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In the year of our lord 2020, a new console generation is upon us. Between Sony and Microsoft, we’re set to experience the technological jump in next-gen hardware with the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X. However, if you’ve been keeping up from a technical perspective, you may realize that these two upcoming systems share a lot in common. From the AMD-built CPU and GPU to the ultra-fast solid-state drives, both consoles are sure to deliver similar top-end performance. But here, we’re going to focus on what sets them apart.

Aside from a few key hardware details, the PS5 and Xbox Series X have some notable differences. Exclusive games, subscription services, controllers, backward compatibility, expandable storage, form factor–these are all ways the new consoles are forming their distinct identities and setting the stage for the upcoming generation. Also, if you’re undecided on which platform to dedicate your time with, these are the things you should be aware of. We’ll continue to update this feature as we learn more about both consoles in the months ahead.

Platform-Exclusive Games

Microsoft has made significant moves in recent years by acquiring multiple development studios to bring into its first-party Xbox Games Studios umbrella. While it means that these dev teams get the support of a giant like Microsoft, it also means Xbox platforms get exclusive games. It’s tricky to talk about in definitive terms given Microsoft’s dedication to offering PC versions of first-party games, cross-generation support, and in some cases, timed exclusivity. But if we’re comparing Xbox against PlayStation, we’ll include what the consoles can offer over the other.

As far as what’s been confirmed, Xbox Series X will have games such as Senua’s Saga: Hellblade 2, the sequel to Ninja Theory’s acclaimed Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice. While the makers of Observer and Layers of Fear, Bloober Team, are not an XGS developer, it is bringing its new game The Medium exclusively to Xbox Series X and PC. And of course, the heaviest hitter of them all, Halo Infinite, is set to launch alongside Series X and with an Xbox One version, too.

We anticipate more exclusives to be announced as we get closer to the console launch and as XGS developers get further in the development of their upcoming games. This could come as soon as July during the big Xbox 20/20 showcase, which will give us a deeper look at Halo Infinite as well.

Sony hit strong with exclusives in the PS4 era (and still is with The Last Of Us Part 2 and Ghost Of Tsushima on the way). We expect as much going into the next generation, but as of now, there isn’t much to go on specifically for the PS5. At the Game Awards 2019, Gearbox revealed Godfall, which is a PS5 and PC game set to launch by the end of the year. Counterplay, the developers behind Godfall, describe it as a third-person fantasy looter-slasher. We’re also aware of a game called Quantum Error by Teamkill Media that’s being developed for the PS4 and PS5, which appears to be a first-person horror experience. Although a sequel to Horizon Zero Dawn is a fairly open secret, Guerrilla Games hasn’t confirmed any details. We’ll be sure to update this as we get closer to the PS5’s launch and learn more about its future game lineup.

There are, of course, several multiplatform games and live service games that’ve been confirmed for both PS5 and Xbox Series X such as Fortnite, Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla, Dirt 5, and much more.

At Your Service

The future of the gaming landscape is going to revolve around subscription services more than ever. The differences we’re experiencing now in this realm will carry over into the next generation, and as we transition to the PS5 and Xbox Series X, they are sure to evolve, too.

Xbox user or not, you have to admit that Xbox Game Pass has been a revolution in how games are discovered and played. In what you can easily deem ‘The Netflix of Gaming,’ Game Pass provides access to download and play any game in its library for a subscription cost, including all first-party titles on release day. Microsoft is fully embracing Game Pass as a key part of Xbox’s future, offering high-profile games even on PC; Microsoft’s aim is to simply get you in its Xbox ecosystem, console or otherwise. But when it comes to deciding which platform to lean toward for next-gen, Game Pass should be a major factor to consider.

Sony has been making moves as well with PlayStation Now. While it’s not nearly as robust as Game Pass, it shares similarities in granting access to a large library of games; PS4 and PS2 games on PS Now can be downloaded locally or streamed while PS3 games can only be streamed. PS Now’s focus, however, is on cloud-based game streaming. The service has made strides in terms of improving latency, functionality, and game offerings (even being available on PC), and we expect Sony to push it further as part of next-gen. Details on how PS Now will be integrated with the PS5 remains to be seen.

Microsoft hasn’t shown its entire hand quite yet either when it comes to how Project xCloud fits into the Series X ecosystem, but we know for a fact that it will in some form. The company has indicated that details are coming in future Xbox 20/20 events.

Between Xbox Live Gold and PlayStation Plus, these premium online gaming services share many similarities. They offer access to online multiplayer gaming, additional features like cloud saves, and give out free games on a monthly basis. One thing to note is that subscribers of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate get Live Gold as well, sweetening the deal for both services.

Backwards Compatibility And Smart Delivery

It’s not always about the here and now; backward compatibility has been a huge feature in rounding out the Xbox One and continues to be a major key for Microsoft going into the Xbox Series X. Not only does Series X play every Xbox One game available, it also carries on all the work that’s been done in making Xbox 360 and original Xbox games backward compatible as well. In many ways, Series X represents a unification of every Xbox generation.

Strengthening this philosophy is Smart Delivery. All first-party games and select third-party titles (like Assassin’s Creed Valhalla and Cyberpunk 2077) will feature Smart Delivery, which means when you buy these cross-gen games once, you have them for both systems. Xbox will recognize the digital versions tied to your account and the hardware will recognize the proper version that’s been optimized for whichever console.

Sony is embracing backward compatibility in a major way for the PS5, especially compared to how it has with the PS4 and PS3. However, the details on how it’ll exactly work are a little iffy, even coming from Sony. The messaging has been that Sony “believes an overwhelming majority” of PS4 games will be backward compatible, but will have to evaluate this on a game-by-game basis. PS4 games are expected to take advantage of PS5’s capabilities by boosting performance and resolutions, too.

Sensible Controller Improvments

Microsoft isn’t deviating too far from its tried-and-true controller design for the next generation. The Xbox Series X controller has a miniscule (largely unnoticeable) change in ergonomics, a new share button at the center, and USB-C connection. The directional pad does feature a major overhaul by going with a disc-like 8-way d-pad by default. Otherwise, it’s the familiar Xbox One gamepad, and still uses two AA batteries to power itself.

The PS5’s DualSense controller not only continues to differentiate itself from Xbox’s design, but it’s also the biggest departure from the long-time DualShock. The initial model has a two-tone design and a slightly bulkier form, but a number of additional features are worth noting. The DualSense has a built-in microphone, a revamped Share button that’s now called the Create button, adaptive L2 and R2 triggers, haptic feedback, and a USB-C connection. The DualSense uses a built-in rechargeable battery like its DualShock predecessor, and Sony states that it’ll have improved battery life.

Current Xbox users should be happy to know that all Xbox One controllers are forward compatible, meaning they’ll work on the Xbox Series X, albeit without the new share button. Sony has yet to say anything about DualShock 4 controller being compatible with the PS5.

The PS5's DualSense controller.
The PS5’s DualSense controller.

Changes In Form Factor

One of the more surprising things about the Xbox Series X when it was first revealed last year was its physical appearance. This is a major departure from most consoles in history, going with a primarily vertical rectangular form factor, like a big-ass brick. Of course, you’ll be able to lay the console sideways but its dimensions are unlike any Xbox–or console–before it. It’s designed in a way to have air flow out from the top of the console (when positioned vertically), making for efficient temperature management.

Little to nothing is known about the PS5’s physical design and dimensions. Whatever mockups you may have seen on the internet are in no way indicative of what the actual console will look like. We’ll just have to wait to see for ourselves, though we’d doubt it’ll share similarities to the Xbox Series X’s bold new form factor.

The Xbox Series X is the biggest departure from previous Xbox designs.
The Xbox Series X is the biggest departure from previous Xbox designs.

SSD Storage Wars

Both the Xbox Series X and PS5 will utilize solid-state drives for ultra-fast storage, taking advantage of NVMe tech that’s currently available on high-end PCs and even pushing that forward. Sony’s been forthcoming with its benchmarks to showcase just how fast its SSD will be, and developers working with Xbox Series X have mentioned similar revolutions in storage speed on Microsoft’s console.

However, internal storage capacity is slightly different between the two: Xbox Series X comes with a 1TB SSD while the PS5 has a 825 GB SSD.

Games are only getting larger in terms of install size and digital games are increasingly common, so you will most likely need to consider external storage. When it comes to the Xbox Series X, a proprietary 1TB SSD from Seagate will be available. Microsoft states that users will see no loss in speed between the internal and external SSDs due to the console’s architecture and hardware tech. However, you can connect other external drives to transfer data and game installs, but any Series X game needs to be moved to either the internal or Seagate SSD before playing; Xbox One games can play off of external drives, though.

Sony is allowing the PS5 to be a bit more open when it comes to your expandable storage options. The PS5 supports certain m.2 NVMe drives currently on the market as the console features an internal m.2 expansion slot. However, Sony’s system architect Mark Cerny stated that your SSD needs to be as fast as the one built into the PS5 since PS5 games will be made to specifically take advantage of that speed. Other USB drives can be used as external storage, and you’ll be able to play backward compatible PS4 games directly off of it.

The Slight Difference In Power

The debate of which console will be more powerful than the other is a rather fruitless one, especially since we don’t even have them yet. Pointing to TFLOPs (the general estimate of graphics processing power) would be an oversimplification of matters, but yes, there’s a difference on paper. The PS5 comes in at 10.28 TFLOPs while the Xbox Series X is rated at 12.18 TFLOPs, to be exact. Whether or not this translates to a difference in fidelity between games remains to be seen.

We know that both PS5 and Series X are capable of ray tracing, 4K resolution (and eventually 8K), and 120 FPS, though these graphical features largely depend on how developers build their games. Both consoles use custom hardware built by AMD, which is utilizing its Zen 2 CPU architecture and Navi-based RDNA 2 GPU tech. So, what’s the big difference between the consoles? Just the numbers like clock speeds and compute units from what we know so far. Regardless, these are much more powerful than even the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X.

Regardless, on paper performance metrics from both consoles are nothing to scoff at. Even if the PS5 is rated slightly behind Series X, Epic Games’ recent tech demo showing off Unreal Engine 5 aptly showcased the next-gen graphical leap with highly detailed assets, billions of triangles, and the impressive Lumen lighting system all while running on a PS5.

Power consumption will be another story. Although we don’t have much to go on quite yet, we at least know that Sony’s revamping the rest mode for the PS5 to consume significantly less wattage compared to the PS4.

Here at GameSpot, we’re going all-in on covering the upcoming consoles, so be sure to check out all our PS5 and Xbox Series X stories below.

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