Sony’s yet to announce the PlayStation 5’s price, but it’s going to have to execute whatever it’s been planning flawlessly after overnight revelations. If you’ve been living under the sea, then you may not be aware that the oft-rumoured Xbox Series S leaked overnight. Regardless of whether the Redmond firm intentionally fed journalists or not, the figurative cat is out of the bag: Microsoft’s entry-level console costs $299.99 – or an even more affordable £249.99 in the UK.
The company’s been relatively smart keeping the specifics to itself. We still don’t actually know how the hardware compares to the PS5 or Xbox Series X, but a trailer confirms that it will “upscale” to 4K and will include a 512GB SSD hard drive. While that storage number seems small, it’s perhaps worth remembering that the PS5 only comes with an 825GB SSD hard drive – albeit an ultra-fast, customised version. You’re going to have to get used to deleting and re-installing games, we reckon.
What does this all mean, then? Well, Sony has “lost” the price war, that’s for sure. Microsoft is being aggressive here, and while we’re unlikely to understand the full extent of the compromises for a few more weeks at least, the reality is that both models of the PS5 are going to be more expensive. There’s simply no way, with the kind of hardware it’s offering, that the Japanese giant is able to get anywhere close to $299.99 with its next-gen console. As a result, it’s going to need to demonstrate meaningful differences.
The rumour is that the Xbox Series X will cost $499.99, but that’s yet to be officially confirmed by Microsoft at the time of typing. We expect the PS5 to retail for a similar price point, which means the PS5 Digital Edition could find itself sandwiched somewhere in the middle. A $399.99 price point for the PS5 without a disc drive would probably lose money, but like the Xbox Series S, the platform holders will maximise revenue by forcing consumers to spend through their storefronts.
Here are the two potential problems that PlayStation faces: the Xbox Series S has different internals to the Xbox Series X, and consumers may assume that the same applies to the PS5 Digital Edition and the PS5. That’s going to make the PS5 Digital Edition look pricey in comparison, and it’s a marketing headache that Sony will need to overcome. Perhaps more importantly, this is a disruptive move that could affect where more casual consumers play their next-gen games.
Here’s the problem: the vast majority of you reading this article will presumably be planning to buy the full-fledged PS5 or Xbox Series X. But for more casual consumers – historically the lifeblood of the PlayStation brand – the Xbox Series S may prove a more affordable means to play titles like Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War and FIFA 21. That’s the play that Microsoft has called, and we simply won’t know how it shakes out until the generation has started in earnest.
Microsoft, with its Game Pass subscription, may also be hoping that the cheaper price point of the Xbox Series S convinces consumers to buy a “second” console; in other words, if you’ve already got a PS5, you may well end up with an Xbox as well – just because. That’s certainly possible, and while it’s less of a threat to Sony, any time and money spent on a competing platform means less time and money spent on the PS5.
Make no mistake, this is disruptive, but PlayStation still has all the momentum right now. It’ll be confident that strong marketing allegiances and high quality exclusives will give its next-gen system a “premium” factor compared to Xbox’s offering. But if the PS5’s price wasn’t already under scrutiny, it is now. The Japanese giant will have known for months where it plans to price its systems – let’s hope those final numbers aren’t too high.
What do you make of the Xbox Series S reveal? How much do you expect the PS5 to cost in comparison? Price things up in the comments section below.