It is no secret that the PlayStation 4 was the dominant console this generation. As of 2019 the Xbox one X has sold slightly over 41 million units while the Playstation 4 has climbed well over 90 million units sold since its release. The higher price point of the Xbox One, lack of exclusive titles, and forcing players to bundle with the kinect ー that has since faded away ー were some of the major contributing factors to this difference in sales. As next generation consoles rapidly approach it is possible that the Xbox Series X will now suffer a similar outcome as new leaks hint the Xbox Series X will launch with a major fatal flaw.
The Power of Solid State Drives
One feature that both Microsoft and Sony were quick to boast about were the inclusion of a dedicated solid state drive. This piece of hardware is vital to most current gen systems as it is responsible for how quickly games can load and how quickly assets can be processed in a game in real time. A prime example of the power of solid state drives were shown during a management meeting with Sony. During the meeting, Wall Street Journal reporter Takashi Mochizuki released footage of the recent Spider-Man game running on both the PlayStation 4 and the PlayStation 5. During the demo load times and render speeds were recorded. On the PlayStation 4, the game took approximately 8 seconds to load into the world. Comparatively the PS5 version took under 1 second to load that same scene. While testing rendering, the camera panned across the map at incredibly high speeds. Intermittently throughout the camera would pause and it is visible to see the buildings not fully rendered or items at a distance “popping” in to view. When showcasing the power of the PlayStation 5, the camera was able to move at even higher speeds while still keeping full detail when it stopped.
Sony's official video comparing performance of PS4 Pro vs next-gen PlayStation pic.twitter.com/2eUROxKFLq
— Takashi Mochizuki (@6d6f636869) May 21, 2019
For both next generation consoles, the speed at which games will be able to load is going to be a major selling point. More importantly, it will change how developers approach game development due to the systems ability to load resources off of the solid state drive faster than it ever could on a mechanical drive. Recent leaks, however, suggest that the Xbox Series X may be using a budget solid state drive which could severely impact its power capabilities compared to the PlayStation 5.
Xbox Series X Vs. Playstation 5 Performance
In a recent leak from a former phison employee, it was detailed the SSD controller that was installed into the Xbox Series X only supports sequential read/write speeds equivalent to a standard PCIe 3.0 NVMe drive. The read and write speeds of the SSD in use were 3,700MB/s and 3,000MB/s respectively. By comparison, Sony has been boasting that the Playstation 5 will be faster than any current PC which has led people to believe that it will be incorporating a PCle 4.0 SSD from Samsung. Most recently at CCS 2020 Samsung demonstrated their new 980 pro incorporating 6,500MB/s read and 5,000MB/s write speeds. This does coincide directly with Sony’s claims. For those that may be lost in some of the jargon, the key idea is larger numbers are better.
It is important to note that this information is coming from a developer edition of the Xbox Series X which means there is a possibility for them to change hardware before its final debut. However, in the past the final products have always been slightly more underpowered than dev kits. This allows developers to have more wiggle room when experimenting with new systems. Given the nature of the Xbox Series X, it is also possible that the hardware in this specific model is weaker than that of other versions that will be available at launch. The name “Series X” hints at the fact there will be multiple models available at different price points each with different hardware. Similar to shopping for a pre-built PC.
If this leak is in fact true, however, it could spell major disaster for the next gen Xbox. With speeds that are about half of what is capable in the PlayStation 5 games will need to be developed independently for each system. Third party developers will be left with a choice to develop the game utilizing these read and write speeds or to cater to the lower powered systems. It is not as simple as turning down some graphical settings if the games were developed to rely on these higher read and write speeds. As a result, Xbox gamers may be left with a significantly different experience than what is offered on the PlayStation, or there may be an increase in platform exclusives.
Playstation 5 & Xbox Series X Price Rumors
More recently, it would seem as though Sony is waiting for Xbox to make the first move in announcing prices. In order to remain competitive, Sony is looking to release at the lowest possible competitive price just underneath that of the Xbox Series X. Sony CFO Hiroki Totoki stated recently, “What is not very clear or visible, it’s because we are competing in the space. So it’s very difficult to discuss anything about the price at this point of time. And depending upon the price level, we may have to determine the promotion that we are going to deploy and how much cost we are prepared to pay. So it’s a question of balance.”
In other words, Sony will respond accordingly to where the competition (meaning Microsoft) prices their system. Totoki continues stating, “we will definitely choose the optimal approach, and that we would try to have the best balance, so that, we will be profitable in the life — during, the life of this product.”
Rumors have speculated next generation consoles will be priced anywhere from $400 to $700 USD based on the hardware that will be inside. For many gamers, a lower price alone will be able to sway consumers from purchasing one console or the other. The most likely price point is around the $500 price point, and Sony may try to upend Microsoft by releasing their console as much as $100 cheaper than the Xbox Series X. It would not be the first time that console manufacturers took a loss on console sales. According to Investopia, “In 2006, at the time of PS3’s launch, each console was sold at a loss of around US $240 per console, while the Xbox 360 lost around US $125 per console when it launched in 2005.” Subsequently, it would not be a surprise to see Sony take even as much as $50 off of the PlayStation 5 in order to beat out Microsoft with the goal of making that revenue through game sales. With many highly anticipated exclusives rumored to be appearing on the PlayStation such as God of War II, Spider-Man 2, and even a new Ratchet & Clank title, Sony has mastered their exclusive lineup. Being able to boast a more powerful console at a cheaper cost would only solidify PlayStation’s advantage over the Xbox Series X.