Any veteran developer will tell you that the raw power of a console can only go so far without good tools and great optimization, and that lesson is being borne out in the early comparisons between Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 titles. While the specs on-paper put Series X ahead of PS5 for GPU, CPU, and memory bandwidth, it looks like the PS5 currently has an overall edge on performance. Without commenting on why or how Sony's leading in these games, Microsoft says it's looking toward improvements for "a handful of optimized titles" on its new consoles.
Yes, the onslaught of precise and informative comparisons produced by our friends at Digital Foundry on a number of new cross-platform titles—most notably, Assassin's Creed Valhalla and Devil May Cry 5: Special Edition—show PS5 leading Series X in performance with quality settings appearing to be more or less equal. For those who picked up the newest top-of-line Xbox because of the extra teraflops it has over the PS5, this is a head-scratcher.
In a piece on these performance gaps at The Verge, a Microsoft spokesperson provides the following statement:
We are aware of performance issues in a handful of optimized titles on Xbox Series X|S and are actively working with our partners to identify and resolve the issues to ensure an optimal experience[...] As we begin a new console generation, our partners are just now scratching the surface of what next-gen consoles can do and minor bug fixes are expected as they learn how to take full advantage of our new platform. We are eager to continue working with developers to further explore the capability of Xbox Series X|S in the future.
Simply comparing performance on PS5 and Series X ignores the matter of how developers are rolling out versions for the Xbox Series S, a subject that doesn't necessarily speak to the full potential of either new Xbox but which could suggest early development issues that Microsoft needs to iron out. While the Series S is advertised as a console well equipped to handle 1440p and 60 FPS, we're seeing some performance targets fall far above or below those numbers. Ori and the Will of the Wisps can actually run at 4K and 60 FPS on a Series S—meanwhile Assassin's Creed Valhalla, a 4K and 60 FPS-targeted title on Series X, is capped at half the frame rate on Series S and misses out on some graphical touches while also incurring the cut to a dynamic 1440p resolution.
Still, with the beefier specs and already-enabled support for variable refresh rates, it won't be surprising if the Xbox Series X pulls ahead (especially for titles with 120Hz modes) in the future. The kind of frame rate troubles seen on Series X for titles like Valhalla can be downright distracting, but if those can be traced back to optimization and graphics API issues, then it's possible they can be easily fixed soon.