take a new, yet to be determined life of its own on the new PS5, as Call of Duty, a massively popular shooter game, has been known to be a Sony exclusive esports game. Needless to say, there will be plenty to play on PlayStation 5’s launch day.
Xbox Series X is ready to compete with its own impressive library of launch titles, including an array of indie games (shorter, digestible games that aren’t big budget but still tell beautiful stories and offer fun gameplay). Recognizable releases, Gears 5, a merciless monster-killing game, and Forza Horizon 4, an absolutely stunning racing game, will welcome the old and the new on launch day. Bright Memory 1.0, a hailstorm of bullets and clashing swords set in a Chinese sci-fi Earth, Enlisted, a realistic World War 2 campaign, and Sea of Thieves, a swashbuckling pirate choose-your-own-adventure are all ambitious titles that will be available to Xbox players at launch. Interesting, bite-sized indie games will litter the Xbox launch day titles; Evergate, The Falconeer, Grounded, Manifold Garden, Ori and the Will of the Wisps, The Touryst, and Yes, Your Grace will all decorate launch day with amazing stories and diverse playstyles, offering enjoyable intermissions between playing the collection of games that need no introduction, Halo: The Master Chief Collection releasing a week after Xbox Series X’s launch date. Games like Gears of War, Halo, and Forza are all exciting games included in Xbox’s push for esports. With the new Xbox Series X, esports will enter a new realm of viewer interaction and competitive play. Xbox players needn’t worry about there not being enough good games to play on their new Xbox Series X on launch day.
While Xbox and PlayStation reserve the right to only sell and play specific games on their respective consoles, there’s an exhilarating, jam-packed list of games offered on launch day (and early 2021) that both Xbox and PlayStation players can enjoy right out of the gate. Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, DIRT 5, Devil May Cry 5, and Fortnite are all familiar triple-A games (games developed by big studios that pour years of time, money, and work into a single game) that are optimized for next-level fun. Months after the releases of PS5 and Xbox Series X, Hitman 3, where you play as a secret agent stopping corruption all over the world, FIFA 21, the beloved annual soccer game, and almost every gamers personal “Game Of The Year” pick (without it being released yet) Cyberpunk 2077, where you get to play in a Bladerunner-esque fully realized world in 2077 Northern California, are a few examples of the tantalizing future of next-gen gaming. Other 2021 third-party games (games offered to all consoles) to get excited about are Gotham Knights, a Batman game where you can play with friends as Batgirl, Robin, Redhood, or Nightwing to fight the villains of Gotham, Hogwarts Legacy, every Harry Potter fan’s dream come true, a role-playing game set before the times of Dumbledore, and Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga, where all nine Star Wars movies are told together through the goofy lens of LEGO, just to scratch the surface. Both Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 have a juicy legacy of console exclusives and third-party games to look forward to.
One of the best win-win developments of modern entertainment is subscription services, as Netflix and Hulu have become household names. Both Xbox Series X and PS5 have developed full functioning subscription services that offer the most to gamers.
The PS5 has two subscription offers for their players: PlayStation Plus and PlayStation Now, both generally $60 a year. I remember being very upset when PlayStation announced that instead of online play being free to everyone, a PlayStation Plus membership was now required. Today, because of the numerous benefits, I don’t mind as much. On top of being an online pass, PlayStation Plus grants subscribers one free PS5 game a month (instead of paying $70 dollars for the listed PS5 game), countless in-store discounts on games and add-ons, and, starting on launch day, will offer a free twenty game collection of the best generation-defining PS4 games from the past seven years *whistles in astonishment*. Whether new to the PlayStation family or a returning member that missed a few games for whatever reason (like me – I’m looking at you God of War), the PS Plus Collection is an awesome exploration for all to enjoy. PlayStation Now is a subscription that will also be available on PS5, contributing a limited collection of classic PS3 and PS4 games. But, because of PS5’s backward compatibility (the ability to use and play PS4 disc games with your PS5), you don’t have to worry about leaving your favorite PS4 games in the dust when upgrading to the PS5.
Xbox Series X has similar subscriptions of its own: Xbox Live Gold at $60 a year and Xbox Game Pass at $120 a year. Xbox Live Gold is a subscription that is very similar to PS Plus, giving players online access, free monthly Xbox One, and Xbox 360 games, and in-store discounts. The real winner is Xbox Game Pass. Xbox Game Pass is a subscription that gives players access to a massive library of Xbox One, Xbox 360, and original Xbox games. On top of that, all Xbox exclusive games will be free to members of the Xbox Game Pass. *pause for dramatic effect* That means that whenever an Xbox exclusive game like Halo or Gears of War comes out, it will automatically be free to play for Game Pass members. Xbox exclusives will now essentially turn into a Netflix-like streaming service. For people who haven’t grow up with the Xbox consoles and have missed out on many of their wonderful games (again– that’s me), the Xbox Game Pass is an incredible time-capsule vault to dive right into. Another bonus for Xbox is that they are owned by Microsoft, so games played and purchased on Xbox can be played through a PC with one account.
Whether it is PS5 or Xbox Series X, at the end of the day, a decision must be made: do I upgrade at all? It is only natural for all gamer “nerds” to salivate over new consoles, especially because they only come out every decade or so, but is purchasing a PS5 or an Xbox Series X on launch day worth it? If you already have an Xbox One or PS4, I would say no, it is not worth it. If you are new to video gaming or have experienced a broken console for whatever reason, upgrading to PS5 or Xbox Series X is a great investment as every new generation of gaming shows: old consoles get left behind. Besides that, most, if not all new PS5 and Xbox Series X games, for a year or two, will continue to come out on PS4 and Xbox One. If you are struggling financially, because new games designed for PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X will continue to come out on old consoles (PS4 and Xbox One), there isn’t much you are missing out on this year when considering buying a new console on launch day. Depending on what kind of games you are interested in will determine the real console wars winner for you individually as both the PlayStation5 and Xbox Series X offer amazing benefits to their players across the board. Whether you are interested in the casual play of competing in esports, both PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X will provide a platform for you to find enjoyment.
I will continue to use my perfectly fine PS4 as my standard gaming console and go over to my cousin’s house to play his Xbox One for a few more years because snagging the newest, brightest video game console is not on the top of my priorities list. Whether you are looking forward to the PS5 or the Xbox Series X, breaking the bank to buy it right now is not necessary. Instead, give it a few years, wait for more games to come out, and raise some funds so that you can plunge into your next generation of gaming.