Checkpoint: “E3 2020” Edition

E3 2020 would have been over for weeks by now. I imagine we would have had clearer pictures of what both consoles were offering on the hardware side. We would have seen first party lineups and timed third party exclusives. We may even had pricing info confirmed by now.

But this is 2020 and COVID-19 dashed many plans including E3. Information on new console launches were divided into articles, interviews, and pre-recorded shows. Some fared better than others, but the bottom line is that both Sony and Microsoft’s plans for their upcoming console are far from complete. 

There’s still lots to announce and clarify including showing off user interfaces and the all important price. However, that will not stop me from putting down some thoughts on what we know so far.

Microsoft Xbox Series X

Despite potential for customer confusion with the Xbox One X, I warmed up to the Xbox Series X name. It sounds like the end game for their long journey with weird console names. I hope this name gives them the flexibility to expand their Xbox consoles in a logical fashion. The often rumored Xbox Series S aka Lockhart makes a whole lot of sense in this lineup. But what about the mid-generation upgrade offering? Will they simply tack on the year? An Xbox Series X (2024) perhaps?

I like the simple rectangular box shape of the Series X. I was a fan of the Xbox One S and Xbox One X designs as well, so that shouldn’t be too surprising. Microsoft laid out the design and logic behind it on their website and through Digital Foundry. I found everything they laid out was sensible and sound. 

Microsoft largely “perfected” their controller when it comes to aesthetics and comfort. So it’s no surprise that they decided to focus on the technology and reducing latency.

Microsoft gave glimpses on what their operating system will offer including industry leading backward compatibilityand quick resuming. With the hardware, Xbox Game Pass, and a bunch of initiatives like Smart Delivery and Optimized For Xbox Series X, Microsoft currently has everything in place but the software. 

Their initial software showcase was underwhelming, but hopefully the showcase they have planned in the next month or so rectifies this situation. 

PlayStation 5

The name may be boring and predictable but that console hardware design was anything but. 

My initial impressions ranged from “overly designed”, to “Alienware-esque”, to “this could work…”, and finally “it’s so weird, that I like it”. I like white electronics. Not only that I find them sleek, they also hide dust better than dark consoles. What I like more than white electronics are ones that have well designed contrasting colors like the PS5.

The reveal of the Digital Edition was almost as surprising as the console’s appearance itself. I personally don’t see why I would pick up the Digital Edition unless there’s a $100 price difference. I still have a need for Ultra HD Blu-ray drives. I use my Xbox One S and Xbox One X for their Ultra HD Blu-ray drives for movies. And if I wanted to take advantage of cheaper retail sales and backwards compatibility with PlayStation 4 titles, I will need that drive.

The DualSense controller resembles a DualShock 4 but it continues Sony’s evolution towards the Xbox-esque controller. It’s still distinctly PlayStation with its stick placement, but the shape continues to slowly creep towards Microsoft’s design. I guess the giant trackpad is becoming a part of the Sony identity; it’s a giant button for most games, but there are a few who use it in interesting ways. I’m very curious what the haptics and adaptive triggers bring to the immersion front.  

Sony’s software showcase was very good. Indies, first party exclusives, and third party timed console exclusives gave plenty of reasons to choose PlayStation 5. Not only did Sony highlight visuals that were only that were only possible on next generation hardware, they also demonstrated impressive gameplay that leveraged the speedy storage. 

What about the user interface? Or the ability to quick resume? Or how about backwards compatibility? It sounds like most if not all PlayStation 4 games will work. No word on Sony’s older consoles and I am not holding my breath. Sony may have the games, but the rest of the console’s features and capabilities are still shrouded in mystery for now. 

The Power Difference?

The PlayStation 5 may not be as powerful as the Xbox Series X when it comes to horsepower, but it does deliver data from storage to memory at a faster rate than Microsoft’s. How will these discrepancies manifest themselves in third party games is difficult to predict. Third party developers will do what they need to do to get their games looking and running great on both platforms. 

Price?

$399 CAD for a PlayStation 4 was an amazing price. I don’t believe the PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X will come close to that price. The Canadian dollar has fallen dramatically since then and these new consoles feature impressive hardware. 

I think the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X will launch for $499 USD or $699 CAD. I want to be wrong and for them to come in at lower price points but I’m bracing for that price. 

Both Consoles Welcomed

I owned every console since I began working full time and there’s no reason to deviate. In fact, I may be doubling down on these consoles over the PC until we get a clearer picture on the kind of PC hardware that I need to run these upcoming console games. 

Xbox Game Pass is making it very easy to stick with Microsoft’s console and Sony’s strong first party games continue to attract me towards theirs. Both companies have blanks to fill out but I’m liking what I’m seeing so far.