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The Home Stretch: PS5 & XBOX Series X – Opinion Piece

It's all about the brands

Which Is it? A sprint? A marathon? Or are we about to see a revolutionary change in the way gaming is campaigned for the next generation?

Well, here we are. It’s October 16, 2020 and we’re officially just under a month away from launch of both the XBOX Series X and the PlayStation 5. A year of damnation, and torment from an ongoing pandemic may be book-ended with some glee for gamers, as we punch it into fifth gear (get it? PlayStation 5… fifth gear?) and dive head first into what will be a defining demonstration in the way we play for years ahead. COVID has impacted everything; Literally, everything. But there was one remaining constant that was reassured by both respective parties, the next generation will begin this holiday 2020. For that, I thank them. A year where we seek to separate ourselves from all negativity within our day-to-day lives, we can’t help from reflecting upon our global climate’s bleak circumstances, and uncertain implications.

While our community has seen exponential growth and considerable unity this year, we have to keep in mind that this is also business. Whether we like it or not, there is the side of gaming we all know and love; the glitz and the glamour of fever high-pitched enthralling entertainment that enamours audiences around the globe. But of course, there’s figures, stats, money, numbers; the bleak being behind the blinds of a business centred belvedere. The “Console Wars” have always bought out the absolute worst in gamers. Sure, there’s a competitive drive behind being top-dog, dominant over its direct competitors within this broad industry, but I feel as this next generation approaches, we may see this notion wane just a tad. I may be in a minority, but how far can technology go before we hit its eventual peak? 

Nothing’s forever, everything’s limited. We may hit a complete halt with developers hitting that dreaded wall with hardware that may become inadequate in what their vision entails. XBOX are certainly future-proofing themselves, with loft investments that may prove promising for future generations to come. Acquiring the rights to develop and publish major franchises under their umbrella, with the sacred XBOX Games Studios symbol blazoned across each boxart and boot-screen. PlayStation have their esteemed first-parties scattered around the globe, working hard to impress the next wave of gamers with the PS5. However with its direct competitor snapping up a plethora of predominant third-party studios, could we be seeing a redefining transition within the term “Console Wars”?

Is it “Console Wars”? Or are we ready to deviate from this archaic label? It’s not SEGA Vs. Nintendo anymore, and we’re not looking to start a war between two companies. It’s been made clear that neither company want to go head to and put each other out of business. Competition is healthy and only motivates one another to elevate their game, and that’s what I’m looking forward to this coming year. So where does this leave our leading gaming hardware manufacturer’s? The pyro and ballyhoo that mesmerises its devoted fandoms accomplishes each of their respective goals. While I hate using the term “war”, it’s hard to settle on anything with less impact than a term that’s as eye-catching. I’d consider an alternate illustration that would interpret the competitiveness to drown out the negative connotations the term “war” carries, but not to completely omit it. 

Brand Warfare would be befitting of this renewed outlook. It lifts some of the pressures off competing hardware when it’s become a battle for studio supremacy. The acquisition of Bethesda rocked the gaming world this year with XBOX Head of Studios Phil Spencer, claiming title’s from the newly attained Rockville studio will fulfil their obligations across multiple platforms. It’s going to be weird booting Deathloop on the PS5 with an XBOX Games Studio header preceding gameplay. It’s already an odd sensation playing Ori and the Will of the Wisps on the Nintendo Switch. None-the-less, what we are gauging here is the potential for studios to be snapped up by either company in hopes of having either exclusivity, or their recognised symbol glow at the beginning of each game. I don’t see the latter being a part of Sony’s strategy, nor do I think Sony have eyes on acquiring any existing third-party studios.

Is it an oversight? Possibly. But the success of PlayStation 4 bears enough clout in Sony’s current first-party studio line-up, that it would almost insult their respected Triple-A development studios. Not to degrade XBOX and their efforts in partnering with studios of high regard; ZeniMax, Double Fine, Obsidian, Ninja Theory, etc. In fact, I admire Microsoft investing in an ambitious approach to future proofing their brand. As mentioned, with “console wars” taking a back seat, branding and association will be at the forefront. With the emerald blazoned glow of the XBOX trademark making waves across multiple platforms – including PC – this gives Microsoft leverage to dominate, gain momentum and move past their competition. It’s an uphill climb, but I believe we’re about to hit one of the most competitive gaming generations of all time.

PlayStation 5 has some mighty big shoes to fill in that respect, with a myriad of Microsoft based development studios raring to make a forthright statement within our gaming climate, there will be a definitive juncture approaching head on for both gaming manufacturer’s. How they can impress, and leave legacy behind them when we eventually surpass the ninth generation of console gaming remains to be seen, but it will all come down designation, acquisitions, and development more than ever. There’s no doubt that gaming is hitting is strides, and there’s a glass ceiling that each respective studio will try to break through; it will be a fascinating feat if any developer is able to accomplish this. We tend to rely on old faithfuls; Naughty Dog, The Coalition, Sucker Punch Productions, The Initiative. But we could possibly see a renaissance period for a plethora of particular studios to make their mark, and whether that be for Sony or Microsoft will be their respective lead studio’s crown achievement.

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