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Price, date, games... PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X
By Yassine KHIRI
Paris (AFP) Nov 5, 2020

Sony and Microsoft are in a game consoles rematch with both the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X launching next week with well-studied playbooks of dates, technical specs and games aimed at luring buyers.

Microsoft is hoping the Xbox Series X will help it close the gap with Sony, which has sold twice as many PlayStation 4 consoles as did Microsoft its Xbox One since both went on sale in 2013.

Here is a comparison of the two consoles:

Date: Microsoft launches first

The first to unveil its new console, Microsoft will also be the first to hit the shelves with the Xbox Series X going on sale November 10.

Sony is staggering the release of the PS5. On November 12 it will become available in Australia, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, North America and South Korea. On November 19 consumers in the rest of the world will be able to buy it.

Pre-orders are pointing to a record launch -- Sony expects to sell 7.6 million PS5 consoles by the end of March, besting the performance of the PS4.

Price: Premium and Digital editions

Technological advances and faster networks mean that Microsoft and Sony can offer consoles to players with different budgets.

Sony offers a premium version of the PS5 with internal memory and 4K resolution via an Ultra HD Blu-ray player for 499 euros ($585) and a digital version which plays online games goes for 399 euros.

Microsoft is offering the premium version of its Xbox Series X at the same price as the PS5, but is pricing the digital version more aggressively at 299 euros.

"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, with 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 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 all out on catalogue big hitters -

In terms of exclusive titles Sony has pulled out a top-drawer selection to coincide with its launch, including Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales.

Fans will have to wait a while for Final Fantasy XVI, the last in the celebrated series, but it will be exclusive to the PS5.

Microsoft had hoped that Halo Infinite would help drive sales at the Xbox Series X launch, but the coronavirus pandemic has delayed publication of the game until 2021.

But the software giant has broken open its piggy bank to boost the Xbox catalogue, splurging $7.5 billion on Bethesda Softworks, publisher of the popular games The Elder Scrolls and Fallout.

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.

A video games timeline: from Pong to the console wars
Hong Kong (AFP) Nov 5, 2020 - Video games have come a long way since the first rudimentary arcade machines emerged in the 1970s with offerings such as "Pong", "Pacman" and "Space Invaders".

Each generation since then has enjoyed rapid technological advancement, and the industry is now worth billions.

With the release of Microsoft's Xbox X and Sony's PlayStation 5 just days away, here follows a look at the journey of video games.

- King 'Pong' -

Now widely regarded as the first video game to achieve serious commercial success, Atari's 1972 "Pong" allowed two people to play a basic game of table tennis on a black screen.

The graphics were simple, but it was a hit -- a version of the game designed to play at home sold more than 100,000 units and set the stage for the multibillion-dollar gaming industry we know today.

- The first mega-hits -

The success of "Pong" laid the groundwork for an explosion of arcade games in the late 1970s and early 1980s, with the frenetic "Pacman" and alien shoot-em-up "Space Invaders" raking in billions from coin-rich youngsters desperate to post a high score.

But it was the advent of home consoles such as the Atari 2600 and the Nintendo NES around the same time that took video games from arcades into living rooms.

Games popularised in this period still resonate today. One early Nintendo game -- the 1981 platformer "Donkey Kong" -- featured a character known as Jumpman, later known as Mario, one of the best-known video game heroes of all time.

- Console wars -

As the market for games grew, so too did competition between hardware manufacturers, leading to the first of many "console wars" in the early 1990s between Sega and Nintendo.

Sega ultimately emerged victorious -- in part due to the popularity of its "Sonic the Hedgehog" franchise -- but its Genesis console never quite enjoyed the longevity of some of its competitors.

The 1990s also brought massive innovation for video games -- both in visual presentation and plot.

First-person-shooters like "Goldeneye" and action-adventure puzzler "Tomb Raider" revolutionised both graphics and storytelling, offering a more mature experience for an increasingly diverse audience.

- Going global -

By the turn of the century, the stage was set for a new generation of home systems -- and an all-new round of console wars, this time between the PlayStation 2, Nintendo GameCube, and a new contender from Microsoft, the Xbox.

The PlayStation 2 won that fight, becoming the best-selling console of all time with 155 million units moved, according to Forbes.

- Multiplayer madness -

The following decade saw games go online, allowing players to go from one-on-one matches in their living rooms to battles with scores of other players all over the world.

From chaotic first-person shooter "Call of Duty" to the massive multiplayer role-playing game "World of Warcraft", online gaming became a billion-dollar industry in its own right -- and laid the groundwork for the massive growth of competitive eSports in the 2010s.

- Powering up -

In 2013 Sony and Microsoft released their most powerful consoles ever -- the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4. With revolutionised graphics, games such as "The Last of Us" and "Uncharted" offered players cinematic experiences.

- The next generation -

Sony and Microsoft are about to go head to head again with their latest offerings, the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X, promising never-before-seen graphics and a range of exclusive titles as battle lines are drawn.

Facing stiff competition from PC gaming and changing habits among players, whichever pricey new console emerges victorious will truly have to live up to the hype.

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Real-world politics invade video games ahead of US election
San Francisco (AFP) Nov 1, 2020
Fans of US President Donald Trump can insert his character in some video games, even protect him from assassination in notoriously lawless Grand Theft Auto. Gamers with a different political tilt can visit Democratic presidential contender Joe Biden at his headquarters in Animal Crossing, and display his campaign posters in virtual yards there. Real-life politics have invaded video games, echoing divisive themes raging in the streets and leaving some players lamenting that their cherished fantas ... read more

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