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Photo: PS5 and Xbox Series

The week of November 9, 2020, saw the beginning of the ninth generation of video games with the release of two new consoles: Sony’s Playstation 5 on November 12th, and Microsoft’s Xbox Series X|S two days earlier on November 10th. Both next-generation consoles are extremely powerful, capable of great graphics, and bring their own innovations. Both tout exclusive games and quality of life features that improve gaming and media convenience. Both have garnered impressive launch sales. And as of this writing, both have been extremely difficult to find through proper retail (unless you’re willing to pay an arm and a leg on eBay).

Non-gamers and average consumers are probably wondering what the fuss is all about. The truth is while there are some differences, it all comes down to a matter of preference: you can’t really go wrong with either console. So what does each have to offer? And why is it so hard to order one? Let’s find out.

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PS5 and Xbox Series X — Common Features

Let’s start with what they have in common. First, without getting too bogged down in the technical details, on paper the Xbox Series X has a slight edge in terms of processing power. But otherwise, their capabilities are very similar. To the average consumer, any differences in graphics would probably be negligible for now.

Both the Playstation 5 and Xbox Series X tout improved CPUs (central processing unit), GPUs (graphics processing unit) and memory compared to their predecessors. What this means is a boost in performance: stunning graphics—more detailed and vivid characters and worlds—and higher frame rates. A graphical feature touted by both consoles is “ray tracing”: in essence, this means more realistic lighting, shadows and reflections in games. Both support screen resolutions up to 8K—far higher than the standard high-definition, or even 4K, in most people’s TVs. And games running on both now have the potential to run at a smooth 60 fps (frames per second), or even at 120 fps if you have a TV that supports it.

Both systems also use SSD (solid-state drive) storage: this means that the time it takes for both consoles and their games to load and boot up is very fast—less waiting to get to the game. A comparison to this would be Apple’s Mac products, which also use SSD and are quite fast in starting up. Lastly as a multimedia platform, both support major streaming apps like YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, Prime Video, Spotify, Disney+, Apple TV, HBO Max, and many others; though Xbox Series X|S does have the advantage in terms of live TV services like Sling TV. Both can also run Ultra HD Blu-rays.

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Games, Prices and Miscellaneous

The PS5 and Xbox Series X both retail at $499 each; however they also offer cheaper models. The PS5 Digital Edition, which is exactly the same as the regular one minus the disc drive, costs $399. In turn, the Xbox has the Series S, which is slightly less powerful than the regular one and also doesn’t have a disc drive, but offers a great value at $299.

But of course, it all comes down to the games.

Both machines are backwards compatible, which means that games from Sony and Microsoft’s previous systems can also be played and whatever games you bought digitally will also carry over. As an added bonus, games from those prior systems can see an improvement in their performance and some PS4/Xbox One games can even be upgraded to the PS5/Xbox Series X versions for free; the Xbox, in particular, has a program called “Smart Delivery” which ensures that, depending on which system you use, you automatically get the best version of each game.

It goes without saying that if you want to play or upgrade your existing library of physical games, you’ll need the standard PS5 or Xbox Series X. The difference here is that the PS5 is only backwards compatible with PS4 games; whereas the Xbox Series X can play all Xbox One games and some Xbox 360 and even original Xbox games. Theoretically, this gives the Xbox a larger game library, but the PS4 library on its own is no slouch in terms of quantity and quality.

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As for the games itself, titles like ‘Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla’, ‘Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War’, ‘Cyberpunk 2077’, ‘Resident Evil Village’, ‘Watch Dogs: Legion’, and ‘Hitman 3’ have been released or announced for both the PS5 and Xbox Series X, though you can still get PS4 and Xbox One versions of these games. Each system does have its share of enticing exclusives, with the ‘Halo’, ‘Gears of War’ and ‘Forza’ series of games on Xbox; as for Sony, there are the ‘Marvel’s Spider-Man’ games, as well as the newest ‘Ratchet & Clank’ game, ‘Horizon: Forbidden West’, ‘Gran Turismo 7’ and the upcoming ‘God of War’ sequel. Sony and Microsoft each also have subscription services—PlayStation Now and Xbox Game Pass—that allows streaming (Playstation) or downloading (Xbox) of games onto their systems, almost similar to Netflix, with new games added each month (these services are also available on PS4 and Xbox One, respectively).

Controller-wise, the Xbox Series X plays it safe with one that’s similar in design to the Xbox One’s; the console also supports most Xbox One/Xbox 360/Xbox controllers. By contrast, the PS5 is touting the DualSense—a redesign from previous Playstation controllers—that uses haptic feedback and adaptive triggers; in layman’s terms, this means a more immersive experience with a controller that can better simulate sensations during gaming.

All this admittedly sounds quite impressive. The challenge is now finding either system.

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Why Are They So Hard to Order Right Now?

As we mentioned in our feature on the Nintendo Switch, the pandemic has uprooted people’s lives. With schools and offices closed and events like theatrical releases, concerts and sporting events cancelled, people now working and studying from home suddenly had more free time on their hands. And in addition to binging and streaming movies and TV shows, people have taken to gaming as a pastime. Just look at the success of games like ‘Animal Crossing: New Horizons’ or ‘Among Us’ and the celebrities and public figures showing their love of these games. With sales going up, gaming is more popular than ever.

In the same way, we get excited about the latest version of the iPhone, so too were people excited about the latest next-generation consoles, especially as developers release eye-catching games that take advantage of the new consoles’ capabilities. Demand is especially high, but supply is low. How come? The simplest answer is that the pandemic has greatly hampered supply chains and manufacturing as Sony, Microsoft, and companies like Apple struggle to boost their output. And then there are the scalpers.

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Another side effect of the pandemic is a boost in online shopping. In visiting several GameStops, Best Buys and Targets, so far I’ve had no luck in just going into a store and buying a PS5 off the shelf. Right now the only way to buy either a PS5 or Xbox is to buy online. The problem is that scalpers find a way to buy up much of the stock. Using bots, they constantly monitor online stores for changes in supply and availability; and as soon as new console inventory goes online, the bots automatically swoop in, place orders, and check out in seconds. And these scalpers hoard the systems, reselling them for inflated prices in sites like eBay; it’s especially worse for the PS5 as the PlayStation brand is arguably more popular than the Xbox, which in turn can lead to offers up to $1499.

Hopefully, as the year progresses supplies will be more readily available and easier to find. Until then, you might be better off waiting. And keep an eye out for any announcements of restocks, and good luck.

Conclusion

Difficulty finding them aside, both consoles are fantastic devices and very much worth buying if you’re a gamer. It all comes down to personal preference over the brand: PlayStation or Xbox. But if you’re already invested in either the Sony or Microsoft ecosystem, there might be more of a benefit of just sticking with them (say, if you only own PS4 games, you might be better off getting a PS5 so that you can continue playing them).

Regardless of whichever you decide to go with, the next generation of gaming has only just begun.

By Mario Yuwono

Click here to read Hollywood Insider’s CEO Pritan Ambroase’s love letter to Black Lives Matter, in which he tackles more than just police reform, press freedom and more – click here.

An excerpt from the love letter: Hollywood Insider’s CEO/editor-in-chief Pritan Ambroase affirms, “Hollywood Insider fully supports the much-needed Black Lives Matter movement. We are actively, physically and digitally a part of this global movement. We will continue reporting on this major issue of police brutality and legal murders of Black people to hold the system accountable. We will continue reporting on this major issue with kindness and respect to all Black people, as each and every one of them are seen and heard. Just a reminder, that the Black Lives Matter movement is about more than just police brutality and extends into banking, housing, education, medical, infrastructure, etc. We have the space and time for all your stories. We believe in peaceful/non-violent protests and I would like to request the rest of media to focus on 95% of the protests that are peaceful and working effectively with positive changes happening daily. Media has a responsibility to better the world and Hollywood Insider will continue to do so.”

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Author

  • Mario Yuwono is from Indonesia, but was born in Italy and attended school in Jakarta, Moscow, Berlin and Los Angeles. He has been obsessed with films ever since he saw his first movie at the age of five, and would go on to spend his younger years reading film encyclopedias and movie guides. Combined with a global upbringing rooted in greater social awareness, this drives him to be more observant of values promoted in films. He believes in cinema’s potential to enable greater empathy and meaningfully expand people’s horizons, in line with Hollywood Insider’s goal. He holds a Master of Fine Arts degree in Screenwriting from California State University in Northridge. Aside from reporting on film, TV and culture, Mario also aspires to write for film and television, and is a strong believer in social change, equality and inclusion.

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