The 2020 Console War: Which Next-Gen Console is Right For You?

Published: October 5, 2020 12:00 PM /


PlayStation 5 Xbox Series X

The next generation of gaming is upon us, and everyone’s playing favorites. Ray tracing, 8K resolution, 120 frames per second—lots of buzzwords are being thrown around the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X.

At the end of the day, consumers might not have the extra scratch—or need—to afford both, especially with the economic state of 2020. If you’re still undecided, we can help you make a decision, whether you’re picking one up on launch day or some time in 2021.

We’ll lay out some of the key features that differentiate the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X here. After all, $500 goes a long way, and you want to invest in the ecosystem that’s right for you. Keep in mind, this won’t capture all the little details; instead, these are what we consider the major, decision-making bullet points.

If you’re looking for more in-depth, one-sided takes from our Xbox and PlayStation enthusiasts, we’ve got that for you too.

PlayStation and Xbox Next-Gen Exclusives

Marvel's Spider-Man Miles Morales
Name that Spider-Man movie trope.

It’s no secret that Sony has dominated the scene in terms of exclusives. From God of War to The Last of Us Part II, you could conceivably survive off PlayStation 4 exclusives alone for a few months, if you never played them until now. Capitalizing on that success, Sony seems to have a lot more up its sleeve.

On launch, expect a slew of exclusives that you can only play on the PlayStation family of products, including Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales, Demon’s Souls (the remake), and Godfall (which will also launch on PC). Soon after, Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart will launch too.

Even the horizon looks bright for Sony, with blockbusters like Final Fantasy XVI and Horizon Forbidden West slated to be PS5 exclusives, timed or otherwise. So how does the Xbox Series X stack up?

On launch, third-party titles like Watch Dogs Legion, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, and Yakuza: Like a Dragon will land on the both, although Yakuza comes to PS5 in March 2021. In terms of first-party exclusives, Gears 5, Gears Tactics, Forza Horizon 4, and Ori and the Will of the Wisps will be available on launch—all of which are already available on the Xbox One, PC or even the Nintendo Switch.

Yakuza Like a Dragon
It's worth noting that Yakuza: Like a Dragon is already out on PS4 in Japan.

Upcoming titles like The Medium and Scorn are slated to be in the launch window. However, as of this writing, they don’t have a firm release date and are fairly unknown quantities, making it hard to predict their quality.

To sum it up, a majority of the exciting titles in Xbox’s launch window won’t stay exclusive forever, while the PS5 (and its predecessor) will be the only way to play Miles Morales for the foreseeable future.

However, we should also recognize the potential beyond the launch window in Microsoft’s first-party studios. Looking further beyond the launch window, exclusives like Avowed and the high-in-demand Fable are on the table, which has long-time fans excited. And lest we forget, Halo Infinite will be here in 2021.

Additionally, in the past few years, Microsoft has acquired various studios and companies, most recently ZeniMax Media. Suddenly, the studios that made big hits like Dishonored 2 and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim became part of the Microsoft family.

No new games have been announced out of this acquisition quite yet, but with Starfield and The Elder Scrolls VI on the way, the future holds a lot of potential for Xbox.

TL;DR - For most people, the PlayStation 5 has a stronger exclusive launch lineup, but both consoles have lots of potential in the future from their loyal first- and third-party studios. Sony’s future may be more predictable right now, but Microsoft’s recent acquisitions might make it worth gambling on an Xbox Series X.

Xbox Game Pass & PlayStation Plus Collection

Xbox Series X Top
That green light is where all the games are.

Microsoft’s entire strategy moving into the next generation seems to be all about player convenience. The Xbox company has put in the work to make gaming as accessible as possible, and nothing epitomizes that creed quite like Xbox Game Pass.

Simply put, Xbox Game Pass is at the top of the list of reasons to get an Xbox Series X. For $10 a month, you’ll get unlimited access to a curated library of titles, including all Microsoft first-party games on day one. Longtime staples like Gears and Halo call the service home, and they’re welcoming Doom Eternal through its doors.

Opting for Game Pass Ultimate costs $15 a month, but it gives you access to a library of PC games as well as cloud game streaming to your (Android) phone. In other words, for $180 a year—roughly three full-priced games per year—you get access to hundreds. New titles are constantly added, some even on launch.

In terms of pure bang for your buck, the Xbox Series X offers you the ability to play the most games on launch. Additionally, its dynamic nature ensures you’ll always have something new and exciting to play, even newly released titles.

Sony, however, has an answer to Microsoft’s “so-good-I-sound-like-a-shill” plan. The PlayStation Plus Collection will join Sony’s online membership at no additional charge when the PS5 launches on Nov. 12.

PlayStation 5 DualSense
The DualSense are the next evolution of the PlayStation controller.

While not seemingly as robust as Game Pass, the collection provides access to some top-tier PlayStation exclusives, including God of War, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, and Persona 5 (although not Royal, oddly enough). Even non-exclusive big names like Resident Evil VII and Final Fantasy XV are in the club—both of which are also on Game Pass, at the time of this writing.

Generally speaking, if someone’s getting a PS5, the annual $60 PS+ subscription is something they already pay for. The added value of the PS+ Collection only makes that service even more worth the money. Furthermore, for newcomers to the PlayStation ecosystem, the collection is a no-brainer way to finally figure out what all that God of War hype was all about.

Does the PS+ Collection match the value of Xbox Game Pass? That’s likely a personal decision. After all, Game Pass continues to dynamically evolve week after week, while the Collection seems like it will be more static.

TL;DR - Xbox Game Pass has been and continues to be one of the best deals in gaming, and the service alone is enough to justify buying an Xbox Series X. On the other hand, the PS+ Collection is perfect for those who are new to Sony’s ecosystem, but might not be as engaging as Game Pass years down the line.

PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X Hardware - Which is Better?

Final Fantasy XVI
Final Fantasy XVI's trailer showed off a beautiful game, but can the PS5's specs deliver?

Another big question on people’s minds likely has to deal with the specs of these machines. For all that money, which one has more teraflops?

You can take a look at our deep dives into the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X for the low-down on all the specs. In layman’s terms, the Xbox edges out the PS5 in terms of raw processing power, ranking at 12 teraflops to Sony’s 10.3. However, that’s not the whole story.

Sony engineered a custom SSD that gives the PS5 incredibly quick read speeds. For comparison, the Series X clocks in at 2.4 GB/s, while the PS5 more than doubles that at 5.5 GB/s. For software that takes full advantage of Sony’s custom architecture—first-party games, most likely—load times will be negligible.

Furthermore, Sony has unveiled a plan to bring its own proprietary 3D audio to gamers everywhere. If you purchase the $100 Pulse 3D wireless headset, you’ll experience a level of audio fidelity that lets you discern the environment around you, just by the sound of rainfall. On the greener side, Xbox supports Dolby Atmos, perfect for consumers who already have a surround sound setup.

Halo Infinite
Master Chief's at it again—in 2021.

Those differences aside, both consoles are ray-tracing and 8K-resolution capable (although most people won’t benefit much from the latter). Both will load games much faster than their predecessors, and both can output up to 120 frames per second.

Each console also has two versions coming out this holiday season. The $499 PS5 includes a disc drive, while the $399 version omits one for a digital-only experience. Things get a little more interesting for the Xbox family, though.

The Series X is the whole shebang, but for $299, you can get the Xbox Series S. It also doesn’t have a disc drive, but its specs are also not quite as powerful. It’s still capable of pushing games up to 120 FPS, but its maximum resolution is only 1440p. Of course, it’s not as powerful as a Series X, but it makes gaming more affordable for more people, lining up with Microsoft’s mission to make everyone’s favorite hobby more accessible.

TL;DR - The PlayStation 5’s custom architecture could mean faster load speeds, particularly for first-party games, and the proprietary 3D audio could appease all the audiophiles out there. Xbox still offers comparable speeds with more raw power and a surround-sound audio experience, all while catering to gamers in different price brackets.

At the end of the day, it’s up to you to pick which console will adorn your home for the next few years. The decision is personal since different people will like different exclusives, and brand loyalty unquestionably plays a role too.

Besides, it doesn’t really matter whether you pick the mini-fridge or the alien relic. Both the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 play Cyberpunk 2077, which is all that matters.