At long last, we know everything we need to know about the PlayStation 5. During today's event, Sony revealed PS5's price, release date, and a good chunk of its launch lineup. It also confirmed something that should be fairly obvious to anyone paying attention, but nevertheless bears saying aloud: the PS5's future is largely built on Sony's success from the previous generation.
That much should be evident in the games showcased during today's PS5 event. Several of the exclusives launching on PS5 within the next year will also be available on PlayStation 4, most notably Spider-Man: Miles Morales, and according to the PlayStation Blog, Horizon Forbidden West. The PlayStation Plus Collection—presumably Sony's answer to Xbox Game Pass—is a greatest hits lineup from the previous generation. Even Demon's Souls, which is being positioned as the PS5's big technical showcase, is a remake of a PS3 game.
It's more evidence, if any is needed, that Sony is more than happy to rely on the formula it established in the previous generation: a top-tier library fueled by enticing exclusives. A sequel to 2018's God of War, Horizon Forbidden West, Demon's Souls, Spider-Man: Miles Morales, and Final Fantasy 16 might not be "new" in the strictest sense of the word, but they're plenty enticing nonetheless. They are proof of Sony's strength versus Xbox, which is still rebuilding after a very difficult generation.
Then again, they're also proof of just how blurred the lines have become between generations. We're a long way from the days of the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, when high-definition represented an enormous leap from what had been available on the PlayStation 2 and Xbox. Ray tracing might provide material graphical improvements, but most people will have to squint to see the graphical upgrades that $400 gets them. And with so many of the PS5's biggest games also being available on PS4, it's easy to make the case that it's best to just wait.
For now, though, Sony's strategy seems to be working. In an extremely informal poll on Twitter, an overwhelming number of respondents told me that they would get a PS5 given the choice. Many observed that they could get everything they wanted by buying a PS5 and a gaming PC, rendering the Xbox Series X moot. The PS5 also seems to be benefiting from Sony's track record, giving it a sense of glamour that the Xbox currently lacks.
In the long run, I think Microsoft's willingness to look to the future will pay off. Xbox Game Pass is already proving to be a winning service on Xbox One, and Sony's only response is the decidedly lackluster PlayStation Now. Between Game Pass, xCloud, and an increasingly strong collection of first-party studios, Microsoft seems set for the future.
Indeed, there's evidence to suggest that the Xbox Series X itself doesn't even matter that much, which is a big reason that it's being priced so aggressively. It mostly seems to be a vehicle by which Microsoft can sell more Game Pass subscriptions, allowing it to settle comfortably into the "Netflix for Games" position that it covets so much. If it succeeds in this endeavor, Microsoft will be able to call this generation a success.
In that sense, while I think today's event showed that PS5 is well-positioned to succeed in the short-term, I can't help wondering whether Sony is being shortsighted in its determination to stick with what works. In the end, maybe PS5's combination of graphical muscle and enticing exclusives will prove decisive, giving Sony a jumping off point into a subscription service of its own down the line. Or maybe we'll discover in relatively short order that consoles no longer really matter, cloud services and subscriptions are really the future, and Sony's stubborn adherence to the past is its undoing.
Either way, it promises to be an eventful couple years for games as Microsoft and Sony try to set themselves up for success over the decade to come. We'll know soon enough whose strategy is the winning one.