The Xbox Games Showcase for July 2020 is officially behind us. The big digital event was technically the second for Xbox Series X games, after one debuted in May. This time around, Microsoft put the focus largely on first-party games and other exclusives. And with that, we finally have a more firm idea of what's coming to Xbox Series X.
Now over a month after Sony's big PlayStation 5 games showcase and a day post-Xbox Games Studio's latest, we now know generally what to expect from both consoles, game-wise. On the tech side, both companies have detailed the nitty-gritty of its respective console's infrastructure ad nauseum. PlayStation 5 may have the lower native storage space, but it promises to make up for it with its improved proprietary SSD. Xbox Series X may have the strength of Xbox Game Pass fueling it, but does it have the exclusives it really needs to make a splash in next-gen?
Both consoles clearly have their own strengths and weaknesses, so it's a toss-up over what console comes out ahead, for now. There remains a lot of unanswered questions as well. Neither PlayStation 5 nor Xbox Series X have a price yet. We don't know either console's launch line-up, though we have vague knowledge of what to expect—from Halo Infinite on Xbox to Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales on PlayStation. This generation didn't have strong launch line-ups, so we're eager to see how this year's transpires.
Now that we have a better idea of what to expect from PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X, we've come together for a roundtable discussion to answer one big question: What next-gen platform is looking stronger right now?
Eric Van Allen, News Editor
At first, I was certain of where my next-gen purchasing would lie. And after several showcases, that hasn't really changed. Platforms have dictated where my allegiances lie, but now that both companies have shown what they're offering, I'm positive on Xbox—even if I'm not buying one.
I've got a recently built gaming PC that's going to handle just about everything that comes out for the foreseeable future (knocks on wood). Because of Microsoft's platform strategy, bringing every game to everywhere but the PlayStation, this means a Series X probably isn't terribly high priority for me. Xbox as a console falls by the wayside to PlayStation for me, as I know that when I buy a PS5, I'll be buying a box that can play some exclusives that only a PS5 can. I also really, really want to know what Mark Cerny needs pictures of my ears for.
But as a platform? Xbox has made a compelling case for being the unified umbrella that my gaming takes place under. Put another way: I'm buying a PS5, but keeping my Game Pass subscription. Microsoft's current plan of making everything available on Game Pass could win them a massive mindshare, across hardware-endemic users and PC gaming-at-large.
Every question or concern I have about next-gen—what games will port over, what about my saves, what can I play at launch, will there be anything to play—is answered by Xbox's lineup. Sony might have the blockbusters, but Microsoft's ecosystem encourages me to dip my toes into other things, enjoy a full range of experiences, and buffs up my PC backlog. The Game Pass-Smart Delivery strategy for Xbox's next generation could be a big step forward for how we buy and engage with games, and I'm giving them the slight edge for it.
Kat Bailey, Editor-in-Chief
I think the Xbox Series X's long-term prospects have me more intrigued at the moment. I have no doubt that the PlayStation 5 will have a lot of great games, not to mention Japanese support, but it sort of seems like Sony is just trying to run this generation back again. Xbox's strategy seems more suited for the future, whatever that might entail.
Unlike the Xbox One, which was weirdly focused on being an entertainment center, the Xbox Series X seems fully focused on games. I'm a Game Pass subscriber, and I have to say that I really love the ability to be able to just browse a rotating series of games every month (this month I grabbed Yakuza 0 and Rare Replay, and I'm having a blast). xCloud also seems like a great answer to the Switch's portability advantage. Finally, I really like the Xbox Series X's backward compatibility options, especially the potential for automatic A.I. remasters.
When it comes to services like Game Pass and features like backward compatibility, it seems like the PS5 is well behind the Xbox Series X. But what about games, you ask? Well, Microsoft has invested heavily in multiple well-regarded developers, and those efforts are bearing fruit. Obsidian's Avowed, Ninja Theory's Hellblade 2, and Playground Games's Fable all have me intrigued, and while it's too early to say whether it'll be able to compete on an equal footing with Sony, it already feels like it's in a way better position than the Xbox One (not hard, I know).
Like I said, Sony will ultimately have the Japanese support that Xbox has never been able to truly muster, and there are hints that its internal capabilities will be far more robust. Sony also has a substantial lead in the first-party category. But I think it's a mistake to write off Xbox, and based everything I've seen, the Xbox Series X may actually be the first next-gen console I buy. Besides, have you actually seen the PS5's design? Yikes.
Hirun Cryer, Staff Writer
I was a day-one Xbox One adoptee, for some godforsaken reason. This time, I'm stuck between the two, but there's no denying that Xbox is presenting some incredible consumer-friendly options that I think we're all overlooking a tad. Fable, Forza Motorsport, and Everwild were some big games yesterday that are all coming to Game Pass on Xbox Series X. That's three next-gen games you're guaranteed on the subscription service.
With Smart Delivery on Series X, you're also getting a ton of existing Game Pass games optimized for Xbox Series X: Gears 5, Destiny 2, Ori and the Will of the Wisps, and Sea of Thieves will all carry over with upgrades. I don't really think it can be overstated just how good a deal Game Pass customers are getting anyway; add in the optimization of Game Pass titles for next-gen and it's an incredibly consumer-friendly deal.
All that said, I'm still deciding between the two next-gen boxes. I'm eager to carry over my PS4 ecosystem to the PS5, and Sony has a handful of games I'm naturally more interested in: Demon's Souls, Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales, Deathloop, and of course, Bugsnax (emphasis on Bugsnax).
Xbox has far more forward-thinking, consumer-friendly practices, and it's clear the Series X is the stronger platform at the moment. For me personally though, I'll wait a little longer before settling on a platform. There's still more announcements to come from both Xbox and Playstation before the holiday launch season arrives.
Joel Franey, Guides Writer
If it weren't for Halo Infinite and the Xbox Game Pass, I might've discounted the Series X altogether. It was a bad sign in the wake of yesterday's showcase that only hours later I was struggling to remember half the games mentioned, and while the Series X doesn't look terrible by any means, I'm still not sure what I'm supposed to be excited about right now. It all just feels very... meh, even if Fable is promising to let me kill Navi.
Meanwhile, the PS5 knocked on my door like Andrew Lincoln at the end of Love Actually and said "hey, you know all those games you like? We're doing more of those, plus fun extras." Spider-Man, Demon Souls, Deathloop, Bugsnax, Ratchet and Clank, and all the third-party games I was going to play anyway are on the PS5. And while neither console looks good (how do I pick between a minifridge and a ring binder?), I think Sony's behemoth would look slightly less awkward hanging off the edge of my shelf.
Despite all that, Microsoft still has time to change my mind, but right now it seems like it's trying to find a niche, even while Sony charges ahead. Perhaps it's my own fault for owning a PC with an on-off Game Pass subscription, cutting out half the reasons to own an Xbox at a stroke. Either way, if Microsoft gets me to change camps before the consoles are out and money changes hands, it'll be a minor miracle.
Caty McCarthy, Senior Editor
As a devoted PlayStation player through and through, I actually think Xbox Series X is the stronger looking platform right now. I say this in consideration of the sheer value of the platform, thanks to Xbox Game Pass. Sure, an Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription is also a worthwhile investment for PC gamers, considering most of the games shown yesterday were also confirmed for PC. But when it comes to that box you stick under your television, Xbox Series X is really shaping up to get players the most bang for their buck, to use the old cliché.
When it comes to exclusives, both platforms have games I'm personally looking forward to. Microsoft has a new Forza, State of Decay 3, and the coolest named game of the season from the developers of the SteamWorld series: The Gunk. Sony has Deathloop, the Demon's Souls remake, Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales, Project Athia, and the second coolest named game of the season: Bugsnax. My most-anticipated games for next-gen are largely third-party though, so the console exclusives don't matter too much. Hitman 3, Resident Evil Village, Yakuza: Like a Dragon—they all look great, but they don't necessarily look like they'll outperform one another on one console over the other. Plus, most will be compatible with "last"-gen anyways.
That all said, I'm still deciding between the two consoles at launch. Carrying over my PSN and (hopefully) ecosystem to PlayStation 5 seems like the logical choice, considering I've built up the account since PlayStation 3, versus just starting with Xbox with the Xbox One generation. Then again, the Xbox Series X's Xbox Game Pass subscription service remains enticing, as I've subscribed on and off over the months. (Sometimes, I plain don't use it.)
In next-gen, Xbox Game Pass is definitely moving more to the forefront, as seen during yesterday's Xbox Games Showcase, wherein every game shown was confirmed for the service. Most games shown will also support Smart Delivery, a free upgrade for owners of the Xbox One version to the Series X version. So, in taking Xbox Games Pass, the games themselves, and Smart Delivery into account, it's obvious: Xbox Series X is the strongest looking platform right now.
Mathew Olson, Reporter
Having just built a new PC, all the big standouts currently heading to the Series X and Xbox Game Pass appear to be coming my way already and should hopefully run fairly well. I'm not as likely to drop money on Microsoft's next-gen platform right away, then, but it does mean I'm already invested in the broader Xbox ecosystem. Take my PC out of the equation and, at the moment, I'd still have to give an edge to Xbox just for the variety and low cost of entry of Game Pass.
However, I think if there was a single PlayStation 5 exclusive that really appealed to me, it would come out on top. I'm eager to play Spider-Man: Miles Morales and Deathloop, and I could see myself getting into the Demon's Souls remake or GhostWire: Tokyo, but two out of the four titles I just named are also coming to PC. As it stands, there's nothing coming to the PS5 that sticks out as an absolute must-play, and there's no value proposition to compare with Game Pass.
At this stage though, it looks like the early lineups for both systems have more to them than what the Xbox One and PS4 brought to the table in 2013. I picked up a PS4 right at launch, played through Killzone and lost a few hours to Resogun, and then... well, the console pretty much sat there for a good long while. Things could change, especially with the pandemic, but right now I'm more sold on both consoles because of their 2021-ish games (even with all the stuff that's cross-gen or coming to PC) than I was with the early hitters from the start of this generation.
Mike Williams, Reviews Editor
It's sort of a moot point for me, because I'll end up buying both at launch or near launch. I did the same for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, and the launch lineups for both platforms weren't much better than what's on offer here. I tend to just like having the latest technology on hand, regardless of actual need.
It's odd because we talk about "consumer friendly" in enthusiast circles, but what's more consumer-friendly than Microsoft going hard on Xbox Game Pass and Smart Delivery? Blending the generations allows you to choose when you want to upgrade to the Xbox Series X, or the open secret of the Xbox Lockhart. Having the flexibility to buy Halo Infinite on Xbox One and know my save data and progress will carry forward? That's a huge benefit, even if Microsoft's announcements yesterday were far fuzzier on what's coming to Xbox One.
That said, Sony's hardline stance on generations allows the PlayStation 5 to sell itself as the only place to play games like Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales and Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart. And since Sony's in-house developers don't have to worry about supporting an older platform, that means they're allowed to fully take advantage of newer features like ray tracing and the enhanced storage and memory bandwidth. Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart and Bloober Team's The Medium, shown during the Xbox Games Showcase, are the types of games that simply aren't possible on the older hardware, at least not without significant re-engineering. Being able to instantly jump locations won't matter for every game, but it's least leaning toward, "This can't be done on older hardware".
Of course, most third-party games will continue to blur the lines, as they need to come to both platforms and PC. The latter is important, and developers can't rely on every PC player having similar hardware. Hell, it'll be a few years before the PC market has SSDs and memory that can play in the same realm.
The truth is, Sony, Microsoft, and even Nintendo are playing vastly different games for this generation. Sony is betting on exclusives to carry the day, Microsoft wants Game Pass to be a platform where you can play anything anywhere, and I'm not seeing Nintendo leaving the hybrid style of the Switch for a future console. So, neither PS5 or Xbox Series X is looking stronger to me at the moment.