Microsoft has done an excellent job of marketing the upcoming Xbox Series X, but even the smallest error could be costly. Its recent Xbox Series X gameplay showcase on Inside Xbox wasn't much of a gameplay showcase at all. I think Sony now has the perfect opportunity to use this flub to its advantage, actually showcasing what the PlayStation 5 can do for next-gen games — it just needs to do so before Microsoft.
Show me what the PS5 means for next-gen games.
Rumors peg a supposed PS5 reveal blowout on June 4th or sometime in the beginning to middle of next month. Personally, I would like to at least see Sony reveal the design much sooner, but Sony's focus right now should be making sure that this June event is spectacular, and demonstrating just what the PS5 brings to the table. Show me what can't be done on current-gen consoles. Convince me why I need to upgrade. If it's just for a slight bump in resolution and a higher frame rate, Sony'll need to do much better than that. I have high hopes that the SSD it's packing will be a game-changer, I just need to see it in action. Show me what the PS5 means for gameplay more than what it means for graphics.
Demonstrating how it affects first-party games would be even better. With Horizon Zero Dawn 2 reportedly in the works, let's see how Sony's portfolio can leverage that tech. PlayStation arguably has the superior first-party catalog, and many of its heavy-hitters strive to deliver photorealistic graphics with mature storylines and polished single-player campaigns.
My Windows Central colleague Jez Corden wrote a great piece on what went wrong with Microsoft's Xbox Series X event — which wasn't even bad — and I completely agree with him. The challenges of putting together an event like that during the COVID-19 pandemic is immense and unimaginable, but that doesn't excuse the poor promotion. Expectations were set by the team over at Xbox that it failed to meet. This wasn't a simple case of players building unwarranted hype, though you could argue that it affected the reception to a certain extent. You can't scream "gameplay showcase" from the hilltops and not show actual gameplay demos.
You can't scream "gameplay showcase" from the hilltops and not show actual gameplay demos.
It's also important to remember that the recent Xbox Series X showcase wasn't the big one. It was just a small teaser for what's to come. Microsoft has much grander plans over the summer, including an event in July that will reveal what all 15 of its developers under the Xbox Game Studios banner are working on.
Microsoft is already far ahead of Sony when it comes to next-gen promotion. Regardless of whether you felt the latest Inside Xbox was disappointing or not, it's at least something. Sony hasn't given us anything to go by other than a tech talk meant for GDC and the design of the DualSense controller, which was apparently revealed earlier than the console itself because Sony was worried that third-party developers would leak it.
There's a lot to be said about being able to control the narrative surrounding your device. Leaks only lead to more questions than answers, enabling opportunities for false information to spread like wildfire. As it stands, Sony's silence is already leading people to believe that it wasn't prepared for how powerful the Xbox Series X is — and that could be true. Sony's success with the PS4 could have absolutely led to complacency and the company underestimating Xbox. It's specs are weaker — though not weak by any means — in several crucial factors, of that there's no denying.
COVID-19 likely threw a wrench in Sony's marketing plans for the PlayStation 5, but it's still odd that the company is willing to let Microsoft make so much noise without much of a response. With everyone working from home and communicating remotely, it's understandable that an inevitable announcement was pushed back. But if Microsoft can navigate these unknown waters, surely Sony can too.
Despite the pandemic, both Sony and Microsoft plan to release their next-gen consoles this holiday. While industry analysts have predicted delays, it appears that the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X are still on track for 2020. AMD even ramped up chip supply since both machines will be powered by AMD GPUs and CPUs.
Now whether anticipated launch games will end up being delayed is an entirely different story.