It’s a busy one today on the back and forth between Sony and Microsoft as they each trade blows in the 2020 next-gen marketing timeline. After the “I wanted it to be true, but also knew it probably wouldn’t” rumor that we’d get a PS5 price reveal earlier this week—that didn’t happen—the ball was put back into Microsoft’s court. July 23rd is the upcoming Xbox Games Showcase, a show that we know will feature a look at first-party Microsoft Studios titles after a rather disappointing third-party showcase during May’s Inside Xbox. It’s supposed to be a huge “night of mic drops,” which has stirred speculation around what might be shown or announced.
Microsoft’s Aaron Greenberg further clarified that the July 23rd show would be games only. “No business, devices, or similar news. Just games.”
I know everyone is excited for Xbox Games Showcase next Thursday. Seen some wild expectations so if helpful this show has one focus, games. No business, devices or similar news, just games. A whole show about hour long focused on games. Hope you enjoy it! https://t.co/eIPBsJtLbJ
— Aaron Greenberg (@aarongreenberg) July 16, 2020
Presumably, this means that Microsoft isn’t about to end the show with the same kind brand of console reveal stinger that Sony added to its PS5 Future of Games showcase. Sure, we already know what the Xbox Series X looks like, but don’t expect a price or reveal of the heavily rumored Xbox Lockhart. And to be honest, it’s left me kind of stumped. I thought for sure Microsoft was finally getting ready to blink; to lose the staring contest and reveal its next-gen pricing first, which would finally free up Sony to do the same. But now all I can see is Phil Spencer and Aaron Greenberg smirking at Sony with a look that says “your move.”
With around four months(!) to go until the next-gen consoles release, the tension being felt here is palpable. The air is beginning to thicken. Fan just want the other shoe to drop to know where everything lands, but each company’s strategy seems to rely—at least in part—on indirectly responding to the other. After all, Microsoft’s aggressive Xbox Series X marketing has been aimed at redeeming the embarrassment from Sony’s repeated dunks on the company back in 2013. An announcement often lands “better” if it can be compared and contrasted, so each console manufacturer is looking at how they can tailor their announcements as “responses” to the other. Announcing a certain price point is good. Announcing it and beating your competitor is better.
So while I expected Xbox to fire off first with price at this month’s event, and Sony to follow up in August, now I have no idea where each company will land. Increased production of consoles to meet early demand seems to indicate that Sony is extremely confident with how sales will go this holiday when the PS5 launches, so we’re unlikely to see a really high price, despite previous rumors. Sales outlook and demand wouldn’t be that high if Sony were planning to sell the PS5 at a high premium. But does that give Sony leeway to announce first? Do they keep waiting for Xbox? What about Microsoft?
There are, however, a few cards each company still has left to play. Microsoft, of course, has it’s July 23rd showcase which will be huge for its first-party games. Sony has its DualSense controller hands-on coming up tomorrow from Geoff Keighley, though it’s unknown if it will be a meaningful event that will show off a lot or just a little summer flavor as we continue to wait. We’ve also still got the promised PS5 console teardown the needs to happen at some point, more games that were reportedly held back for an August State of Play reveal, and perhaps the biggest thing of all: the actual PS5 features and ecosystem we can expect when it launches.
What Are the PS5 Features? What Does the PS5 Ecosystem Look Like?
The PS5 is still a pretty big question mark. Yeah, we know what it looks like, its controller, the games we’ll be playing on it, and how its SSD is custom architectured for a true next-gen experience. But there are undoubtedly numerous PS5 features still under wraps. Earlier today, Microsoft revealed a major step in its plans as an ecosystem next-gen: Xbox GamePass and Project Xcloud are being combined into one service for no additional charge. That’s kind of monumental. That’s like Sony bundling PS Plus and PlayStation Now and then partnering with Stadia to make the cloud infrastructure bulletproof (which I can dream but will never happen).
Xbox is building out an ecosystem where you can take your games anywhere, have access to your Xbox from almost any device. It’s not about the console itself, it’s about joining the ecosystem, even if you play everything streamed over you laptop or on an older Xbox device. Longtime readers will know I talked about “consoles as a service” ages ago, and this is finally seeing it really start to coalesce. Microsoft also reiterated a number of features about the Xbox One, such as Quick Resume, which is effectively “suspend/resume” for multiple titles at once.
For PS5, Sony still has a lot of messaging to deliver about not just how its services are evolving going into next-gen, but also what fundamental features the PS5 is going to have. Microsoft has been knocking it out of the park by branding basic things. The concept of “Smart Delivery” is effectively on both consoles with multiple current-gen games upgrading to next-gen at no cost, but Microsoft did a much better job owning the branding of it which makes Sony look like it doesn’t have a coherent solution in comparison. Microsoft executives have been heavily pushing messaging about not just the Xbox Series X, but it’s overall future plans. Sony? They’ve been quiet.
However, if there’s one major thing I can look at, it’s this week’s release of Ghost of Tsushima. Now that the final PS4 exclusive is out, Sony can really spend the next four months shifting gears and accelerating its next-gen messaging and launch strategy. After all, the company hasn’t needed to say much at all to generate hype around the PS5. The smallest and simplest of PS5 reveals—whether it’s the logo, the controller, or a random price rumor and the PS5 Amazon page going live—engagement on these announcements is far above anything Microsoft is seeing. Even the reveal of the PS5 game case design has gotten more engagement than Xbox’s announcement for its July 23rd first-party games showcase.
Again, with only four months to go in the countdown to launch (assuming a mid-November release date), the curious and strange next-gen messaging strategy continues to be unpredictable. We know a few key next steps, we’ve got some ethereal rumors, and there’s mountains of speculation, but there are clearly a lot more stops on the road to Holiday 2020. Aside from tomorrow’s DualSense hands-on, we really have no idea what Sony plans to do next or when they plan to do it. With Microsoft’s messaging around next-gen very clear, loud, and consistent, Sony has quite a few questions about the PS5 that still need answering.
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