By the end of next year, the video game landscape will look pretty different than it does today. For one thing, Microsoft will have the most powerful game console on the market. That’s thanks to the Xbox One Scorpio, which is slated for release by the end of 2017. Sony’s top-end product will be the PlayStation 4 Pro, which is more powerful than a standard PS4, but significantly less powerful than the Scorpio. Confusing matters further, the NX will be out, so unlike the Wii U era, Nintendo could actually make a difference in the console war.
So we’re looking at Xbox One Scorpio, PlayStation 4 Pro, and Nintendo NX. By power alone, Microsoft certainly has the upper hand. But that doesn’t mean the Xbox One Scorpio is destined to come out on top, and here’s why.
Power isn’t everything
The Xbox One Scorpio and PlayStation 4 Plus are both designed to take advantage of state-of-the-art technologies most people’s TVs don’t even support. Unless you have a new 4K resolution TV that supports High Dynamic Range (HDR), you’re not going to get the full benefits of these consoles.
There are plenty of reasons not to get rid of your current TV until it stops working, too. In terms of display technologies, we’re reaching a point of diminishing returns. Sure, TVs that support 4K and HDR are likely to look better than the 1080 televisions most of us have, but the jump isn’t enormous. It’s not nearly as striking as the leap from standard definition to HD. And because 4K and HDR are new technologies, televisions that support them are still pretty pricy, and the cheaper 4K TVs aren’t worth it.
But even putting all of that aside, if you really care about power and graphics, you probably already have a gaming PC. High-end gaming PCs can run circles around the consoles available today. The PS4 Pro and Xbox One Scorpio will narrow the gap a little, but the days of consoles outpacing gaming PCs in terms of power are over. If you want to run games at native 4K resolution while maintaining a silky smooth frame rate, a PC is your best bet — not the Xbox One Scorpio.
Both Xbox One and PlayStation 4 have great exclusive games, but the PlayStation lineup is a lot more varied. Unless you love driving or shooting, the Xbox One doesn’t have a whole lot of exclusive games that will appeal to you.
PlayStation 4 exclusives range from the action-adventure escapades of Uncharted 4 to the ultra-challenging melee of Bloodborne to the cartoonish mayhem of Ratchet & Clank. At any given moment, Sony has nearly two dozen first and second-party studios working on all kinds of games. Microsoft publishes great first-party games, but it only has a few studios under its umbrella. I love me some Forza and Halo, but PS4 offers something for everyone.
Since the PlayStation 4 Pro is less powerful than the Xbox One Scorpio, it goes without saying that it’s going to cost less. How much less is an open question until Microsoft makes its announcement. But with the PS4 Pro ringing in at $400 when it launches on November 10, the Xbox One Scorpio won’t exactly be an impulse purchase. It’s a high-end piece of technology, so I’d be surprised if it retails for less than $500. It might even shoot up to $600.
If you’re shopping for a new game console and one costs a hundred dollars less than the other, which one would you choose?
PlayStation has the user base today
If the history of gaming consoles has taught us anything, it’s that there’s no guarantee the leader of one console generation will retain the title during the next generation. Gamers have proven themselves to be a finicky bunch, fully willing to hop to the other platform every time a new set of consoles comes out.
The last reason Sony still has an edge is that the company can release the PlayStation 5 any time it wants. The announcement of the Xbox One Scorpio may have taken the wind out of the PS4 Pro’s sails, but now Microsoft has shown its hand. Scorpio is the direction it’s heading, at least for the foreseeable future. Sony can use its knowledge of the Scorpio and build the PlayStation 5 as a reaction against it.
Since the Xbox One’s relatively slow sales have pushed Microsoft to release new hardware early, we could be looking at a new kind of console war. In the past, Sony and Microsoft have released their next-generation consoles within a year of each other, which created definitive console generations. Going forward, the idea of console generations could change, as Sony and Microsoft one-up each other’s flagship console every couple of years.
It’s an exciting time to be a gamer. PlayStation is winning now, but who knows what will happen when the Xbox One Scorpio dethrones the PS4 Pro as the most powerful game console on the market. Just don’t be so sure Microsoft will take the lead.