The Titanic Clash has Officially Begun – Here’s How

Here we are nearing the end of the 8th console generation and preparing to say goodbye to our lovely, and not so lovely, times. The year is 2019 and it has already been jam packed with some of the best releases of the year, such as Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, Devil May Cry 5, Resident Evil 2 Remake, The Division 2 and many more to come, and we’re not even halfway through the year yet.

This generation has delivered arguably some of the best games of all time particularly on the Sony platform – the PlayStation 4 – with titles such as Spiderman, God of War and most importantly and my personal game of the generation – Bloodborne. Not only did Sony have the best games around this generation, they also had the better price and the better hardware at the time of launch back in November of 2013. I am here to set the stage on what’s been happening the last few years between Sony and Microsoft and most importantly, where both of these giants will be heading next in 2020. So without further ado, let’s begin.

The Xbox One was revealed in May of 2013 a month right before E3 and this is where the race was officially over. Not only was Xbox One more of an expensive system and a weaker console as well, it was also planned to be released with some of the most anti-consumer and draconic rule sets on how the console was going to function and read your licenses of the system for the games. Basically, you did not truly own your games and sharing a game was almost near impossible. Unfortunately, when you come out and marketing your product with satanic anti-consumer practices and then come up with dumb PR lines, not only are you ruining the potential sales – you’re also spitting your customers in the face and destroying the brand at the same time; and that is exactly what happened to Microsoft the day Xbox One was announced.

Another issue that Microsoft ran into were the games. As much as I did enjoy Halo 5: Guardians, Gears of War 4 and most recently Sea of Thieves and Forza Horizon 4, it just wasn’t near enough, and theses games were also not on the same level in terms of critical reception or fan favorites with the exception of Forza Horizon 4.

Halo, the biggest Microsoft franchise failed to capture the fans. While Halo 5 wasn’t a horrible game by any means, it was not an amazing flagship Halo game and was better off being a spin-off or some sort of a side story due to the lack of Master Chief throughout the majority of the campaign. The game’s horrific marketing made it seem like the marketing team was playing broken telephone with the development team.

Gears of War 4 on the other hand, played great, felt great and was very fun to play and I would argue that it was one of the few games that was quite successful and well received on both ends of the spectrum including the fans and media outlets, such as us. However, its Gears of War 4 and a sequel to one of flagship franchises is not enough.

Forza Horizon 4 is probably Microsoft’s most successful title this generation and its my personal Racing game of the generation. I have not played a better racing game this generation whatsoever. The game is beautifully crafted, has awesome selection of cars, feels amazing, plays amazing and most importantly, it’s a ton of fun with a lot to do. If you haven’t had the chance yet, have a look at our Forza Horizon 4 review – we gave it very good score that very few games are able to obtain.

Now, as far as Sea of Thieves goes I think its one of those games that showcases how a game can go from decent game with a great concept to an amazing game with a great concept thanks to Rare and their ability to communicate with the fans and build the game together with the fans.

When I reviewed Sea of Thieves, I really wanted to give it a high score, but unfortunately I could not due to the lack of content. However, deep inside of me I knew that this game had amazing potential and last year I believe Sea of Thieves was my most played game in terms of hours. It was also one of those games that always has magical moments thanks to its emergent dynamic gameplay elements and of course your trust worthy pirate crew.

In 2018, most of my fun along with my best and favorite memories in gaming happen during my play time with Sea of Thieves. I want to give a huge shout out to Mike Chapman and Joe Neate, if you’re listening to this guys, thank you so much for not giving up on this gem of a game and I am super excited to see what you have cooking up next for Sea of Thieves, and of course the next Xbox.

Another big issue that Microsoft ran into was the constant cancellations of games, such as Scalebound and Fable Legends. The closure of Lionhead Studios did not help Microsoft’s portfolio of games for the Xbox One, either.

So what happened after all of this, where are we at now and how have the companies  progressed since their initial launch back in 2013? Let’s fast forward to late 2018 and discuss where we’re at now with both publisher giants.

Phil Spencer, the head of the Xbox division, has went out on a mission to do a complete 180 degree turn and make Xbox the best pro consumer product in the industry. Thanks to services such as Game Pass that let you play hundreds of titles for $10 bucks a month along with the promise of their 1st party exclusive being put on Game Pass as well on day 1 releases. The value is quite amazing.

Sure, Game Pass may be a great deal but what about all those cancelled games and studio closures such as Lionhead Studios and lackluster performance in games like State of Decay 2 or Crackdown 3? Well, Phil started going around the globe and seeing what studios they could buy to build up a hell of an arsenal of a gaming portfolio going into the next-generation of console cycles.

At E3 2018 last year of which I had the pleasure to attend, Microsoft announced the purchase of 5 different studios including Playground Games, Undead Labs, Ninja Theory, Compulsion Games and also The Initiative which is a brand new studio built from the ground up in Santa Monica.  Later that year in November of 2018 they announced 2 more purchases Obsidian and InXile Entertainment, which totals up to  7 new studios additions in 1 single year which is quite a massive undertaking. The total number of internal studios overall is now sitting at a solid 13.

Microsoft is also tripling down on their Project xCloud service which will allow the consumer to cloud stream majority of your gaming library to any device in your house including your PC, laptop, Android or iOS devices, such as a phone or tablet and let you play their games.

So wait, does that mean I get to play Halo Infinite and Gears of War 5 on my Android phone? Yes you can, with a controller attachment that attaches to your mobile device. But then you may ask, but isn’t the phone not powerful enough to run such games? Well, the beauty of Project xCloud is that the games are being streamed off their Azure Data centers that are equipped with proper hardware to run the games, so it doesn’t matter how old or crappy your laptop is as long as you have a solid internet connection.

But here are the issues we’re now running into – do we have good enough internet to stream such high quality games to our devices? What happens if we lose connection while were outside? Won’t the latency be an issue? What if my ISP is capping my bandwidth? How will this actually work on a global worldwide scale? And those are the concerns that majority of the industry has. However, technology does move pretty quickly these days, so its only a matter of time before we find out how everything actually pans out and the only way to find out is by waiting and experiencing Project xCloud for ourselves before we’re able to form any kind of a real opinion – we can only speculate and hope for the best at this point.

What I can say is that I do  personally think that Project xCloud and just Cloud Streaming in general is 100% the future and again its just a matter of time until technology is good enough to be usable and most importantly obtainable in an average household. It also seems that Microsoft doesn’t really care about exclusivity anymore and the world of exclusive games on consoles is slowly fading away. Back in the old days, Microsoft was always about “Only on Xbox”, but that is obviously not the case going forward. Instead, they want you to play all of their games on any platform you feel like playing. Not only is that a complete 180 turn from their original vision back in 2013, it’s also super pro consumer and it also bridges the gap with another key component for next-gen gaming which is cross-platform gaming.

In conclusion – Microsoft’s strategy is to buy out a crap ton of studios, fill out their portfolio with every game genre possible. Provide pretty much an unlimited budget to their 1st party internal studios which includes The Coalition, The Initiative, 343 Industries, Rare, Playground Games, Turn 10, Mojang, Compulsion Games, Undead Labs, Ninja Theory, Obsidian, inXile, and with more coming in the near future. We believe Microsoft has another 3 studios coming that are trying to get finalized for purchase, possibly prior to E3 including IO Interactive, Relic Entertainment and Asobo. that will make a total count up by 3 from 13 to 16 total. Let’s switch up the gears, and talk about our near and dear market leader – Sony.

Back on January 23rd, 2013 Kaz Hirai came out and said “Why go first, when your competitors can look at your specifications and come up with something better?”, only to release a small video teaser that announced a date for an event taking place in New York City on February 20th. And on that day, the PlayStation 4 was revealed. The reveal was 2 hours long, included many games such as Killzone: Shadow Fall, Knack, tech demos and most importantly the specs along with a targeted date.

The pattern here is quite hilarious, because it’s exactly the same thing what Kaz Hirai did back in 2013 when it came to PlayStation 4, except now Sony did not even show any games or disclosed when PlaySation 5 is coming out, or anything of that sorts. Instead, they confirmed the specs of the current PlayStation 5 development kits and what this system is capable of. I find this absolutely mind boggling, because not only they did not wait for Microsoft once again, but also because they literally just said what the PlayStation 5 will be capable of without announcing some sort of reveal event or anything of that sorts in the first place.

If you ask me personally, I think for a market leader this is quite a very creative and unusual strategy that works quite well, catches the fans and the whole industry by surprise, and most importantly builds up immense hype which is extremely important going forward into revealing your next-gen console.

With that out of the way, what is the PlayStation 5 actually equipped with and what does it mean for the future of the gaming industry and games going forward?

Let’s re-cap the general specs and what’s been going on with the PlayStation 5 down below before we deep dive into our next discussion

  • Mark Cerny is once again the Lead System Architect.
  • 8 core AMD 7nm Zen 2 based on third generation Ryzen.
  • Ray-tracing support with custom AMD Navi GPU.
  • Custom AMD unit for 3D Audio, also aided by ray-tracing, a big upgrade. Hot on the heels of Sony having acquired near-industry-standard AudioKinetic.
  • Extremely fast high-end custom SSD storage faster than any solution currently available for PC:
    Spider-Man load times on PS4 Pro: 15 seconds → 0.8 seconds on next-gen PlayStation. That’s ~19x faster!
    Huge practical game changer opening up for new design opportunities.
  • Technically supports 8K but Cerny demoed Spider-Man load speed improvements on a 4K screen (I would only take this as confirmation of HDMI 2.1).
  • New Virtual Reality platform strongly hinted at but also supports current PSVR (meaning millions of VR users ‘day one’).
  • Death Stranding might be a cross-gen title (speculation in article based on Cerny reply).
  • Physical Media.
  • Backwards Compatible with at least PS4 (relevant for 90+ million users).
  • Devkit is with developers and they recently accelerated its deployment.
  • Four years in development so far.
  • 2020.

Holy shit, that is a lot of exciting stuff. It seems that the PlayStation 5 is a machine that’s custom built on pretty much all of its components ranging from CPU, GPU and even a custom made SSD that is not available anywhere in the PC market, specifically designed and engineered for the PlayStation 5. This right here alone is some true next-generation stuff.

Now, I am not super fancy tech guy (even tho I do build my own PCs), so don’t expect Digital Foundry level of spec explanations, but I can tell you that the custom SSD will big a huge step forward for games in general. Loading times is something that’s been around ever since gaming existed and of course it will still exist, but the simple fact that we’re getting away with primitive mechanical hard-drives is a huge step forward for the industry as a whole.

As previously mentioned, comparing fast travel time in Spiderman on PlayStation 4 versus PlayStation 5 development kit was a 14.2 second difference in speed, and that is quite insane.  So picture this, imagine you’re playing the next Assassin’s Creed game or open world RPG that has a fast travel mechanic and when you choose to travel to that point in the world and it take’s less than 0.8 seconds to load.

That is major relief that you longer have to sit there and wait and stare at a Tip #6 screen for the 100th time while you’re trying to complete your quest, collectibles or whatever else you’re doing in the game. Now it’s quite obvious not every game will be 0.8 seconds fast of load times, that will vary from game to game, but I think for the most part the wait during load times will decrease on an astronomical level.

With the SSD out of the way, let’s talk about Backwards Compatibility and why it’s super important. Now to me personally, I don’t really care for backwards compatibility. However, I do believe it is a very important feature to have going into the next generation cycle and here is why.

An average consumer who buys a game wants to have access to his or her game at all times and that would mean in the future as well. Microsoft has done an amazing job with the Xbox One and Xbox One X when it comes backwards compatibility. Not only are both of those systems able to play Xbox 360 games, but the original Xbox games as well from the very beginning.

It’s quite an amazing feat what Microsoft was able to achieve thanks to their amazingly talented engineers and technological breakthroughs. Not only do these old-school titles play on your Xbox One X, some of them are also enhanced with better resolution and image quality and that is a fantastic bonus. Now when it comes to Sony and backwards compatibility there is really not much to say other than it’s quite lackluster. However, it is good to hear that the PlayStation 5 will be backwards compatibility with the PlayStation 4, and that is a good thing in my book.

The only issue with this is that it doesn’t seem like Sony will be attempting to bring back any kind of backwards comparability when it comes to their PlayStation 1, PlayStation 2 and PlayStation 3 titles whatsoever, instead you will be forced to either re-buy those games digitally or have access to your old systems in some shape or form as far as we know of today. Maybe they have something up their sleeves, but I highly doubt it.

I am gonna be talking about 2 more important aspects that I believe are key to next-gen gaming and that is cross-platform gaming and of course the main ingredient – the games. As we previously looked, Microsoft’s biggest struggle this past generation were the games themselves. Some of them hit the mark, but barely, and some of them just weren’t up to the standards of the previous games in the franchise, and then of course you had the cancellations of games like Scalebound. With Microsoft adding 7 new studios last year – Playground Games, Undead Labs, Ninja Theory, Compulsion Games, Obsidian, inXile Entertainment and The Initiative.

I sincerely believe that this will help them greatly in adding more games to their portfolio of already existing popular flagship franchises, such as the Forza games, Gears of War and, of course, Halo. This year Microsoft is also going to be adding more studios as well and I would not be too surprised if we see them at E3. The question still remains, however, will these games be really top notch? Will these titles be either “system” sellers for the next-generation Xbox Scarlett family or “service” sellers for things like Game Pass and Project xCloud? Only time will tell. Oh and, also keep looking out at Gaming Instincts, because we have a very nice piece coming that’s strictly dedicated to Microsoft’s future and their next possible studio purchases that we may see.

Now, let’s quickly discuss the cross-platform gaming and why its super important going forward. Back in the old days, console business thrived on exclusive deals, exclusive games  and things of that nature. However, many developers, publishers and even gamers as well now believe that gaming should be much more accessible than ever before. If a buddy of mine buys a next-generation Xbox and I don’t enjoy console gaming but I do want to play Halo Infinite, then why can’t I just buy the game and play it on my current devices with my friends? You see, and this is what Microsoft is trying to eliminate. Getting rid of mandatory system purchases to access certain games and instead open up the gate to freedom of being able to play with your friends anywhere you want as long as you are subscribed to their platform services.

Meanwhile, Sony wants to force you to buy the next-gen system to play God of War 2 or Horizon: Zero Dawn 2, and whatever else comes next. Fine, let’s say you did buy PlayStation 5 for your God of War 2 goodness, but why can’t I play the next Call of Duty game on my PlayStation 5 with my friends who are on a different platform? That to me just feels like primitive dinosaur age.

Sony has been a hard egg to crack when it comes to cross-platform gaming. As a matter of fact the Fortnite cross-platform backlash was hilarious to watch, especially where Sony were forced to flip the switch and stop coming up with silly excuses on why they do not want to allow cross-platform play of Fortnite on their system.

Overall, the moral is that cross-platform is key because we believe that its important to be connected with your gaming buddies and be able to play whatever you want and wherever you want and this is what Microsoft is aiming to do it seems going forward. However, as I said previously, will the new studio purchases pay off for them in return? Can they deliver killer app titles? How powerful will the next Xbox be compared to PlayStation 5 and will it be able to compete on same technology level since we now know what Sony is cooking up. Hopefully, E3 2019 will answer some of the questions when Microsoft do their E3 2019 Media Briefing.

As far as Sony goes, I am pretty confident in hardware from what we’ve seen a few days ago. As a matter of fact I am quite surprised at how powerful it seems. And as far as the games go, I am not really worried about that either, since Sony has a good track record of very high quality of game exclusives. On the other hand, I do think that a system that’s not fully backward compatible with 3 previous generations and limited cross-platforming might bite them in ass as well, at least in some shape or form. However, we are not 100% sure yet what’s happening with cross-platforming since no official words were really said in regards to that particular matter so we can only assume and speculate for now.

The titan clash has officially begun ladies and gentlemen and this is the one that I am really looking forward to covering, experiencing and most importantly anticipating too see what’s happening next. This is the calm before the storm, and the storm will be quite a big one. Stay tuned for more next-gen news and coverage here at Gaming Instincts.