The Patented PlayStation Undercut – Opinion Piece

May history repeat itself? Is Sony preparing to undercut the Mighty Microsoft once again? Or have PlayStation backed themselves into a corner?

Let’s face it, PlayStation have taken their sweet time unveiling the price point for its next generation console, the PlayStation 5. Not taking anything away from XBOX, they too were along for the ride if anything playing the same game of chicken, waiting patiently for the blue brand to strike. While XBOX may have ambitiously revealed their unit first almost a year ago at Geoff Keighley’s Game Awards, PlayStation stood their ground and would not succumb to public pressure in revealing the build or design of their next product. With COVID-19 playing its part in 2020, it gave both PlayStation and XBOX ‘the perfect excuse’ to potentially suppress information to the public. However by March, XBOX and “Uncle” Phil Spencer made it clear that they weren’t afraid to share unit specifications with multiple media outlets champing to get an exclusive in-depth look into the tale of the tape between the two competitors.

Again with our ongoing pandemic completely crushing any hopes or expectations of an E3 2020 or Games Developer Conference, Sony were relegated to an in-house pre-recorded presentation with Lead Architect of the PlayStation 5 and ASMR Legend, Mark Cerny. While outlets were handed information directly from XBOX themselves to publish on their respective platform, Cerny’s hour long presentation gave us an idea of how PlayStation were preparing themselves for what could be seen as some real stiff competition this upcoming generation. Of course, the argument could be made of which unit is exceedingly more powerful and as someone who is partisan towards the PlayStation brand, I can most definitely say that… XBOX Series X is more powerful. It’s well known that I’m a numbers guy, and the Numbers don’t lie.

Feature
PlayStation 5
XBOX Series X
Price
$449USD (Rumoured)
$499USD
Release Date
November 20, 2020 (Rumoured)
November 10, 2020
Optical Drive
4K UHD Blu-Ray Drive
4K UHD Blu-Ray Drive
RAM
16GB GDDR6 RAM (256-bit)
16 GB GDDR6 RAM
Memory Bandwidth
448GB/s
10GB at 560GB/s, 6GB at 335GB/s
CPU
8x Zen 2 Cores at 3.5HGz
8x Zen 2 Cores at 3.8GHz (3.6GHz with SMT)
Video Output
4K, 120hz refresh rate, 8K Support
Native 4K, 8K Support, Up to 120hz
Data Transfer Speed (I/O Throughput)
5.5GB/S (Raw), 8-9GB/S (Compressed)
2.4gB/s (Raw), 4.8GB/s (Compressed)
Storage
Custom 825GB SSD Storage Drive
1 TB NVMe SSD Storage Drive
External Storage
NVMe SSD Slot, USB HDD Support
Seagate Proprietary External 1TB SSD Expansion Card, USB 3.2 HDD Support
Backwards Compatibility
PlayStation 4 Games, PSVR
Xbox 360, Xbox One, Accessories
Quick Resume
TBA
Support multiple games at once

However specs are one thing, no one ever won a gaming war based on power alone. This is where the tide may turn in PlayStation’s favour, given the Series X’s only exclusive at launch – Halo Infinite – has now been delayed until 2021. Sure they can try to sell the Series X with a bundled Game Pass to make up for lost cause, however as someone who spent the last decade and a half in gaming retail could easily tell you that Game Pass added with a brand new console, won’t ship units. It essentially cements itself as a novelty act from its onset until it has anything worthwhile attached to the unit. PlayStation 5 have promised a compendium of titles within launch window (Q4 2020), potentially compromising and convincing a small number of XBOX devotee’s to leap once again to PlayStation’s happiness in a hand basket.

In no way am I trying to smear or sully XBOX’s great brand, nor try to place favouritism between the two, I’m only trying to paint a picture with a broad brush. If anything XBOX are more than capable of taking this generation in one foul swoop. They have a phenomenal leader in Big Daddy Phil (yes a man of many monikers), and have marketed the XBOX Series X perfectly. Their social media campaign has been impeccable along with their entire team of developers, manufacturers and its myriad of exclusive studios hoisting the XBOX flag at full mast. I do wonder though, were XBOX forced out of the gate this time around with the supposed leaks hitting social media prior to XBOX themselves unveiling their $749AUD price tag? None-the-less, XBOX put into proportion what was already presumed to be a rough estimate in many gamers eyes, so it came to the surprise of no one.

With XBOX laying their deck flush on the Blackjack table, PlayStation may still hold some Aces up their sleeve. We’re now in a state where PlayStation have less than a handful of options for a potentially resounding success in its overall unveiling of price, and official release date. In my opinion, not only would undercutting XBOX be an intelligent strategy, but the unlikely scenario of releasing the PlayStation 5 on October 30, 2020 would be an incredible way to market PlayStation’s next generation unit. Yes it’s ridiculous, let’s be real; Sony are looking to release the PlayStation 5 at $449USD on November 20, 2020. At least it’s heavily rumoured to be that, but I would take it with a grain of salt until it’s all made official tomorrow morning.

Sure, undercutting XBOX may be enough but there are those who will still want the touch, the feel, the presence of a next generation console placed on their home entertainment unit, even if it isn’t their first preference. It won’t stop people from buying the competitor. However, the opportunity to purchase a PlayStation 5, $50USD cheaper than the $499USD XBOX Series X two weeks prior, may disengage those who intended on picking up both units at launch. I just don’t see it happening the other way around, due to XBOX’s lack of exclusives entering this upcoming generation. Is there any guarantee Sony may launch the PS5 at such a low cost, effectively selling each unit at a potential loss? Possibly. The one thing Sony wants to avoid is that dreaded $599USD exorbitant fee, leaving gamers paying a premium for a console that may not have titles for quite a while; remember, pandemic.

In any case, XBOX have the upperhand. The ball is now in PlayStation’s court and their only chance here is to score that three-pointer. Undercutting + Exclusives + Early Release equals a recipe for success, and it can be done. Units are currently being shipped out to continents around the globe in hopes of meeting demand. There are reports of PlayStation cutting their forecast of 14 million units within the first fiscal year due to lack of time and manufacturing costs. 11 million is still a massive oversight, at least in my eyes with such a premium price to demand from people struggling to make ends meet during a global financial and health crisis. However, if history has taught us anything it’s that with time comes great power, and of course comes the old adage; Do not underestimate the power of PlayStation.

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