PlayStation 5 vs. Xbox Series X - The New Race For Exclusives

Gaming article by Anson Chan on Friday, June 19, 2020 - 13:00
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At least it's not a console war

With Sony's recent PlayStation 5 game reveal stream, the exclusive titles of the next generation of consoles have more or less been revealed. Granted, the Xbox Series X has another game reveal event in July, but this will likely be reserved for AAA and/or first-party titles from longstanding franchises. One can assume that there will be new IP debuts too, but the spotlight will almost assuredly be on games like Halo Infinite. In any case, the purpose behind such events is clear: to sway public opinion to one side or the other via exclusive games. 

Indeed, if the PS5's game reveal event is any indicator, both Microsoft and Sony are going to be going to great lengths to gobble up exclusives—or at least give the impression that they're getting the most exclusives. First party, third party, AAA, indie, it doesn't really matter as long as they can slap the appropriate logo onto their trailer. In reality, about half, if not more, of the games shown during both the PS5's and Xbox Series X's streams are coming to both consoles and/or PC at some point.

As for the truly exclusive major games, what can be seen so far seems rather par for the course: a lot of sequels from established franchises, and relatively few new IPs. The PS5's biggest titles are seemingly going to be a Horizon sequel, a Spider-Man stand-alone expansion, and a Ratchet and Clank sequel. For the Xbox Series X, Halo, a potential Fable reboot/sequel, and a Hellblade sequel. While it's certainly great that all these storied franchises are getting next-gen upgrades, you essentially know what you're getting with them.

If you want fresh games, the smaller developers are doing quite a good job of picking up the slack. Some of the non-AAA exclusives look like they can be quite innovate, at least in concept. Returnal, The Medium, and Scorn for example are games that can nudge those who are on the fence. 

Interestingly enough, there are no small number of console exclusives that are also going to be on PC. In this regard, the PS5 has the upper hand as it will have about a dozen additional third-party games that will only be available for the PS5 or PC. This includes games like Stray, Godfall, and Oddworld: Soulstorm. Again, very unique-looking games, and definitely something to consider when choosing a next gen console.

Microsoft on the other hand is doubling down on making a unified Xbox Series X/PC experience. First-party exclusives like Halo Infinite are being released on the PC, as will third-party exclusives like The Medium. Basically, there's a pretty decent chance that if you want a particular Xbox Series X exclusive, it's also going to be on the PC.

halo infinite
It would be great if we can see how both platforms actually perform before we buy them too, but nooooo.

Ultimately, it appears as though this new generation is going to put two different mindsets to the test. Sony is clearly going the traditional route with normal exclusive titles. Great if you're planning on getting a PS5 because your gaming library will be slightly larger. Not so great if you're the other 66% of the gaming population due to Sony's exclusivity practices which are regarded as distasteful at best.

For example, two full games that are being published by Bethesda, Deathloop and Ghostwire: Tokyo, are timed PS5 exclusives that will eventually make their way to PC. The question of course is how long will that exclusivity period last. True, such a tactic might sell consoles, but it might also backfire for the developers since people might stop caring about the games after too long a wait.

Microsoft appears to be taking a more benign, if less blatantly satisfying, route by comparison. Convenience and long-term sustainability are the apparent goals. As mentioned before, first-party exclusives like Halo Infinite will be on both PC and Xbox Series X. You only have to buy one copy to play on any Microsoft device, which is undoubtedly going to ease the transition between platforms.

It's also impossible to ignore Xbox Game Pass and its effects on next-gen distribution. While the PS5 might have a larger library of exclusives, the reality is that not everyone is going to buy every game. With Game Pass, you're getting a library card to try who knows how many potential Xbox Series X games on release. Sure, you're probably not going to play every game either, but it's taking the concept of the console-game bundle to the extreme.

As we get closer and closer to the next generation of consoles, it should be kept in mind that the gap between console exclusives will likely decrease. After all, Microsoft has only shown half of their hand so far. Regardless, it will be an interesting generation, one that might leave no part of the industry unchanged.

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Anson Chan

Staff Writer

You ever wonder why we're here? It's one of life's greatest mysteries, isn't it?