Sony has finally shown its hand, revealing the PS5 will launch on Thursday, November 12 for $499.99 / £449.99 / AU$749.95 (though certain countries will wait until Thursday, November 19), while the disc-less PS5 Digital Edition will cost $399.99 / £359.99 / AU$599.95 at launch.
It's the end of a months-long game of chicken between Microsoft and Sony, which has seen the two companies reluctant to lay down the gauntlet first when it came to next-gen pricing.
But, finally, we now know that both the Xbox Series X and PS5 will be launching at the same price tag – with the Xbox Series X similarly priced at $499 / £449 / AU$749, but releasing days earlier, on Tuesday, November 10. That's alongside the cheaper and less powerful Xbox Series S, which will cost $299.99 / £249.99 / AU$499.
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Despite being evenly matched when it comes to pricing on their high-end machines, though, and with the performance differences between the console still to be determined, I think the odds are tipped in Sony's favor when it comes to launch. Here's why.
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Value over price
The PS5 Showcase on September 16 proved that, when it comes to showing off what next-gen games actually look like, Sony has the formula to a tee.
Gameplay trailers for the likes of Spider-Man: Miles Morales and Demon's Souls looked like a big upgrade on what we're used to from PS4, and they made me excited about what I can expect from the PS5 experience (even if the Final Fantasy 16 footage was from the PC version of the game).
Software has proven to be Sony's major advantage, here, and the PS5 is undoubtedly in front when it comes to new games right now, even if – in terms of pricing – it's on an even playing field with Microsoft.
Sony has proved that it still has the advantage when it comes to PS5 exclusives, and it's hard not see prospective buyers agreeing.
While we won't see the likes of Horizon Forbidden West or God of War Ragnarok until 2021 or later, the PS5 launch lineup includes exclusive such as Spider-Man: Miles Morales and Demon’s Souls – in comparison, the Xbox Series X's launch lineup relies primarily on third-party titles, which will also be available on PS5.
The delay of Halo Infinite to 2021 really works against Microsoft in this regard.
Now, it's worth noting that the approach of both companies is pretty different. Microsoft's main push is to get people into the Xbox ecosystem so it's heavily pushing the value that comes with Xbox Game Pass. After all, Microsoft doesn't particularly care whether you're playing on PC, Xbox One, or Series X – as long as you're playing its games.
But while Xbox Game Pass is excellent value for money, and will set players up with a ton of games, it's hard to see it being a next-gen console seller in the way that big new exclusives are. And while we can talk all day about Microsoft's strategy to just 'get people in the ecosystem', the company didn't develop the Xbox Series X so it wouldn't sell.
And, when presented with the choice between an Xbox Series X and a lack of exciting launch exclusives, but access to plenty of other games via Game Pass – or a PS5 with exciting launch exclusives and access to a myriad of top PS4 games through the new PlayStation Plus Collection – Sony has a pretty clear advantage.
While Xbox Game Pass is still Microsoft's golden ticket, the inception of the PlayStation Plus Collection suggests that Sony is taking steps to beat it to its own game.
The next-gen experience
Saying that, it's hard to deny the affordability of Microsoft's Xbox Series S – it costs less than a Nintendo Switch. The Xbox Series S is a real game-changer for Microsoft, especially combined with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate – appealing to consumers who are simply looking for a next-gen console that won't cost the world.
Still, while the PS5 Digital Edition costs considerably more than the Xbox Series S – Sony is charging $100 $ £110 / AU$100 more – it does pack in a lot more power for that extra cash. The Xbox Series S is weaker than the Xbox Series X in terms of specs, the PS5 Digital Edition boasts the same capabilities as the PS5, just without a disc tray and for $100 less. Opting for a PS5 Digital Edition gets you the full-fat next-gen experience, then, if you can afford to spend more.
With PS5 pre-orders already going live before Xbox Series X, many consumers will ultimately be forced to choose where to spend their money. And while Microsoft has the cheapest console in the Xbox Series S, it might not matter. With the PS4, Sony figured out that having great exclusive games will ultimately win a console war. With the PS5, it's using the same playbook – and it's hard not to see it working again.
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