Xbox Scarlett and PS5 are the upcoming next-generation consoles from Microsoft and Sony. It is common for fans to speculate which one is going to be better than the other even when there is little to no information available.
Microsoft confirmed some of the specifications of the Xbox Scarlett at E3 2019. Before that Mark Cerny talked about some of the features of the upcoming PS5. From what we have heard so far, both seem pretty similar but AMD Lisa Su has confirmed that both have their own secret sauce.
So there could be something behind the scenes that could potentially set them apart. At this point, we do not know what that is.
Various media outlets have been claiming that the PS4 will be more powerful than the Xbox Scarlett but that seems unlikely to me and here I am going to talk about why that is the case.
Why Xbox Scarlett Will Be More Power Than PS5
The Xbox One X was just a proof of concept. Microsoft is yet to reveal what it has actually been working on. I think that the Xbox One X was a way of making a point. It is the worlds most powerful console right now and I do not see why Microsoft would want to let go of such a powerful position in the market.
The Xbox One X Is Proof Of Concept
The Xbox One X cost $100 more than the PS4 Pro but also delivered better performance. It provided a performance boost of 40% for just $100 more, compared to the PS4 Pro. It is also quieter and runs much cooler.
The Xbox One X is proof that Microsoft can deliver great performance in a small box and even add features like a Blu-Ray player that you do not get on the PS4 Pro.
The PS4 Pro is a bare minimum machine that can run only a few titles at native 4K and needs to rely on trickery like checkerboard scaling in order to deliver better image quality. It is also worth mentioning that the PS4 Pro is only capable or recording gameplay at one-fourth of the quality when compared to the Xbox One X.
The PS4 Pro runs much hotter, makes more noise and does not deliver the level of quality that Xbox One X is capable of. I know that Sony has tweaked its formula with different versions of the Pro and the latest one runs cooler but that is still not impressive when compared to the Xbox One X, which did all that much better at launch.
Marketing Is More Than Just Buzz Words
Microsoft marketed the Xbox One X as the most powerful console on the market and it delivered on that promise. Now, Phil Spencer and Matt Booty have claimed that the Xbox Scarlett with be the most immersive and most powerful console on the market.
From what we have seen and heard of, Microsoft seems to be targeting performance first and price later. Sony, on the other hand, is more than likely targeting price first and performance second.
I have no doubt that the PS5 and Xbox Scarlett will both be able to hit 4K 60 FPS at least. Even the PS4 Pro is able to hit 4K in some titles but Xbox Scarlett will be able to go the extra mile. This is why it is going to be and is marketed as the most immersive console.
It is also worth mentioning that Sony has not made any claims of developing a better console that is more powerful. It is marketing storage and speed. Microsoft, on the other hand, has reassured the fans time and time again that the Xbox Scarlett will set the bar for console gaming and that it will be the benchmark to beat.
Microsoft has claimed the power advantage multiple times at E3 2019 and after that. Sony has only talked about the SSD and loading times.
The $400 Console Price Model
Both companies are going to deliver all these specs in a price range of around $400. Sony cannot afford to stuff beefier hardware in order to take on Xbox Scarlett because the $400 price model has worked out well for Sony in the past.
Better hardware would add to the cost and it is highly unlikely that Sony is going to sell the PS5 at a major loss. Analysts have predicted that the PS5 and Xbox Scarlett will cost around $500. This is not something unheard of and this is what we hear whenever a new console is around the corner.
We are going to talk about the pricing of games later on and this topic is similar, so are not going to touch on that here. Xbox boss Phil Spencer has already mentioned that the Xbox Scarlett is going to be reasonably priced and I think that it will cost similar to the Xbox One X.
Dev Kits Might Not Be Out, Are Not relevant
We have heard rumors that PS5 dev kits have been sent out but Phil Spencer has mentioned that it is working on dev kits at the moment. With the console 18 months away from launch, I do not think that devs outside of Microsoft Studios have access to the hardware.
So I do not see how claims of the PS5 being more powerful are being made and what the PS5 is being compared to if dev kits are not even out yet. If a comparison is made then the PS5 is being compared to the Xbox One X, which is not fair.
It is also worth noting that dev kits do not represent the final product. These usually have higher specs than the units that are shipped to the public. So a comparison does not make any sense.
Albert Penella has confirmed that dev kits are not comparable as the custom chips that power the Xbox Scarlett will not be finalized until Summer 2020. He also mentioned that Mac’s were sent as dev kits for the Xbox 360 so they mean very little at this point.
Ray Tracing Behind The Scenes
Microsoft has confirmed that ray tracing will be hardware accelerated which means that the Xbox Scarlett will have cores that will work on ray tracing. The PS5 does not seem to have that feature, as far as I know.
It seems that just like the checkerboard upscaling on the PS4 Pro, Sony is going to use software trickery to mimic ray tracing as it has not confirmed whether or not the ray tracing in PS5 is hardware accelerated. The PS4 Pro is proof that there is only so much that can be done via software and that games need hardware to run better.
If that is indeed the case, then this means that the Xbox Scarlett will have better lighting and better physics in games with the help of Direct Physics.
Xbox Scarlett Is More Different Than You Think
With hardware accelerated ray tracing technology in the mix, it seems like the Xbox Scarlett will be powered by a 7nm+ chip rather than a 7nm one. It is possible that the graphics are based on RDNA2 rather than RDNA.
If this is indeed the case then this supports our theory that Sony has gone with price as its target while Microsoft has gone for better performance. While the difference in 7nm and 7nm+ might be small, this could give the Xbox Scarlett an edge over the PS5.
Xbox Scarlett To Dominate In 2020
Without looking at the games that Microsoft is working on I can say that Xbox Scarlett is going to give Sony a tough time in 2020. Coming to performance, if rumors claim that the PS5 is going to be more powerful than the Xbox Scarlett then all these points are enough to debunk that claim.
I would bet in Xbox Scarlett but we will know for sure in the Fall of 2020.
Will Xbox Scarlett And PS5 Games Cost More?
Back in 1997, you could get a console game for $49.99 but since then pricing has changed as games are more expensive to develop. Since then, game prices have increased to $59.99.
In 2019 it is not uncommon for a part of the game to be sold as the base game and additional content to be locked behind a pay wall as DLC. Although this does not bode well with fans, it is still a common practice.
Game developers have got a lot of backlash when it comes to mechanics like lootboxes, microtransactions and DLC and some developers are shying away from pay walls.
Game prices have not changed since 2006 and with that in mind analysts are speculating whether or not games could get even more expensive with the release of the upcoming PS5 and Xbox Scarlett.
How Much Does It Cost To Make A AAA Game?
In 1996 a typical PlayStation game cost less than $1 million to make and sold for $49. GTAV is an older title that released in 2013 but it cost $137 million to develop. Add $128 million for marketing and the total cost of bringing the game to market is $265 million. If you add inflation and adjust that cost for 2019 then you get something around the lines of $285 million.
To give you an idea of how much that is, Avengers: Age of Ultron had a budget of roughly $289 million. This figure is not adjusted to accommodate inflation but you get the idea. The basic idea here is that making a game can cost as much as making a movie in modern days.
GTAV did sell millions of copies and is one of the most sold games in history. That does not mitigate the fact that this was a major risk that Rockstar took and at the time of making the game, I am sure that Rockstar did not know that the game could be so successful.
GTAV can be seen as an exceptional case so let’s take another example. Max Payne 3 is a relatively older game but a well-known one. It was supposed to release in 2009 but came out in 2010. Developing the game cost $105 million. This number is much lower than that of GTAV but it is still much more than what games cost to make in the late 90s.
Different Approaches By Game Developers To Counter Increasing Development Costs
With all this in mind, it would be fair for anyone to assume that it is about time that games got more expensive. Developers argue that there is a limited amount of content that they can sell for $60 and that is why they charge for DLC.
That is a valid point and that makes sense in games like The Witcher 3 in which the DLCs can be seen as complete games on their own but paying for the ability to use a character in-game is pushing it a bit too much.
It is worth mentioning that when the Xbox One and PS4 were about to release analysts predicted that the price of games would jump from $60 to $70 but that never happened. $60 is the standard price for a game in the USA. Games are more expensive in other areas of the world like Norway.
While some developers took the DLC approach, games as a live service model for gaming was introduced during the same time as well. We got games like Destiny and Overwatch that would get updates throughout the year.
This would help developers make a game and still be able to make money and profit from said games even with the increasing development costs. Some game developers introduced season passes while others took the free-to-play approach like Fornite.
Fornite might be a free-to-play game but it makes money as it is a live service game and people pay for the cosmetic items in the game. This is a very successful title that forced Sony to add cross-play support for console players.
This was unheard of from Sony before Fortnite came along. If you still need an idea of how much money Epic Games makes from Fortnite, the developer rented out 2 whole stadiums for fans to get together with Marshmellow.
Will Games Cost $70 In 2020?
With all this in mind, it is highly unlikely that games are going to cost more. There are free-to-play games on the market that are very popular. Destiny 2 is an interesting example. You had to pay $60 for the base game and then more money for the annual passes and seasonal content.
Now, the base game is going free to play and you no longer need to buy the previous expansions in order to play the new ones.
If games are getting more costly to make and the prices are not going to increase then how are developers going to make any money? That is a great question. The answer is pretty simple and we have seen it in action for a while now. Subscription services.
Rather than asking for $60 for a game upfront, companies are now moving towards a subscription model where players can get access to a library of games for as little as $10 per month.
Sony has had the PS Now service for a while now. This was originally supposed to be the solution to backward compatibility but Xbox took it a step further with Xbox Game Pass. While this service was exclusive to Xbox users for a while, it has since been introduced to PC users as well.
Not only do you have access to 100 games, but you also get first-party games available at launch if you are subscribed to the service.
Not convinced? Well, a year after Xbox Game Pass was announced, Microsoft revealed that earning from games had increased 8%. Sales were up 31% for software sales and services.
You should still take these numbers with a grain of salt as different factors go into these percentages and these numbers are provided by Microsoft.
This model does seem to work. Sony has started adding PS4 games to the service so that is a major hint as well. Another proof of concept is Google Stadia. It is not 100$ subscription based, you do need to buy some games but the service allows you to stream games to any device that can run Chrome.
You have to pay for most titles and 4K support but some titles are free to play. If you are willing to wait and would rather play games at 1080p, then the service is free. At E3 2019, Ubisoft announced its subscription service called Uplay+. EA already has Origin Access which is pretty much the same thing.
Is The Price Actually Lower?
Paying $10 a month for a library of games instead of $60 for each game might seem tempting. The question here is, are subscription services actually cheaper than buying individual games? Suppose that you buy 8 games a year.
Some are going to be more expensive than others because of sales. For the sake of simplicity, let’s assume that you are paying full price for these titles. 8 games for $60 cost $480.
Here is a breakdown of what all these services are going to cost you per year:
|Xbox Game Pass
|Google Stadia Pro
|EA Origin Access Premier
To be fair you are not going to pay for all these services. Stadia is a bit of a stretch and there is a free version as well. This does not account for the exclusive games from Sony and Nintendo. Those will need to be added to this cost.
This also does not include the cost of DLC and microtransactions. I do not think that these models are going to change even with subscriptions being active. Too much money is being earned via expansions and microtransactions for developers to just quit these practices.
All things considered, realistically you will be subscribed to one or more of these services and might continue to buy some games individually as well. So at the end of the day, it is going to costs you about the same if not more.
If The Price Is the Same, What Has Changed?
While the pricing is the same, in theory, the way games are sold is different. These models are designed to re-new behind the scenes to a point where you forget about them. Unless you are on a really tight monthly budget, people are not going to keep track of all these services that they are subscribed to.
Gamers will have to get used to the way they play games and how they are made available. This is one of the reasons why distribution has not changed all of a sudden but over the course of a couple of years.
This should be the norm in the near future. I would not be surprised if some game companies stop selling individual games in the future. But I do think that we are pretty far away from such a time.
It will be interesting to see how the Xbox Scarlett and PS5 compared to one another and how the gaming is going to change in the future.