- Mar 3, 2020
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, even though Microsoft has had a strong start to this generation, full of big, splashy headlines like them buying Bethesda or adding this or that game to Xbox Game Pass, Sony has been quiet because…they can be.
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, even though Microsoft has had a strong start to this generation, full of big, splashy headlines like them buying Bethesda or adding this or that game to Xbox Game Pass, Sony has been quiet because…they can be. While Sony has not purchased any huge companies or come up with a real counter to Game Pass, what they have been doing is selling a truly massive amount of PS5s, a number that would be even larger were they not constantly supply limited.
Officially, the PS5 is the fastest selling console in US history, by both unit and dollar sales, according to a recent report from the NPD. While we don’t have exact global figures, it stands to reason it’s doing well in the rest of the world where PlayStation is usually picked over Xbox in most countries, with a few exceptions. It is impossible to understate the amount of goodwill Sony harvested from the PS4 generation, again, a relatively “quiet” run in any sense other than a console free of bells and whistles (and Kinects), and one that simply cranked out a large number of must-have first party games. So far, that seems to be the exact same plan this time around.
While Microsoft’s plan has changed from the launch of last generation, as I’ve said before, they’re in a position that requires them to tell their consumers to wait a long, long time for the fruits of their labor and recent purchases. Huge Bethesda games like Starfield and Elder Scrolls 6 don’t even have set release years. And outside of Halo Infinite, which has already been delayed a full year, larger titles like Fable, Avowed and Perfect Dark again, do not have release windows at all.
It also doesn’t help that Sony was yet again more or less able to undercut Xbox’s price. While the next-gen-but-not-really Series S is $300, the digital PS5 is $400 to the Xbox Series X’s $500 (with a disc-based PS5 costing $500). The same $100 gap is effectively present as it was last generation, in addition to Sony’s other built-in advantages heading into this gen. I agree that Sony has been the victim of “bad looks” over the past few months. The entire idea of being the one to raise game prices to $70 looks especially silly in the face of Game Pass, and that culminated in a very awkward situation where Game Pass poached Sony’s own MLB The Show, where it will be $70 on PS5 and “free” on Game Pass due to a sneaky Microsoft deal. Bad look.
But again, it’s one game here or there. Fundamentally Microsoft has launched the Series X without any meaningful exclusives, something that is unlikely to change until next fall with Halo Infinite, but by then, Sony will be spooling up big releases as well like Horizon Forbidden West.
Xbox certainly looks more competitive this generation, but if Sony appears complacent, it’s because they can afford to be. No amount of small PS5 feature annoyances or studios Microsoft has bought seems to be able to unsteady Sony and its decades-long investment in its own studios, and goodwill earned over four generations of consoles now. And if that narrative will change, it may take years for Microsoft’s current investments to bear fruit.