Games Inbox: Who is winning the next gen consoles war?

The Friday Inbox is keen to see how Spider-Man 2 compares to the PS4 original, as one reader throws doubt on how much difference a SSD makes.

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The end of the beginning
So, whatever you thought of that Sony livestream I guess that counts as the opening salvo in the next gen wars. It’s all happening a bit later that we thought, but now we know the tech specs of both machines (for all the good that ever does) and now it’s only the interesting stuff: the games, the price, and the release date.

But judging them both by how they’re doing I think the advantage is currently with Xbox Series X. Their reveals so far haven’t been all that much but it’s all been positive and I think the only negative has been the stupid name. But the console itself looks interesting, the trailer for Hellblade 2 was impressive, and on paper the specs are better than Sony.

All Sony has really done is go on about the SSD, which Xbox also has, and some stuff about changing frequencies and 3D audio that I didn’t understand (haven’t we had 3D audio for years?). Their refusal to show any games is starting to get weird and that livestream definitely left them with a lot of publicity.

Add in Xbox Game Pass and the promise of Project xCloud I’d say the Xbox is definitely in the lead so far. Obviously the games are the important thing, and that is Microsoft’s weakness, but I think they’ll be please with how the first battle went.

Strange start
Am I alone in finding Mark Cerny’s talk on the PlayStation 5’s new hardware design choices really quite fascinating? It’s not often you hear from the chief architect about the exact choices they made and why they made them. Or, I should say, it’s not often we find ourselves tuning in to those sort of talks (as GC said yesterday, that’s why we’re not game developers).

For example, I found the explanation of the choice of SSD very interesting (in that it makes adding more RAM less important), the reasons for the strange 825MB hard disk size, and the compromise they had to make in relation to power consumption and heat emission. Game design itself might change when new assets can be loaded in at 5GB a second on the fly; critics have even talked about having to slow down some transitions, like fast travel.

It’s incredible what goes into computing architecture that we, generally, take for granted.
Owen Pile (NongWen – PSN ID)

GC: The talk was certainly interesting for its intended audience. The question is whether it was wise to have that be the first public event centred around the PlayStation 5.

Nice games
I’m surprised to find myself really looking forward to Animal Crossing: New Horizons today. I’ve played the DS one a bit but didn’t really find it to be my sort of thing, despite my girlfriend really getting into it. The excellent review for New Horizons got me interested again though and in particular the idea that this was a nice happy game about doing whatever you want, which is obviously quite the escapist fantasy at the moment.

I’m sure I’m not the only either and clearly this is the game of the moment. Although it highlights just how few ‘nice’ games there really are. I bet Stardew Valley downloads have seen an uptick too, but beyond that what are you looking at? Minecraft I guess, although that’s actually got enemies that can kill you.

Something like Ori And The Blind Forest has a positive message but it’s still a game about fighting and winning. I think the most violent thing in Animal Crossing is that you can go fishing. There’s a balance to be made here and I think it’s obvious games companies aren’t getting it.

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Passing interest
I don’t get the impression from that interview that Valve and Gabe Newell are really that interested in getting back into video games at all. He doesn’t seem to care that only a tiny percentage of people will be able to play Half-Life: Alyx and all that stuff about The Matrix just makes it seems like he’d rather be experimenting in a laboratory somewhere than making video games.

I mean that’s fine, you do you, but couldn’t he employ some people that did like video games and have them make new games? That could’ve happened 10 years ago, with a proper Half-Life 3, and there wouldn’t have been this huge gap.

I agree that most modern gamers have probably no idea what Half-Life and Portal is and I think Valve are going to be a bit upset when they find out they have to build the recognition up almost from scratch. It all seems so needless.

Fast but no cigar
I’m find all this talk of SSDs as if they’re some sort of magic bullet a bit weird. SSDs have been available for years on PCs and while they’re certainly faster than a hard drive they’re not THAT much faster. I have a nasty feeling that this is going to prove to be more next gen hype and when people get it they’ll see it doesn’t really make that much difference.

I suppose you could argue that since they’re also on consoles current games aren’t being designed with them in mind, so there’ll be less elevator animations and the like, but I can tell you just starting a game up and loading in a save isn’t instantaneous, it’s just… fast.

Obviously a Spider-Man 2 game goes without saying, so I’ve no idea whether that leak is true, but it sounds about what I’d expect. On the one hand I’m not looking forward to it being set in New York again but on the other I think it will be an interesting comparison to make between the two games.

If the sequel ends up looking like just a remaster of the original then it’ll say something about the power of the PlayStation 5. If there’s a big difference, and all this stuff about ray-tracing is obvious, then it could be a big win for Sony.

I really don’t know why they didn’t try to illustrate anything with videos or something in the livestream. I’m not sure what all this secrecy is supposed to gain them, because at the moment everyone just seems kind of annoyed with them.

Infinite space
I know SSD are expensive, but for next gen consoles 1TB feels like nothing.

Xbox One games can go above 100GB each, so unless they’ve found ways to drastically shrink games down (file size wise), you’ll barely get much change after eight AAA titles.
ttfp saylow (gamertag)
Now playing: Pikuniku and Superhot

GC: How many games are you really playing at once?

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Storage costs
Now that we have the specs for both the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X it is good to see that we’re getting consoles that seem to be a bigger leap technologically than the current gen is to the previous. My concern is with the storage and that the Series X remains at 1TB and the PlayStation 5 at 825GB. I understand that making storage larger will increase the base cost and I appreciate that you will be able to buy proprietary storage separately, but this in itself is expected to be expensive.

I’m also aware that you can use a current hard drive but my understanding of this – I’m no tech expert so correct me if I’m wrong – is that it would be purely to store and not being able to run the games meaning you’d have to transfer them back and forward between drive and console.

What I’m getting at is that the game sizes themselves will be massive, I recently downloaded Final Fantasy 15 which was over 100GB and this is a five-year-old game and while the current average is around 40GB it’s more than likely that the 100GB+ is going to be the norm with first year games let alone games in three to four years’ time when the full power is being harnessed. This doesn’t even factor in the back catalogue/current games that takes up the space on my current PS4 Pro and Xbox One X.

I’ve said before that I’ve never had a gaming PC but the possible cost implications of the next gen consoles with additional drives is suddenly making it very appealing as a high-end rig would be comparable in price.

GC: There’s not really anything anyone can do about the basic cost of hardware. We’re sure there’ll be additional models with more storage in years to come but they’re going to be more expensive as a result.

Inbox also-rans
With so many of us having to stay at home just now I’ve decided that today is going to be a classics day. This morning is all about Alex Kidd In Miracle World and this afternoon will be all about Sonic Chaos. My advice in times of uncertainty? Bust out the classics!
Owen Hollifield

If I had to play a game of Top Trumps that my life depended on, I’d choose to play versus Sony.
Bad Edit

This week’s Hot Topic
The question for this weekend’s Inbox was suggested by reader Gifford, who asks you to imagine your ideal next gen sequel.

Take any game or franchise that already exists and imagine it for the PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X. How would it differ from current versions and how would it take advantage of the superior graphics and faster load times? What other features do you hope it will have and what would’ve been impossible in the current gen?

How likely do you think what you’ve suggested is? What are you most excited about in the next gen: sequels or brand new titles that haven’t been announced yet?

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The small print
New Inbox updates appear every weekday morning, with special Hot Topic Inboxes at the weekend. Readers’ letters are used on merit and may be edited for length.

You can also submit your own 500 to 600-word Reader’s Feature at any time, which if used will be shown in the next available weekend slot.

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