The Xbox Series X and PS5 launched last year, and while stock of both consoles has been scarce, gamers are still waging war over which console is best on social media. Microsoft's console seems to be getting the brunt of the flack, with digs about the Xbox Series X appearing in response to stock tracker alerts; not that we should pay any mind to what internet strangers are spewing on social media.
But Microsoft has been playing the long game, and while Sony has been continuing to line up exclusives – a winning formula that made the PS4 a huge success – it's been getting its ducks in a row and is emerging as the best place to play this generation.
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The Xbox Series X was set to launch with Halo Infinite but the game was delayed because it wasn't quite up to scratch. There wasn't much else in the way of console exclusives compared to the PS5, and while Game Pass allows players to access a huge catalogue of games, the value was questionable for those who don't want to replay old games and are interested in the new big releases.
Meanwhile, Sony's been dropping hot PS5 exclusive titles like Returnal, and Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart, and has even more in store with Horizon Forbidden West, and God Of War: Ragnarok. But that might not be enough anymore, now that Microsoft's plan is starting to come together.
Xbox Series X exclusives
Phil Spencer has historically been pretty vocal about how he doesn't approve of shutting out gamers from accessing content, but that ethos was left by the wayside with the ZeniMax Media deal. Microsoft finalised the acquisition of Bethesda's parent company earlier this year, and as a result, wields the ultimate power in dictating which platforms its future games will release on. Of course, there are existing deals in place that the deal won't affect, like Deathloop, and Ghostwire: Tokyo for PS5.
But with franchises like Dishonored, The Elder Scrolls, Fallout, Wolfenstein, DOOM, and the new Starfield under its umbrella, Microsoft has the power to restrict subsequent entries to its own platform. I love my PS5, but I also absolutely adore a couple series on the list here, and if they weren't available for PlayStation players, I wouldn't be content to simply miss out.
Gamers who have grown up playing Bethesda titles are going to be faced with a tough choice; in fact Microsoft has already dropped the bombshell that Starfield will be an Xbox exclusive. People have been waiting for it for years, so it wasn't ideal for those of us who had already invested in a PS5. But ultimately, there's not a lot to be done other than having a gripe about it before bookmarking an Xbox Series X stock tracker.
The Starfield announcement was the first time I seriously considered jumping on the Xbox Series X bandwagon, but as the weeks have progressed, it's just looking more and more appealing.
And now we're hearing that Microsoft and Hideo Kojima have signed a letter of intent indicating they're working out the details for a publishing agreement for a new Xbox game. Big things are happening for Xbox in terms of exclusives now, and it's becoming harder to ignore.
Xbox Game Pass
Sony's PS Now has a way to go before it catches up with Xbox Game Pass. Now that the Xbox Series X has hit the market, the true value of the subscription service is becoming increasingly hard to ignore.
PS4 and PS5 players can access a library of games on their consoles, but PS Now doesn't include PlayStation Plus, and brand new games aren't dropping on the service on day one.
Meanwhile, Game Pass has a massive library of games, offers bundled subscription options that include Xbox Live Gold, and more importantly, AAA titles are available at launch as part of your monthly fee.
Why spend £60 on a new PS5 game, when you can spend $9.99 (opens in new tab) / £7.99 (opens in new tab) / AU$10.96 (opens in new tab) per month to access a slew of existing titles as well as new ones as soon as they release. And if you want to chuck in Xbox Live Gold membership, you can for $14.99 (opens in new tab) / £10.99 (opens in new tab) / AU$15.95 (opens in new tab) per month.
Xbox Game Pass is better value for money, side-by-side, offers flexible bundles, and the addition of brand new games being included and ready to play at launch is the icing on the cake.
Free Xbox Series X upgrades on Xbox One games
In the runup to the Xbox Series X and PS5 launch, there was a lot of chatter around how game upgrades would be handled; if you've already purchased a title once on PS4 or Xbox One, will you have to buy it again on next-gen consoles?
The answer mostly lies with the publishers, but the perception of the situation is very much tipping in favor of the Xbox Series X. The marketing of Smart Delivery, which allows gamers to insert a disc and be presented with the upgraded version if available, has gone a long way towards that. Eligible titles are labelled as such on the box, but if a publisher hasn't signed up, then you're stuck paying extra for the pleasure.
Publishers still seem to be working out the best approach, but are ticking off the various camps in the process. The latest debacle has been with Greedfall. PS Plus members who downloaded the game have gotten official word (opens in new tab) that the "free version obtained by the PS+ subscription is not eligible for the free upgrade to the PS5 version." However, gamers who downloaded the title via Xbox Game Pass will be getting an Xbox Series X upgrade for free.
This situation is still pretty muddled as everyone finds their footing, but in terms of the easiest way to access next-gen upgrades with minimal fuss, the Xbox Series X has the PS5 beat.