As this nontraditional summer for game announcements rolls on, both Sony and Microsoft have finally reached a point where they’ve shared a similar amount of information about their plans for their upcoming next-gen consoles. Fans are now aware of the specs and new designs for both the hardware and controllers of the PS5 and Xbox Series X, as well as the vast majority of the games they can expect to play this holiday season on those new platforms, even if many of those titles are still without precise dates. With four months at most until the ninth generation of consoles gets underway, however, there are still a number of important questions floating around that both publishers still need to answer before fans can have a greater sense of confidence that their substantial purchases will be justified for the launch and beyond.
Xbox: Will there be a second model available at launch?
For months now, rumors have been swirling that Microsoft will be launching two different console models this year, offering a mid-tier option to fit in between both the Xbox Series X and the Xbox One S, both in terms of price and overall power. Plus, with a digital-only PS5 also being available at launch, there has been some surprise that Microsoft has yet to follow suit for next-gen, since they already embraced the concept of disc drive-free consoles with the all-digital Xbox One S which launched just last year. But up to this point, Microsoft has exclusively focused on the standard Xbox Series X, so Xbox fans will have to continue waiting to hear about more cost-effective or digital-only options being available at launch.
Since 2015, Microsoft has been all-in on allowing fans to play many of the available Xbox 360 and original Xbox games on the Xbox One, and this focus is remaining consistent into the next generation, with the Xbox Series X drawing from nearly twenty years worth of gaming history that will be playable on day one. Meanwhile, Sony has made it clear that the PS5 will support the “overwhelming majority” of PS4 games, but has been otherwise reluctant to discuss any other forms of backwards compatibility for games on their first three PlayStation consoles. While the upcoming titles after the consoles’ launch will undoubtedly be the bigger draws, Sony will eventually need to provide an official confirmation on which past-gen games will be playable on PS5 this year to see how both platforms will handle our current game libraries that players have invested time and money in.
Xbox: When can we expect first-party console exclusives?
Much like with the beginnings of previous generations, Sony is focused on marking a clear divide between platforms by having all of their first-party titles release exclusively on PS5, while still allowing third-party developers to ship on PS4 if they so desire. Just as Microsoft is committed to producing new Xbox One consoles, however, the publisher will be encouraging their teams at Xbox Game Studios to develop their games “first” for Xbox Series X, but will still be releasing many of them on Xbox One (and PC), at least through 2021. While this is a legitimate strategy for the start of a new generation, Microsoft will eventually have to cross that line when creating games that take full advantage of the SSD and various other features that the Xbox One simply does not have, and it continues to remain unclear exactly when Microsoft and its new first party games will fully transition over to the latest available hardware without anything holding it back.
As Microsoft forges ahead with no plans to invest in virtual reality on consoles, Sony has remained invested in supporting their own VR platform as this generation winds down, launching Iron Man VR earlier this month and implementing VR support within Dreams and its expansive game creation system. With no other announced first-party PSVR games, however, and no explicit answers on whether or not the PlayStation 5 will support PSVR, current owners of the VR platform have been left with little to get excited for despite a more powerful platform on the horizon that could help boost the potential of PSVR and its software. While an updated model with PS5 support could become a focus for Sony after the understandably consuming task of launching a new console, getting a definitive word on whether or not current models of PSVR (and its necessary accessories) will work on PS5 should help set some minds at ease and potentially spark some hope for the future of the console VR platform.
Both: When will these consoles launch and for how much?
These final issues are easily the most obvious, but are still crucial enough to bear reiterating with likely only a matter of weeks left until fans can start putting money down for both PS5 and Xbox Series X. Although we will likely never get any conclusive answers on how many of each console will be available for pre-orders and purchase in 2020 with worldwide production issues continuing to remain prevalent, establishing the launch date and price for both consoles will likely represent the last major reveal for Sony and Microsoft before launch, and will set the tone for the kickoff of the ninth generation of consoles.