It has been about five years now since the release of Microsoft’s and Sony’s flagship consoles, the Xbox One and Playstation 4, respectively. In other words, the launch versions of both companies’ hardware are still operating based on technology that is half a decade old. Despite this, both Sony and Microsoft have made efforts to ensure that they offer more powerful options to consumers. In the case of Sony, this took the form of the Playstation 4 Pro, which introduced a faster and more powerful unit that delivered better in-game performance and was capable of 4K gaming, as well as HDR. As for Microsoft, it too released a more powerful Xbox One, the Xbox One X, which is around 4.5 times more powerful than the original Xbox One. Though these upgrades were significant, it is becoming increasingly evident that both companies are preparing for the capabilities of their next generation consoles.
During their E3 2018 presentation, Microsoft announced that it is currently designing the system architecture for the next generation of Xbox consoles. Also worth noting is that the team working on the project is the same team that built the Xbox One X, which is an indication that if anything, consumers and fans should be expecting a very powerful console. What is interesting, though, is that head of Xbox, Phil Spencer, had mentioned that the teams have been designing multiple consoles, as opposed to the previously traditionally singular one. This information led to rumors and speculation discussed by Windows Central, who revealed that they had heard Microsoft was indeed working on two console variations. The first of which is codenamed “Lockheart” which is supposedly positioned as a modest upgrade to the current Xbox One X that will feature a lower price point in an attempt to provide an option for more casual gamers. The other device is known as “Anaconda,” and is said to be a true upgrade to the Xbox One X for dedicated fans, with a higher price point than “Lockheart.”
Microsoft is also expanding its console market in the form of their “Project xCloud” which will expand the Xbox game library to virtually any device with streaming capabilities. This project, akin to Google’s “Stadia” project, will take some time to get off the ground, but it is clear that Microsoft has a good idea of where it would like to head in the future with its games division.
Sony’s future plans happen to be much more straightforward than Microsoft’s. In fact, Sony has already revealed a lot of what they plan on offering with the Playstation 5, at least in terms of power. The PS5 will feature an SSD storage system, backwards compatibility with all PS4 games and PSVR hardware, and support for 8K TVs. Though there will certainly be more specs than what has been revealed thus far, what has been announced already is enticing. With the new SSD storage system, the console will be able to load games up to nineteen times faster than the PS4. This will allow, for example, transitions in open world titles like Spider-Man to load in a single second on the Playstation 5, whereas on a PS4, loading would take about fifteen seconds minimum.
Both Sony and Microsoft appear to have set plans for where they would like to take their console markets. Microsoft is focused on broadening its scope to be more inclusive of both casual and dedicated game fans, while also eventually planning to have a streaming service allowing for almost anyone to play its content. Sony’s plans are still rather ambiguous, but it has at least provided information about how powerful the console will be. Boasting incredibly fast loading times, coupled with full backwards compatibility as well as support for extremely high resolution games, it feels like Sony is taking the right steps to carry over as much of its current PS4 user base as possible. How successful both companies will find themselves after enacting their plans is currently unknown, but what can be said for sure is that the next console generation looks as though it will be quite interesting and different from previous ones. Analysts have been predicting the “death of consoles” for years, believing that both PC gaming and streaming services would soon dominate the market. Microsoft having plans to create its own streaming service would play nicely into that idea, if it were not for the fact that it will simultaneously continue offering physical consoles as well. As technology inevitably improves with the release of the new consoles, it is still questionable as to how reliable an alternative streaming service will be, but only time will tell.