You don’t need an Xbox One X, but you do need a PlayStation 5

You don’t need an Xbox One X, but you do need a PlayStation 5

But this is just one piece of the puzzle. I also enjoy examining the shifting strengths of the Xbox and PlayStation systems (and sometimes Nintendo or Stadia or PC). What made the PS4 such a compelling and obvious choice during the previous console generation was, at least in part, the myriad weaknesses of the Xbox One.

Every now and then I poke the bear with some pro-Xbox or pro-PlayStation articles. I admit this upfront. You can call it clickbait if it helps you sleep at night. I think it’s interesting to see how fans react in defense of multi-billion dollar corporations and these corporations’ gadgets, games and other products. I don’t recommend tying too much of your identity to a game or a console or a comic book character, but I get that we live in such a time. Fandom is what it is, for good or for ill.

What makes the PS5 less clearly the console winner right now is just how far Microsoft has come since then. Gone are the days of online-only nonsense, or overt assaults on used games. Microsoft and Sony both realized that a softer touch could achieve similar results without all the bad PR. The Xbox Series X is a great console that places games front and center in much the same way that the PS4 did back in 2013, as Microsoft stumbled and bumbled in its messaging, displaying a bizarre lack of understanding of the video game market and consumers. The Xbox Series X, like the PS4, is a sober, no-frills machine. It gets the job done.

Then there’s Xbox Game Pass, which I’ve argued recently makes it a very attractive option for gamers over the PS5. But, I would argue that despite all the great strides that the Xbox team has made, despite how great Xbox Game Pass is and Xbox All Access and all the savvy acquisitions of game studios both large and small, and despite the fact that you won’t be able to play major releases like Starfield on PS5—despite all of this, the PlayStation 5 is still the console to beat. I have two reasons for this. They go hand-in-hand.

First, at least for the time being there are a number of games that you simply cannot play anywhere else. Sure, we’ve seen some pretty big PS4 games land on PC recently. Horizon Zero Dawn, Death Stranding, and Days Gone have all come to PC. But they came long after their original PS4 releases and they still comprise just a small slice of Sony’s exclusive offerings.

For the PS5 generation, so far we have Demon’s Souls, Returnal and Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart and each of these titles is an absolute gem. More major releases are on the way, like Horizon Forbidden West. Demon’s Souls Remake is simply stunning, taking one of the best PS3 games and giving it new life without sacrificing a single smidgeon of what made the original so great. Returnal is an exciting new roguelike with brilliant level and enemy design, challenging, fluid combat and a fascinating story. Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart may be the best-looking video game ever to come to a console, and it’s a blast to play.

Despite all of Microsoft’s acquisitions, for now at least Sony still has the very best games (again, leaving aside Nintendo for the time being). It will take a great deal of time and effort for Microsoft to bridge the gap, and even then, well, my second reason rears its ugly head.

The fact of the matter is, you simply do not need an Xbox. The Xbox itself is almost an after-thought at this point, as Microsoft makes its slow transition away from a hardware-centered ecosystem. Between Xbox Game Pass and Xbox Cloud Gaming, as well as the dual PC/Xbox release for many exclusives, you can play a vast number of Xbox titles on your PC, tablet, phone or even refrigerator. Sure, you’ll still want an Xbox if you don’t have a gaming PC or don’t really care to play on a tablet or don’t have the internet speeds to make cloud gaming viable, but the trend overall is away from being tethered to the Xbox itself.

This makes the PS5 intrinsically more valuable in the same way a Nintendo Switch is more valuable, since you generally can’t play PS5 games everywhere on everything (PS Now is an option, of course, but it’s much less robust; Sony isn’t trying to match Microsoft’s strategy at this point). If you have Xbox Game Pass but not an Xbox you can still play a wide array of Xbox games. So why not get a PS5? In an era where cross-play between platforms is more and more common, this makes even more sense since barriers to playing popular games like Call of Duty or Fortnite with friends are less of an issue. In some ways, my article on why you should buy an Xbox Series X was really just a somewhat sneaky way of arguing that you should subscribe to Xbox Game Pass. That’s the real product Microsoft is selling, far more than the console itself. It’s an awkward dichotomy—PS5 vs Xbox Game Pass—but perhaps a more accurate one.

Of course, you can’t go wrong with either. I have both. Both are great systems. There are some irritating things about the PS5 that I don’t experience on my Xbox Series X, but nothing so horrible that it would sway me one way or another. Ultimately, it’s a matter of taste. Which gamepad do you prefer? Which UI is more pleasing to the eye? These are subjective qualities. I like the PS5’s UI more, the Xbox gamepad more (despite the DualSense’s impressive haptic feedback). The real trick, of course, is finding one to actually buy. On that front, go with God.

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