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An aggressive price match, but Sony sticks to its guns with PS5

Tom Hoggins
Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales is an upcoming action-adventure game developed for the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5 - Marvel
Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales is an upcoming action-adventure game developed for the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5 - Marvel

As Microsoft pursues a potentially disruptive but risky strategy with its Xbox Series consoles, Sony's latest PlayStation 5 showcase wanted to show a company sticking to a winning model. 

With the PS4 estimated to have outsold the Xbox One 2-to-1 in the current generation of video games consoles, it makes sense that Sony would stick to its guns.

At a virtual event on Wednesday, Sony revealed it would amatch Microsoft's £449.99 pricing for its premium Series X and almost match the £349.99 for the smaller and less powerful Series S.

The PlayStation 5 will come in two editions itself: one packing a disc drive at the Series X matching £449.99 and a second digital only version at the tempting price point of £359.99.

The latter is perhaps PlayStation's biggest advantage, with the Digital PS5 still running its games at the same speed and fidelity as its more expensive sibling. Something the Xbox Series S cannot claim.

Still, the ultimate result means there is no real price war when it comes to the two gaming giants. Instead it will be a tussle of strategy. Microsoft somewhat abandoning the traditional standards and focussing on its service offerings, namely delivering its biggest titles via the Netflix-esque Game Pass, and Sony banging the drum for providing the best selection of next-gen games.

Sony's PlayStation 5 - AFP
Sony's PlayStation 5 - AFP

This is what Wednesday's showcase was ostensibly about, even if it didn't quite hit the showstopping heights it might have wanted. Revealing Final Fantasy XVI as a 12-month console exclusive (even if it was being demoed on PC) was a smart opening gambit, and an extended look at blistering Spider-Man sequel Miles Morales a compelling follow-up. "Come to PS5 for the games" was the clear and apparent message.

Yet what followed was more a reminder of potential rather than definable launch exclusives. Spider-Man Miles Morales will launch with the console on 19 November, as will the remaster of cult fantasy adventure Demon's Souls. While the latter is a PS5 exclusive, Miles Morales will also be on PS4 too.

It leaves both PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X lacking full-blown exclusives for day one of their new consoles, with both companies seemingly downplaying the need for a 'killer app' out of the box. Sony are relying on the considerable might of its potential, then, reminding viewers throughout of already announced games from its first-party studios -Horizon: Forbidden West and Ratchet & Clank - and teasing a new God of War game for 2021, Ragnarok. But like with Xbox, players will be left waiting for most of the really exciting stuff.

In truth, this is nothing new with next-generation consoles - rarely does hardware launch with an essential game in its initial line-up - but it does somewhat explain why, even though both companies are in a similar position in terms of price and power, Microsoft and Sony are approaching the messaging of their new systems so differently.

Xbox are looking to disrupt the market with a different way of paying for games - one it would argue is more consumer-friendly in the light of next-generation games potentially costing up to £70 a pop. Sony, meanwhile, has identified its exclusive games line-up as the key pillar of the PlayStation 4's success and are looking to continue in that vein.

And why not? There is no reason to think that lightning will not strike twice. Indeed, Ampere Analysis forecasts that by 2024 PS5 will be outselling the (improved) Xbox at 67.3m to 44.3m.

This will be, in part, due to the received wisdom that PlayStation 5 will continue to offer the best games lineup. But with Xbox's potentially disruptive strategy and recent spending spree, this is far from guaranteed. PlayStation will need to ensure it does more than rest on its laurels to reassert its dominance on the console gaming industry.