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A Console War Like No Other

Consoles Image courtesy of Tom’s Guide

A few days ago, the PlayStation team took to YouTube to share a tear down video of the new PlayStation 5. This struck me as a bit odd but, after wathcing it, I can see why they did it now.

The PlayStation 5 was touted as having expandable storage, and an ability to position the device either vertically or hoizontally. This video not only shows you a, quite fascinating, look inside the hardware, but it details just how you would go about expanding the storage. The relevant part of the video can be seen below:

Yep, that’s right, the folks at Sony are showing customers how to crack their brand new PS5’s open and to expand the storage. A screwdriver’s even required to enable the ability to lay the PS5 on its side.

In true console wars fashion, the Xbox community were quick to troll their competition:

Every product designer must, at some point, experience a conflict between form and function. Love it or loathe it, PS5 is certainly a pretty unique design. Because of this, however, they’re expecting users to bust open their consoles to expand the storage. The Xbox, on the other hand, features a pretty dull looking monolithic tower design, however this affords it an ability to change it’s orientation simply and storage can be increased by just slotting in a new storage card. On the face of it, the two companies have taken the opposite approach to each other when it comes to design. Sony opted for form, Microsoft function.

The issue with Microsoft’s option, however, is that it requires a proprietary expansion card, currently only available from Seagate. Because of this, it’s certainly not a cheap option. This then makes it seem Sony’s version, whilst a bit more of a fiddle, is actually a bit more customer friendly. Or at least wallet friendly. That is, until you look into it a bit more. I looked into this a bit more, and found an interesting article on the topic, which stated:

Wondering why Sony haven’t announced any compatible drives yet? That’s because the PS5 will require drives that meet it’s expected performance levels that current drives simply do not meet.

So the storage for the PS5 is going to be expensive, and be avaialble only from a limited set of sources? So … essentially proprietary?

My hot take on this is that, whilst standard > proprietary, most users would prefer the simplicity of just inserting an expansion card, even at a higher cost, than opening up their console. I’m sure the parents of the kids that get one this Christmas would also prefer to spend a bit more than to hand little Timmy a screwdriver at let him have at it.

The whole console wars thing seems like a bit of a falacy these days. Console choices are much like mobile phone choices for many people. If you’re only going to get one, you’re likely already fairly embeded into a camp by now, and an extra screw here or there isn’t going to affect your feelings one way or another. If you’re in a lucky enough position to get more than one, you’ll get both.

This generation, more than any before it, feels like the coming together of two quite differing philosophies. The PlayStation is very much a console. By this, I mean that it’s following the usual console flow. Some old games work, some don’t, Sony are focusing on new experiences and doing what Sony generally do in that they’re keen to look forward, not back. They want you on the new console, buying new £70 games. Business as usual. Microsoft, on the other hand, seem to not really care if you buy the new Xbox. I don’t mean they don’t care, but the hardware isn’t really the focus. Microsft want you bought into GamePass, and for you to play these games across any compatible system, be it the Series X, One S, or even a PC. While they will be offering exclusives, their main selling point has been that you have access to your entire back catalogue, and hundreds of games via GamePass. This generation Xbox is, bascially, a PC at this point. Just another system to play your games on. If you’re paying them for GamePass, have at it anywhere you can.

The PS5 is being pushed as the future, the next big experience for PlayStation fans, and that’s certainly what it is. The Xbox Series X, however, is more like buying an upgrade to your PC you’ve been running for years. Whilst it opens up new experiences and gaming possibilities, it also makes the huge catalogue of games you’ve accrued in the past just run and look even better. It’s an interesting difference in ideologies.

With so many games right now vying for my, and your, attention, the Microsoft model is extremely compelling to me. It seems to also be building a lot of traction elsewhere also. Sony are continuing their (winning) PlayBook and Microsft are taking an interesting new approach. For all intents and purposes Sony won the last console war. This time around, however, the war is no more. Both companies have put forward their approach and Microsoft are taking a punt in a completely different direction. To me, the Microsoft approach is a view of the future, and it’s one I think Sony doesn’t have the cash reserves to compete with in the same way.

This is certainly going to be an interesting console generation to keep an eye on.