By Kellen Browning
BERKELEY, Calif .– Even before the coronavirus forced the world in and glued millions of people to their screens, 2020 was shaping up to be a huge year for games.
Microsoft is set to release a new Xbox in November, and Sony is expected to present the next iteration of its PlayStation this holiday season. Both are great draws for video gamers keen to kick off the latest version of Halo or Spider-Man while waiting for the pandemic.
And as the ninth generation of consoles approaches, canceling in-person events has created a surge in interest in the games and is likely to increase their sales – although their availability is expected to be limited by problems with the game. supply chain caused by the pandemic.
Every seven years or so, companies release a new series of consoles with technological improvements – in this case, the PlayStation 5 and the Xbox Series X. holiday releases.
Gaming has become one of the largest entertainment industries in the world, with 2.7 billion people expected to play a game this year, according to the Newzoo Gaming Market Study. Growth has accelerated during the pandemic, and gamers around the world are expected to spend nearly $ 160 billion this year.
“This launch is a huge moment,” said David Gibson, chief investment officer at Astris Advisory, a financial advisory firm in Tokyo. “This is the biggest and most important next-generation console launch ever. “
But Gibson said temporary plant closures caused by the virus in several Asian countries, coupled with increased global demand for similar hardware components due to the increase in remote working, would most likely lead to a shortage of Xbox and computers. PlayStation in November.
“It’s going to be really hard to find them,” he said.
The rectangular, black Xbox Series X will release on November 10 for $ 499, Microsoft announced last week after months of speculation. The company also announced that it will release a miniature budget version, the S-Series, for $ 299.
Sony has yet to announce a date or price for the PlayStation 5, a more curved and futuristic white device, but has said it will release an alternate version as well.
Both consoles will have faster load times for gaming and better graphics than their predecessors, although the X series is expected to have slightly more powerful hardware.
Even with the supply limitations, Gibson expects Sony to sell around 5 million PlayStations and Microsoft 3 million Xboxes in the first five months. Game developers don’t have the same hardware limitations, however, and are likely to benefit from the high demand for consoles, he said.
Jacob Throop, streamer for professional esports organization Team SoloMid, said he plays on both companies’ consoles, as well as Nintendo’s 3-year-old Switch, and will buy both new devices. . He said most of his fans seemed to favor the new Xbox.
“I think the Xbox will be better,” said Throop, best known to his 1 million Twitch followers as ChocoTaco. “On paper the specs are better so it looks like it’s going to be a more powerful machine.”
Many analysts, however, expect Sony to maintain its historic selling advantage in large part because of the perception that the PlayStation offers premium games. And in August, the producers of Halo Infinite, the latest version of Xbox’s flagship game series, announced that the pandemic had delayed its release until 2021, rather than releasing it with Series X.
“Having Halo at our launch would have been great,” said Cindy Walker, spokesperson for Xbox. But “we don’t depend on massive exclusive titles to drive console adoption. Our players will have thousands of games from four generations of Xbox available to play on launch day. “
Sony, which declined to comment on its upcoming release, has produced the three best-selling individual home consoles – the PlayStation 2, PlayStation 4 and the original 1994 PlayStation – and is focusing on the strength of its exclusive games and the brand recognition while promoting the PlayStation. 5.
But Microsoft is signaling for the first time that it wants an end to the decades-long console war, or at least a truce.
Microsoft is prioritizing flexibility and betting that the future of gaming will be mobile, with players spread across consoles, computers, and even phones on the go.
The release of Series X is always a big time for the company, but Microsoft is also highlighting the success of Xbox Game Pass – think a Netflix library for games – and a new feature, xCloud, that will allow users to play. Xbox games on Android phones for $ 15 a month, starting Tuesday.
“Sony is focused on convincing the gamers they need to get a PlayStation 5,” said Matthew Ball, managing partner of Epyllion Industries, which manages a venture capital fund.
Rival companies also see an opportunity to break into the growing market and are experimenting with cloud gaming, a new technology that theoretically allows gamers to download and run games on any device using the strength of the internet. – or the cloud. The nascent functionality could devalue expensive consoles, especially at 5G internet speeds.
Google Stadia, a $ 10-per-month cloud service that allows subscribers to play games on all devices, arrived in November but struggled with bugs and graphics. Amazon is reportedly working on its own cloud gaming service, Project Tempo.
Microsoft’s response to these forays is xCloud.
“We are committed to bringing more games to more players around the world, and cloud gaming is a long-term investment for Microsoft and essential to making this commitment a reality,” Walker said.
Sony’s cloud service, PlayStation Now, was introduced in 2014 and allows subscribers to play some PlayStation games on computers, but users weren’t won over by the feature, especially before Sony lowered the monthly fee. from half to $ 10 last year.
Analysts said Sony’s more traditional thinking as the PlayStation 5’s arrival nears could pay off in the short term.
“Sony has tremendous strength after the eighth generation of consoles and will thrive in the ninth, but it still applies the old playbook,” Ball said.
Despite technological developments that make it easier for gamers to play on the go or watch others streaming on sites like Amazon-owned Twitch, Sony and Microsoft have spent months creating suspense.
Kris Lamberson, known to fans of the FaZe Clan esports team as FaZe Swagg, plays Call of Duty on PlayStation 4 and has said he looks forward to the improved graphics on both devices.
“With the way technology evolves, these consoles are going to take gaming to the next level,” he said.