It’s taken what feels like forever and both companies have sailed very, very close to the expected launch-window wire but we finally have all of the pricing and date information for the ninth generation of video game consoles from Sony and Microsoft.
XBOX SERIES S
After a well-informed leak pre-empted the reveal of the long-rumoured Xbox Series S on September 8, Microsoft wasted no time going all in and confidently showed their next-gen hand, bringing months of speculation to an end.
The price-sensitive-friendly Series S – Microsoft’s smallest console to date – comes in at the surprisingly low cost of £249/$299, bringing a 1440p/120FPS ray-tracing capable piece of hardware into your living room for the same price as a Nintendo Switch. While it may not have the same 4K visual fidelity or UHD blu-ray disc drive of its big brother, the S has the same CPU as the X and a throttled version of the same GPU, delivering a powerful experience that would be difficult to match (if not impossible) for the same price, even as a custom-built PC.
While the headlines of Microsoft’s budget console will continue to be its affordability and relative lack of power compared to both the Playstation 5, PS5 digital version and the Series X, there is an underlying issue with the Series S that may prove to be its Achille’s heel, at least at launch.
The reveal trailer dazzled with a lot of numbers to reinforce Microsoft’s assertion that the S is a legitimate next-gen contender, but one of those numbers didn’t quite add up: the 512Gb SSD drive. While the SSD is of the same specs to that shipped in the X, ensuring the drastically improved loading times touted, it’s pretty small to contend with current-gen games like Red Dead Redemption 2 or CoD: Modern Warfare that are both north of 100Gb, let alone next-gen titles. That being said, the S has a proprietary expansion slot to allow owners to increase their storage space. This could mean that Series S adopters will be saddled with the additional cost of expensive Seagate SSDs that are only available from Microsoft (remember the cost of 360 HDs and memory cards?) and even if third-party storage devices become available, these may still be expensive as they will need to be of the same specification as the internal SSD to maintain performance.
XBOX SERIES X
Since the new consoles were announced, the Series X has been touted as the victor in terms of sheer maths since both sets of specs were released. While we won’t really know which performs better with any certainty until we can get hands-on experiences with the PS5 or Series X, we can categorically say that Microsoft’s hulking black box won on price. Last week, The Series X drew a line in the sand that probably had the execs at Sony furiously revising spreadsheet projections over the last seven days.
Coming in at £449/$499, the Series X continues the trend set by the S of delivering incredible power at a very reasonable price. The Zen 2 CPU, 16G GPU, 1TB SSD combo alone would cost more than £500 to build a PC gaming rig of the same quality, which means that console jockeys will be on an even-ish footing with PC gamers for the first time (until CPU and GPU upgrades increase PC power over the life-span of the consoles).
Like the Series S, the X will be subject to the same storage criteria but the console launches with a 1TB SSD that should keep early adopters going until (hopefully) a third-party solution becomes available.
Both consoles are available for pre-order from September 22 for simultaneous November 10 launch and both are eligible for Xbox All Access, meaning that – like a mobile phone plan – you can own either a Series S or X with Gamepass Ultimate for £20.99 or £28.99 a month respectively with no upfront cost. Considering that Ultimate would normally run to £10.99 a month on top of the cost of your console, the All Access programme is great for gamers looking to own both consoles or for those who don’t want to shell out a large lump sum right off of the bat. Just bear in mind that while there is 0% interest, purchasers are locked into a 24-month contract.
PLAYSTATION 5/PLAYSTATION 5 DIGITAL
As outsiders looking in, the staring match between Sony and Microsoft has been car-crash entertainment for much of the year, equal parts infuriating and fascinating as both corporations attempted to gain a PR edge while pushing the other to tip their hand early. Once the final Xbox info dump was out in the open, expectations that Sony would quickly return fire were quickly silenced as days ticked by without response.
We’ve no idea what transpired over the ensuing week behind the doors of fortress Sony, but it seems natural to assume that the Xbox pricing (in particular that of the Series X) has given Playstation pause. After all, if Microsoft behaved as expected, surely a Playstation announcement would have swiftly followed? We do know that Playstation has become Sony’s most profitable enterprise (a far cry from the experimental novelty that the PS One represented) so it seems appropriate that pricing is a suitably important decision as the company will not want to go back to losing money on consoles as they did before the PS4.
What we do now know is what those prices are, when the console launches and when we can pre-order it.
Unsurprisingly, the fifth iteration of the Playstation console is matching the competition at a launch price of £449/$499. There are plenty of rumours circulating that Microsoft is losing money on the Series X, so there’s a good chance that Sony were hoping for a figure that would top the $500 mark but we may never know for sure. Regardless, like the rival Xboxs, a PC gaming rig of equivalent hardware would cost far more than that price tag so Sony’s loss is our gain.
Since the PS5’s sleek and brightly coloured design departure was revealed to mixed reviews, we’ve known that there was a digital-only counterpart to the main console that would feature the same tech minus the UHD blue-ray drive. Again, confirming what many already suspected, the price was revealed as £349/$399, giving consumers a cheaper version of the same console and giving those considering the Series S some serious thought by offering better performance for only an extra £100/$100.
The new Sony consoles are using a staggered release schedule, starting in the US, Canada, Mexico, Japan, New Zealand, Australia and South Korea on November 12th and releasing to the rest of the world on November 19th (coincidentally, the same date as Cyberpunk 2077 drops). Not content with Microsoft hogging the news cycle for the last week, Sony announced that pre-orders would start the day after the September 16th reveal, with different retailers going live at different times on the 17th, no doubt confusing poor scalpers.
But that’s not all, in a move clearly meant to emulate the success of Xbox’x Gamepass programme, PS Plus members who upgrade to a PS5 will have access to a catalogue of PS4 classics that they can download onto their shiny new consoles for free. The PS Plus Collection will be an additional perk to the existing subscription and features titles such as Batman Arkham Knight, Bloodborne, Fallout 4, God of War, Monster Hunter: World, Persona 5 and many more.
While Sony’s (presumably) final reveal event did feature a lot of game footage, it was mostly more of the games already announced, with the exception of Final Fantasy XVI and the teasiest of teasers for God of War 2. The most important information was release dates, pre-order dates and pricing, so now all we have to do is decide which hardware to pick!