We’ve heard that quantities of the PS5 (and probably Xbox Series X) will be limited this holiday, but I kind of thought there was a certain amount of “ass-covering” around that announcement. Now I’m not so sure.
Today I got an email from Sony asking if I wanted to register to be among the first to know when PS5 pre-orders are going live. It’s not clear exactly what this means: is it just going to be an announcement email, or are we going to get some kind of personalized link to pre-order? Who knows? It does sound like we’ll be ordering direct from Sony, though.
I thought this was interesting. Here’s the bulk of the email:
PS5™ Console Pre-Orders are coming – Register for an opportunity to be one of the first!
PlayStation 5 is coming!
Register for an opportunity to be one of the first to pre-order your PS5™ console directly from PlayStation.
There will be a limited quantity of PS5™ consoles available for pre-order, so we will be inviting some of our existing consumers to be one of the first to pre-order one from PlayStation.
To learn more or register, please click the “Register” button below.
Most of my social media friends are primarily PC gamers so I thought I’d write a post helping them to decide if/when they should buy a Playstation 5 [PS5] or an Xbox Series X [XSX]. But before we get into that, lets talk a little bit about the console business model.
Both Sony and Microsoft sell their consoles (particularly near launch) at a loss. The idea is to get you in the door, then they make their money off of you via software and subscription sales. As a general rule of thumb when you buy a game on one of their platforms they get 30% of the sale price, and of course 100% for first party titles. Keep that in mind as we discuss each machine.
Now let’s talk about exclusives. True exclusives are becoming increasingly rare these days. Don’t be fooled when a company says “console exclusive” or “timed exclusive.” The former means the game WILL be on PC (just not on the other console), the latter means it’ll be on PC you’ll just have to wait a while.
Let’s talk PS5 first. Sony is a ‘traditional’ console seller in that their console is their platform. They want to sell a bunch of PS5s to build market share. This is why they have such high quality exclusives. Sony is willing to devote a ton of resources into exclusives because these are used as the ‘bait’ to get you into the Playstation ecosystem.
Tangent: I’m not a developer so this might be nonsense, but I suspect that true Playstation exclusives look as good as they do because the developers can take advantage of every hardware-specific feature and trick there is. They’re not worried about “how will we do this on Xbox or PC” so they can squeeze every drop of power out of their single target hardware.
Once you buy that PS5 to play an exclusive, Sony hopes you’ll buy other games, plus peripherals and maybe a Playstation+ subscription. The only other Playstation revenue stream they have is their streaming service Playstation Now, but so far Sony has used this mostly to put their back-catalog to use. They really want to force you to buy a Playstation in order for you to play their newest, hottest titles.
So when should you but a PS5? When there are enough exclusives to justify the hardware cost; so 2022 maybe? The truth is you probably won’t use your PS5 very much; all your friends are on PC and if you’re a dedicated PC gamer your rig is probably more powerful than the PS5 is, or at the very least it will be when you upgrade in a couple of years. Most of my die-hard PC gamer friends report that their consoles mostly collect dust after an initial burst of enthusiasm.
Xbox Series X
Now let’s talk about Microsoft. Microsoft diverges from Sony in a huge way in that the Xbox hardware platform is not their only revenue stream. They have this side project called Windows as well. Microsoft’s focus is on selling you software and subscriptions, and they’re leaning harder and harder into subscriptions at this point.
Because of this, XSX exclusives aren’t always as flashy as PS5 exclusives. In fact there are virtually no true XSX exclusives; Microsoft is making a concerted effort to offer all its games on Windows as well as Xbox.
Recently Xbox Game Pass has become a huge focus. It works on Xbox hardware and on Windows machines. Microsoft is happy to sell you an XSX, sure, but what it REALLY wants to sell you is a Game Pass subscription and it doesn’t care where you play the games. Could be on Xbox, could be on PC, could be via Xcloud.
In fact one could argue that they’d prefer you play on PC. Consider that when you buy an XSX, Microsoft loses money. When you buy a new gaming PC that comes with a Windows license, Microsoft earns money. [Granted a lot of PC gamers just carry their Windows license with them, but every time an Alienware, OriginPC or a gaming PC from Best Buy is sold, Microsoft makes money on that Windows license.]
Of course when you play on Windows, Microsoft doesn’t make anything from you when you buy a game from Steam, Origin, Epic or any other store, and no one that I know chooses to buy from the Windows Store unless they can’t avoid it. But again, this is where Game Pass comes in and why Microsoft is leaning so hard into it. Game Pass is their on-going revenue stream from PC gamers.
So when should you, the PC gamer, buy an Xbox Series X? Never. XSX is for those of us who don’t want/can’t afford a gaming PC. But as long as PC gaming is your jam, there’s very little reason for you to buy an XSX.
Hopefully this post will be of some help and will stop some of the complaints from PC gamers about how little incentive there is for them to buy a new console. These consoles are not generally meant for you. You’re wealthy enough that you can buy a $1500-$3000 gaming PC and then a few hundred dollars more every couple of years to keep it up to snuff. Be content with that, and understand that consoles are meant for a different market. Let console gamers enjoy their once-a-decade $400-500 new devices in peace. Don’t be the guy driving around in a Ferrari complaining that Chevrolet is giving you no reason to buy their new Aveo model.
I feel kind of compelled to write something about the Playstation 5 Showcase that Sony streamed on June 6th, 2020, but the fact of the matter is, I didn’t come away with any strong feelings one way or the other about the system in general.
When I watch something like this (or Microsoft’s first game reveal a while back) what is going through my mind is this: am I seeing games that make it worth buying a $500 console to play. (No official prices have been shared yet, I’m assuming $500.)
I saw a lot of games that, on the surface at least, seemed like they’d work fine on the PS4 or Xbox One, or on a mid-tier gaming PC. So that was a bit of a disappointment. On the other hand, Ratchet & Clank seemed designed to show off what the PS5 can do thanks to its SSD setup. Watch in this trailer as the duo portal between vastly different tilesets really quickly. There’s an intermediate ‘realm’ that they’re in for maybe a second before heading into a new biome.
Now maybe that’s all pre-rendered in which case, no big deal. But if this was captured “live” then it’s pretty impressive.
Of course the feather in Sony’s hat is always exclusives, and the one game shown that made the PS5 a must-have for me was Horizon: Forbidden West. Horizon Zero Dawn is one of my all-time favorite games so I HAVE to play the sequel!
As far as I know we don’t have a release date for Horizon Forbidden West. I would assume if it was a 2020 title — a launch title — then Sony would’ve promoted that fact pretty heavily. So yeah I need a PS5 to play HFW, but that’s not for launch (probably).
In fact it isn’t yet clear what the launch lineup is going to look like; it seems like maybe the new Spiderman game is Sony’s big 1st party launch title. Thing is, I never bothered finishing Spiderman on PS4; I just didn’t like it that much.
One issue both Sony and Microsoft are struggling with is that the new consoles are about more than just graphics. Both companies are talking about fast loading times and higher frame rates than we’ve seen on the current generation. Sony is talking about the haptic feedback of the new controller, too. But you can’t really experience any of these features without actually playing the games
Sony is going the classic console generation route. While some (many? most?) PS4 games will run on the PS5, the only ones we can be SURE will work are games coming out between about now and launch. Will there be enough to justify a purchase for me at launch? I’m still up in the air. And what about cross-generation games? If I buy The Last of Us Part 2 this summer, will Sony ask me to buy the PS5 version of The Last of Us Part 2 as a separate SKU? They did that during the PS3 – PS4 transition. Microsoft is NOT doing that. For their 1st party games, the same license covers Xbox One and Xbox Series X versions of the game.
Continuing with the Microsoft comparison, Microsoft is bringing games from 4 generations to the Series X. My understanding is (don’t take my word for it tho, I still need to confirm) that I can unplug the external drive from my Xbox One, plug it in to the Xbox Series X, and keep playing all those games, only they’ll run better. For example Destiny 2 will run at 60 FPS on Series X while it runs at 30 FPS on Xbox One X. That makes the Series X something I will buy on Day 1 since I’ll have a huge library to play while waiting for Series X games to arrive.
So for me the Sony showcase gets a “B” grade. I want the equivalent of an Uncharted or a Horizon to play on Day 1, if I can’t bring my old library with me. Hopefully before launch we’ll have a better idea of how many PS4 games will run on PS5. If it turns out MOST will, then PS5 becomes a more likely 2020 purchase for me.
I’d like to know more about the hardware, too. Will it be quiet? I rarely use my PS4 Pro because it is astonishingly loud. Even with headphones on, the sound is annoying: that high-pitched whine like a dentist’s drill. It’s awful.
I’d also like to see how many ports are on the back. PS5 is supposed to support PSVR, which means a port for the camera and a port for the PSVR breakout box. You probably want a port for an external drive as well. So I’m hoping there’s a good number of ports on the back. (The front has 1 USB-C and 1 USB-A.)
The PS5 comes with a TB of SSD space, and I’m reading that about 825 GB of that is available which for a game-grazer like me, isn’t a ton of space. You can add a second SSD drive, but not just any SSD drive; it has to meet certain specs we don’t have yet, and I’m guessing it won’t be cheap SSD drives. PS4 games can still be run off an external USB drive, though it isn’t clear if this will require a special format or if you can just plug in your PS4 drive and start playing.
So yeah, still lots of questions. I’ll be getting a PS5 to play Horizon Forbidden West whenever it launches, but I might make the unusual (for me) choice to skip the new console at launch. We’ll see what other info Sony shares with us over the coming months.