PlayStation 5 launch sets up Xbox head-to-head
by Staff Writers
San Francisco (AFP) Sept 17, 2020
Sony's eagerly awaited PlayStation 5 will launch in November, setting up a holiday-season battle with rival console Xbox Series X as the gaming industry thrives during the pandemic.
The competing consoles will be released within two days of each other ahead of the Christmas rush, both aiming to capitalise on a rare bright spot in the economic carnage caused by the coronavirus crisis.
As well as a $500 premium version of the PS5, a $400 "digital edition" with no disk drive has also been designed to harness the growing popularity of downloading games from the cloud.
Both go on sale from November 12 in Australia, North America, New Zealand, Mexico, Japan and South Korea, becoming available elsewhere a week later, the Japanese firm said Wednesday.
Microsoft last week announced its next-gen Xbox Series X will launch on November 10.
The estimated starting price is around the same as the full PS5, while a slimmed-down console, the Xbox Series S, will also go on sale for $299 later that month.
The PS4 has outsold the Xbox One by more than two to one, and Sony is hoping new games including "Final Fantasy XVI", "Hogwarts Legacy" and "Spider-Man Morales" will help it stay in the lead.
Some of the new games will be exclusive to the PS5, giving Sony a strong advantage in the battle, said Amir Anvarzadeh, a strategist at Asymmetric Advisors in Singapore.
"PS5 is going to have a big edge as it always does, because in Europe PlayStation dominates, Xbox is always far behind," he told AFP.
"But for PS5 games to sell, you need the hardware to sell."
- Huge demand -
In announcing its new console -- a dark tower encased by white sides -- Sony boasted of the machine's capabilities.
"We can't wait for our fans to experience for themselves the incredible speed, the heightened immersion and the breathtaking games," Interactive Entertainment chief Jim Ryan said.
Gaming companies have seen rising revenues and an explosion in demand as people seek distraction during virus lockdowns.
According to the NPD Group, consumer spending on video-gaming in the United States reached a record $11.6 billion in the April-June quarter, up nearly a third from the same period last year.
Sony sales in its video-game sector were up 32.5 percent in the first fiscal quarter of 2020-21.
And Microsoft said in July that revenue had risen 13 percent to $38 billion, led by strong gains in its cloud computing and its Xbox gaming services.
But Anvarzadeh warned that the recent highs, including Nintendo's runaway success with "Animal Crossing", would not last.
"Nintendo's going to have (the equivalent of) three Christmas quarters in one year, which is unheard of," he said.
"The pandemic caused a great distortion of the market which we don't think will repeat itself," he added.
"So all these developers and platform-holders are going to be very challenged next year, at least from a growth point of view."
Sony stocks were down 0.95 percent at 8,132 yen as markets closed in Tokyo on Thursday, with investors disheartened by falls in US tech shares.
Price, launch dates, games... PlayStation 5 duels Xbox
Battle lines are being drawn up as the rivals prepare for the launch of products whose heady technical specs and exclusive game catalogue mix have been carefully honed to keep the fan hordes loyal.
With its new console and associated range of services Microsoft is out to get the jump on Sony which has shifted twice as many PlayStation 4 units as sales of Xbox One since their respective launches in 2013.
Here's how the two new game consoles measure up:
- Date: Microsoft to leave the blocks first -
Microsoft's offering, which stylistically looks much like a PC, will leave the starting blocks first with a November 10 launch with pre-orders being taken from September 22.
Sony's PS5 will go on sale from two days later in Australia, North America, New Zealand, South Korea, Japan and Mexico with other markets having to wait a week.
Pre-orders for the PS5 were slated to kick off from Thursday "at select retailers."
Sony said Wednesday it will be offering "premium" and "digital" incarnations of its console.
They take into account different budgets with the premium $499 model offering 4K media rendition via an Ultra HD Blu-ray player. The digital-only version, costing $100 less, allows playing downloaded and streaming games and media.
Microsoft likewise has a $499 price point for its own "premium" offering whereas its "mini" version comes in at $300.
"Sony, with its entry model, is allowing itself a price above that of Microsoft. As market leader it can allow itself to do that," gaming analyst Laurent Michaud told AFP.
"It would have been interesting for Microsoft to push its pricing strategy to come in a little lower on the top range" model, Michaud said.
Design: From futurist to contemporary
On design, the firms have taken radically different approaches. Sony's PS5 stands tall and sleek, a V-shaped white exterior on black with subtle blue lighting for a futurist style which some consider would not look out of place on a Star Wars set.
The controller retains the white-on-black look in a radical departure from previous incarnations.
Xbox sticks with sober black and a discreet logo on a black tower and a controller that remains essentially aesthetically faithful to previous generations.
Specs: Xbox feels the power
For the Xbox design team, their product is "the fastest most powerful ever" console. The company's website urges fans to come on in, fire up and "power your dreams".
The kit, which affords potential 8K video capabilities, boasts a 12-teraflop graphics processor -- compared with 10.3 for the PS5 and superior data crunching power overall.
In terms of memory the two consoles are roughly even.
For Michaud however, the battle over processing power misses the point.
"The more you widen the player base the less power is a criterion. Kids couldn't care less about power when they are playing Fortnite. What counts is the gaming experience," he said.
- Sony goes all out on catalogue big hitters -
In terms of exclusive titles Sony has pulled out a top-drawer selection to coincide with its launch.
The biggest include a sequel to Horizon: Zero Dawn, Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Moralesand above all "Final Fantasy XVI," the last in the celebrated series which is due for a PC release next year.
Where the thorny old issue of compatibility is concerned, Xbox Series X buyers will be able to play games written for all previous consoles.
PS5 buyers should be able to play games written for PS4, but not earlier machines.
Virtual Air, Space and Cyber Conference
Washington DC (AFNS) Sep 11, 2020
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