Back in the 80’s and 90’s it was Nintendo vs Sega. You were almost forced to choose a side, It was a war that everyone was forced to fight in, you apparently couldn't be neutral in the matter. As Medal of Honor used to say: "you don't play, you volunteer." In the spirit of that, it's time to look at Xbox 2 vs PS5
This ongoing theme of bloodshed (mostly in the games themselves) continued for some time until some new kids showed up on the block: Microsoft and Sony. The latter had a jump because the original Xbox didn't come out until the PS2 era, but that point is moot because we're knee deep in the trenches at this point.
Project Scorpio (aka Xbox 2) is Announced!
The gaming industry changed at E3 2016 when Xbox President Phil Spencer took the stage in the final moments of the Microsoft press conference and announced that they were working on a new console. Not just any console either, he promised it would be "the most powerful console ever built."
Known as Project Scorpio, this beast of a machine promises to remove the barriers between developers and hardware. This new console is supposed to offer 4K gaming, virtual reality support, top frame rate performance, and exquisite graphics.
It's a lofty promise, and they are planning on bringing the console to us in holiday of 2017. At no point was it referred to as a next generation console, but we know better. After all, Microsoft has been hinting for a while at eliminating console cycles in favor of incremental upgrades.
Scorpio is the stop-gap for this initiative. In order to catch up with current technology, they need to make the leap across one more generation. Phil Spencer says that Project Scorpio is part of the "Xbox family" meaning it will still play Xbox One games and utilize the accessories you bought.
That being said, it will also have its own games and accessories, no doubt massively improved ones at that. This kind of backwards compatibility gives us the illusion that it's not leaving anyone behind, and that's great, but it's still a next-gen console.
How do we know this? Well, there are several reasons that point to Project Scorpio's real identity as the Xbox 2:
- Phil Spencer said they're not interested in Xbox 1.5
- Microsoft wants cycles to stop and consoles to be more like PC
- Phil Spencer said that Project Scorpio is 4.5 times more powerful than Xbox One
- Project Scorpio is just a code name
A Peek Under the Hood
Recent PS4.5 release date rumors are complicating everything when it comes to how these two upcoming consoles will handle their increased hardware.
Some are saying that the PS4.5 represents Sony's altered plans for the PS5, but a recent interview between PlayStation president Andrew House and the BBC confirmed that the PS4.5 is not a next-gen console for Sony. Instead, it is going to exist along side and within the same console as the PS4.
Sony wants to appease PC gamers who will usually jump ship when console hardware becomes too obsolete. To combat this, PS4.5 or PS4 Neo as it is officially being called, is meant to amp up the graphical capabilities of the system. He described it as a "high-end PS4."
While we still don't have confirmed specs of either the PS4 Neo or Project Scorpio, Eurogamer's Digital Foundry has done us the favor of using their expertise to map out some potential Xbox 2 Scorpio vs PS4.5 specs:
- PS4 Neo CPU: Eight Jaguar cores clocked at 2.1GHz vs Scorpio CPU: Eight cores up-clocked to 6 teraflops
- PS4 Neo GPU: 36 improved GCN compute units at 911MHz vs Scorpio GPU: 56/60 GCN compute units at 800-850MHz
- PS4 Neo Memory: 8GB GDDR5 at 218GB/s vs Scorpio Memory: 12GB of GDDR5 at 320GB/s
Looking at these speculations, Project Scorpio/Xbox 2 has the PS4.5 beat by a long shot. This kind of overpowered approach is fitting of a next generation system. With Microsoft's plans to try to introduce upgrades, it's possible Xbox 2 could continue to improve through modular upgrades.
Either way, Microsoft has said they're only interested in a big leap forward for their next console. Microsoft is promising 4K gaming with Project Scorpio, which is a tall order, even with these specs in place. Upscaling to 4K seems more likely, but as the Eurogamer article points out, we've seen developers get some serious horsepower out of consoles compared to similar PC parts.
This, paired with new rumors saying Microsoft has been working on the Xbox Two since February 2016 means that the Xbox Two was most likely Project Scorpio in disguise.
We know how much both Microsoft and Sony love the current design of their consoles – both have changed relatively little over the past three generations. Will screens in the controller become the norm if Nintendo includes screens in the NX controller again?
Many believed, after the introduction of the Wii U, that the Xbox One and PS4 would also house screens in their gamepads, but both have ignored this in favor of smart phone integration – but that’s not to say the Xbox Two and PS5 won’t adopt this.
In order for a conveniently sized screen to be integrated in to it, the PS5 controller would have to undergo a rather hefty redesign, something I can’t imagine happening. For the Xbox Two, however, I could envisage this being more likely. Would this give the Xbox Two the advantage in gamers’ eyes? For me, it would.
They may take different approaches, but the Xbox Two/Project Scorpio is most likely going to embrace the idea of cloud-based gaming. With Microsoft owning and running the Azure cloud, the technology is certainly there. On the flipside though, Sony has also invested a good chunk into PlayStation Now which is a true-to-form cloud-based gaming service, so it's possible they will both pursue this route.
With cloud-based streaming games, the hardware becomes moot. Everything is being handled by servers remotely and the game is streamed to you. At this point the only way to "win" will be to innovate with the games better than the competitor. Graphics will be on par with each other if we're talking about cloud-based technology.
Virtual Reality vs Augmented Reality
Here's where the two beasts go down different paths. Sony is pushing forward with PlayStation VR, which is a virtual reality headset, while Microsoft is moving towards the HoloLens, an augmented reality headset. The difference?
On the surface, virtual reality puts you entirely in a different world, while augmented reality simply takes what you see before you and changes or adds to it. There's arguments to be made about which one is better, but in terms of immersion, the augmented reality side of things is fighting an uphill battle.
Say you live in an apartment and you want to play a game with your HoloLens. Well, you've only got the space around you to work with, which could be constraining. There's ways to innovate though, perhaps using the television screen in conjunction with your living room to pull the game out and immerse in both forms of the medium?
It's not that AR is impossible to implement into games, it just requires a stronger imagination and more innovation than before, that's all.
Virtual reality lets you go into an entirely different world. Everything before you is artificial, which leaves plenty of flexibility for game developers to really pull you into their imaginations.
On the surface, this seems like the easier choice for gaming, but it doesn't offer the convenience of being able to see all around you while still playing the game. Neither of these prototypes are available for human consumption yet, so we'll have to wait and see.
Microsoft did say that Project Scorpio would be VR compatible. Could this mean they are working on a VR headset as well? It's not likely, instead there are rumors swirling that Microsoft is negotiating a partnership with Oculus Rift to be used on Xbox 2.
The Beginning of a New War
What Microsoft tried to do with Xbox One, but were ultimately shot down for, will be resurrected for the Xbox Two. Microsoft were perhaps a little ahead of their time with their early Xbox One policies, and these will no doubt be perfected and implemented in to the next generation.
Internet will be much faster and more accessible when the Xbox Two takes center stage, so these policies won't alienate customers as much as they did the first time around.
Developers don’t want to be ‘wasting money’ on physical distribution when the option of downloadable software is there and proven to be successful. It has been working for PC gamers for years and Microsoft are desperate for console gamers to catch up to their desktop cousins. You never hear a PC gamer complain about not being able to trade in their used games – once you own it, you OWN it.
Once Xbox Two is announced, it will anger certain gamers once again, but I believe PS5 will also go down the same route. Sony doesn't want additional costs, nor does Microsoft, and with a few more years getting used to the likes of digital downloads, audiences will be more accepting of this method of distribution.
Unfortunately, in my opinion, the next generation will mark the extinction of video game stores as we know them. It’s sad, because I for one love browsing the collection of games I have amassed on my shelf over the years.
Even so, after spending a good chunk of my life working in the video game retail industry, I've come to see how bloated and mutated it has become. Pre-order lockouts, DLC season passes, customer service horror stories, it's all signs of an industry that needs to be put down before it embarrasses itself any further.
In the end, they will most likely adapt, but in the process I hope they shave off the corporate grime that has turned many of them into greed filled money grabbers. There are still good ones out there, I saw them during my tenure, but there are plenty who just in it to suck the customer dry, and that's not what games are about.
Let the debate begin!