With Microsoft executives having confirmed the existence of the Xbox Two, we can now be certain of a ninth console generation. Sony is absolutely guaranteed to release a PlayStation 5, following the success of the PlayStation 4, and indeed the company has already confirmed that it is developing ideas. So what can we expect from these two consoles, and which one will be a winner for gamers?
The PlayStation 4 has cleaned up in the eighth generation of consoles, but the processing power of the system is still ultimately insufficient to deliver 4K resolution gaming. This will become a major part of the gaming landscape in the coming years as 4K technology becomes more mainstream. This means that one of the first aspects of the PlayStation 5 that Sony will place emphasis on is the ability of the machine to deliver 4K gaming.
Numerous virtual reality systems are also being developed at present, with one of these being Sony’s own PlayStation VR (previously Project Morpheus). The existing PlayStation hardware will surely struggle with the demands of such systems, even if the initial PlayStation VR is intended to be compatible with it. As virtual reality develops, so the demands of such systems will develop with it, and there is little doubt that the existing console hardware will struggle to cope.
Sony has made a more obvious investment in virtual reality than Microsoft, and it is possible that virtual reality technology will be built into the PlayStation 5, or at the very least that Sony will significantly emphasize it when the console is released.
In the time since the PlayStation 4 was launched, video games streaming has become massive, with services such as Twitch achieving huge success. Additionally, it is increasingly possible to stream games in real time, and with broadband speeds increasing by the time that the PlayStation 5 is released, some such service could be implemented.
It is also possible for gamers to download games with increasing convenience, and the PlayStation 5 could choose to particularly embrace this technology. There have been suggestions in some quarters that the PlayStation 5 could be an entirely disc-based system. But they still seems unlikely considering the predilection that gamers have for discs, along with the fact that Sony knows it achieved a significant lead in the existing generation by listening to the desires of consumers.
Sony is likely to arm the PlayStation 5 with an ultra-powerful processor and vast storage capacity, while making it easier for consumers to embrace streaming and downloading, extending its PlayStation Now service. VR will also be a particular focus, as Sony attempts to deliver something unique with the PlayStation 5.
Phil Spencer, the head of Xbox, recently confirmed the existence of the Xbox Two. There had been a question mark regarding whether Microsoft would release a sequel to the Xbox One, considering the relatively poor performance of its latest console. Other market pressures are also bearing down on the software giant. But it seems that Microsoft is far from finished with the hardware marketplace, and intends to deliver a blow to Sony this time out.
Early reports on the Xbox Two have suggested that Microsoft may place a particular emphasis on gaming in the cloud when the console is released. Considering the expertise that Microsoft has producing the software, this would be a logical proposition for the corporation.
Although Sony already has its PlayStation Now facility, Microsoft obviously has significant experience with the cloud in a non-gaming capacity, and this could enable it to deliver something pretty spectacular with the Xbox Two. Undoubtedly a problem for Microsoft is that broadband speeds are insufficient to deliver high-quality graphics at present, and input lag is still a serious issue.
The big improvement that Microsoft needs to make with the Xbox Two is to deliver outstanding graphics hardware. There is no doubt that Microsoft fell significantly behind Sony in this department in the current console generation, and this only compounded a disappointing launch for the Xbox One. When one considers that Microsoft will want to deliver a console that is compatible with 4K resolution and virtual reality gaming, it is obvious that the Xbox Two needs to pack a heftier punch than the Xbox One.
It is currently a necessity to utilize the best graphics cards available in order to produce consistent 4K visuals, even at 30 frames per second. This would seem to be out of the price range of the Xbox Two at present, considering cards such as the AMD R9 Fury X and GeForce GTX 980 Ti cost in excess of $700. But the price will have come down significantly by the time that the Xbox Two is released, so this could mean that Microsoft includes these powerful units in the console.
Another way Microsoft may choose to set the Xbox Two the site from the competition is to ensure that it runs Windows 10. This acclaimed version of the Microsoft operating system has generally received an excellent critical reaction. And in an age in which consoles are delivering ever more computer-like performance, it would obviously be beneficial for it to included in the Xbox Two’s armory.
The next generation will ultimately be defined by the extent to which Microsoft is able to recover from the gulf that it experiences at present. The PlayStation 4 has absolutely demolished the Xbox One in the marketplace, and this means that Microsoft is playing catch-up before the first pitch is tossed.
Microsoft must deliver a console that has the same graphical power as the PlayStation 5, as its failure to do so in this generation – while also releasing the Xbox One at a higher price point! – was disastrous.
The ability of the two companies to convince gamers that they are embracing important trends such as 4K resolution, virtual reality and streaming systems, without alienating them will also be critical. Gamers are an extremely discerning audience, and one particularly sensitive to being exploited commercially. Microsoft got this aspect of the Xbox One horribly wrong when it was unveiled, and it must get the emphasis correct this time, while also making it clear that the Xbox Two is an exciting, innovative and relevant system.
Despite the best attempts of Microsoft, the overwhelming likelihood is that the PlayStation 5 will retain the advantage that the PlayStation 4 established for Sony.