Sony showed off the PlayStation 5 yesterday and the all-digital event was a smashing success. Millions watched and cheered in the chat as the seasoned console maker showed off one game after another that could help it win the console war.
Sony is going into this generational shift as the leader with more than 111 million consoles sold, compared to 48 million for the Xbox One and 58 million for the Nintendo Switch. And yesterday’s event showed that Sony has no intention of letting its rivals catch up. The event showed that the company is on track to deliver hardware for the holidays and that it has a bunch of exclusive games that people want to play.
Microsoft, by contrast, had to apologize for not wowing everybody with its event back in May.
Sony’s jaw droppers
The Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart demo from Insomniac Games showed a lot of extended gameplay. One of the technological marvels it showed was instant environment switching. It showed how Ratchet could move from one dimension to another with full interactivity and almost no down time. Such fast interaction with no load times is one of the advantages of having solid-state drives (SSDs), which both the PlayStation 5 and the Xbox Series X will have. The idea is to have fast storage that can keep up with the need to move a ton of data into the processor and graphics processing unit. That was a true next-generation advantage that we saw working on the PS5.
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Sony and Insomniac also showed off Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales, a follow-up to the spectacular Marvel’s Spider-Man exclusive of 2018. Yes, now we know why Sony bought Insomniac Games in August 2019. Since the first Spider-Man game launched, Spider-Man Into the Spider-Verse debuted and Morales stole the hearts of mainstream audiences. It brings some exciting diversity to the superhero genre and is the perfect kind of game to be coming soon for gamers who want something different and diverse.
Sony unveiled Guerrilla Games’ sequel to Horizon Zero Dawn — Horizon Forbidden West from Guerrilla Games — as part of its slate of internally produced exclusive games. We know that Horizon was likely going to show up, but the Spider-Man title was a complete surprise. Sony showed off Horizon last, and it was just the thing to get everybody fired up. These are the sorts of trailers you watch over and over again.
They brought a lot more games
More than two dozen games got some airtime during the one-hour event. Luckily for Sony, some of these titles didn’t leak, and so Sony scored big on the surprise factor.
Some big titles included Gran Turismo 7 (Polyphony Digital), Astro’s Playroom (Japan Studio/Team Asobi), Sackboy: A Big Adventure, and Demon’s Souls (Japan Studio/Bluepoint Games). Sony also revealed some smaller indie titles that looked good, like Kena: Bridge of Spirits, Stray (Annapurna/Blue Twelve Studio), and Bugsnax (Young Horses). It was good to see Lorne Lanning tout Oddworld: Soulstorm (Oddworld).
Sony also had third-party publishers show up with good-looking titles like NBA 2K21 (2K, Visual Concepts), Deathloop (Bethesda/Arkane Studios), and Project Athia (Square Enix/Luminous Productions).
Sony showed its hardware
Since Sony had been quieter about its hardware unveils, it had some real revelations in the hardware department.
Sony had two options: One comes with an Ultra HD Blu-ray disc drive, and the digital model lacks the disc drive. That cheaper digital model could help it fend off any attempt by Microsoft to price its rival Xbox Series X below Sony’s price.
The company promised that this hardware would be transformative, and that the difference between the generations will be obvious for those of us who love outstanding graphics and technological advances.
Sony also showed its Pulse 3D wireless headset and its new DualSense wireless game controllers. A lot of gamers will obsess over these details for days.
Some big questions
If you aren’t a big Sony fanboy or fangirl, you probably found plenty of holes in the presentation. That’s to be expected, as you can’t pack everything into a short presentation.
Sony didn’t reveal the price of its console in the dark, and it also didn’t say whether it would have a follow-up to the PlayStation VR headset, as many virtual reality fans are hoping. We also didn’t hear anything about whether Activision will play any favorites with its next Call of Duty game. Activision could have showed its title with Sony, but it clearly chose not to do so.
Microsoft’s own list of exclusives and third-party games announced in May weren’t as impressive. They were interesting, but not the sort of blockbusters that you would have expected, and Microsoft has so far made the mistake of not revealing its big titles before Sony did. I’m sure they have a lot of exclusive Xbox Series X games, but we don’t really know what the big ones are yet.
Some folks are of course ready to declare this a slam dunk for Sony in the console war. But a lot of things were missing. Sony didn’t talk about the price. If it comes in at $500 and Microsoft’s Xbox Series X comes in at $400, then the war is over.
Sony also didn’t make any noise about backward compatibility, a feature that Microsoft has been touting. It also didn’t say much about competing with Microsoft’s subscription service, Game Pass, which Microsoft has also been pushing harder as a great way to discover games. Sony didn’t even say that its two big PlayStation 4 titles of the year — The Last of Us Part II and Ghost of Tsushima — will run on the PS5. We’re pretty sure they will, but Sony could have at least disclosed some details about that.
Sony has a lot of third-party support as well, but not all of it is exclusive. A case in point is Hitman 3, which got some good air time during the show as a PlayStation 5 title. But it’s also showing up on the Xbox Series X, as Microsoft kindly pointed out in its own tweet. Titles like Fortnite will also be on both consoles. Ubisoft’s games will be on both consoles, and I suspect Resident Evil Village (Resident Evil 8), will also be on the Xbox Series X.
GTA 5 and GTA Online will also be on the PS5, and it’s not clear how exclusive that will be. It is a bit dangerous for Microsoft to allow any love affair, however brief, between Rockstar Games and Sony.
It’s certainly a shot across the bow for Microsoft. But Microsoft still has a lot of its own exclusives to show, like Halo: Infinite. And Microsoft has always been loathe to show off games that in the far future, while Sony had no qualms about showing games that would show up sometime in 2021.
But Sony clearly did what it was supposed to do this early in the console war. It put the ball in Microsoft’s court.