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Here's the latest on Microsoft's Xbox Series X and Sony's Playstation 5.

This summer was an unusual and perhaps confusing time for the video game community. The industry’s biggest companies had to find new methods to release content about upcoming games and were forced to cancel all annual in-person conferences because of COVID-19. 

These cancelations led to digital showcases from various developers, producers and, of course, the heavy hitters Microsoft and Sony. Due to the influx of information, I figured it would be a good time to discuss the biggest news people might have missed about the next generation of consoles.

Microsoft

I’ll start off with the Xbox Series X. Microsoft has confirmed that its next console will release in November before the holiday season. The official date and price has yet to be announced, but having the month should ease fans' concerns. During its first digital conference, Microsoft focused mostly on trailers for third-party games. 

Third-party games are developed by autonomous studios that launch games across multiple platforms. Whereas, first-party games are created by studios directly owned by the parent company of the console and launch as exclusives.

Microsoft received some criticism in this conference for the lack of first-party titles revealed. The biggest issue being the absence of “Halo Infinite” gameplay. However, it still debuted the first in-game footage of the Xbox Series X with games like “Assassin's Creed Valhalla,” “Madden 21,” “Dirt 5” and “Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2.” 

It was also confirmed that the Xbox Series X will support up to 8k resolution, be able to run at 120 frames per second (FPS) while also bolstering around 12 teraflops of processing power. The console will feature ray tracing and backward compatibility for older generation games. If any of that’s confusing, just know the graphics and surrounding environments will process faster than ever before, and movements will look unbelievably smooth and realistic.

Microsoft kept quiet until its second digital conference in July when it finally started to display some long-awaited Xbox titles. “Halo Infinite” was the first to be showcased at the event with a story trailer that led into several minutes of gameplay. 

The release date was set for Holiday 2020, but 343 industries — the studio behind the recent “Halo” games — announced this past month that the game’s release will be pushed back to 2021. Other major titles such as, “State of Decay 3,” “Avowed,” “Forza Motorsport” and “Fable” were announced but none received a release date.

Without “Halo” and the many other games lacking a solid release window, Microsoft’s first-party launch lineup is looking scarce. Even with that being the case, it seems like this was Microsoft’s intentions for the launch of the Xbox Series X.

For the last couple of years, and especially over the past summer, Microsoft has been pushing for accessibility and multi-platform support with its content. It continues to expand upon Xbox Game Pass, where players can pay a subscription to have access to a massive library of Xbox titles, while also recently making it available to all PC players. Microsoft has even moved exclusive titles over to the Nintendo Switch and supported the decision of releasing “Cuphead” on the Playstation 4.

This’ll allow fans to play its first-party games wherever they please. It’s a respectable strategy and only time will tell if it works in its favor. Microsoft is planning on attending the upcoming Tokyo Game Show of 2020, but announced that it won’t include any news on the next-generation console. 

Sony

The Playstation 5 also hasn’t received a price or official release date, but Sony has come out and reassured fans that it still plans to have the console available before Christmas. It’s highly likely that both Sony and Microsoft are waiting for the other to make the first move on announcing this vital piece of information. 

The first news Sony spilled about the PS5 was the new DualSense controller. Sony dropped the old DualShock for a bulkier and more technical piece of equipment. The controller features new systems like haptic feedback and adaptive triggers. 

Both of these features are advertised to bring the in-game environment to life through the use of the controller. Haptic feedback replicates the feeling of touch as the player moves through the world, while the adaptive triggers change the tension in the controller’s R2 and L2 to fit the action of the player.

Besides the controller, the PS5’s specs are similar to the Xbox Series X. While both consoles use different hardware, the PS5 is said to support 8k resolution, run at 120 FPS, include ray tracing technology and use a graphics processing unit that supports a little over 10 teraflops. It’s hard to say if either console will ever have the opportunity to run a game at max capacity, but it’s nice to know that each more than doubles the power of their predecessors.  

Sony’s approach to the PS5 launch varied quite a bit from Microsoft’s, and that was evident in its first digital conference. It took place in June and highlighted the large number of AAA exclusives that are launching on the console. 

Overall, 26 first-party and third-party games were covered, but Sony made sure to give the most screen time to exclusives like “Marvel’s Spider-man: Miles Morales,” “Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart,” “Gran Turismo 7” and “Horizon Forbidden West.”

“Marvel’s Spider-man” received a holiday 2020 release date, “Forbidden West” is set to launch in 2021 and “Ratchet and Clank” had a recent update that told the community to expect it to come out near the PS5 release window. “Gran Turismo” has no date attached to it so far, but leaks and rumors have been circling about a possible 2020 debut. 

In more recent news, Sony has come out to say that it will begin to prioritize releasing first-party exclusives for PC players. This is no doubt a reaction to Microsoft’s growing library for PC consumers.  

Even with all this information, there’s still much more to each console launch. Microsoft is aiming for accessibility and multi-platform support, while Sony is focusing on what made the PS4 so successful: exclusive titles and content for its fanbase. Whichever one prefers, the community should be excited to see how both consoles push the capabilities of story-telling through the video game medium. 

Contact Daniel Carter at carte3dt@dukes.jmu.edu. For more on the culture, arts and lifestyle of the JMU and Harrisonburg communities, follow the culture desk on Twitter and Instagram @Breeze_Culture.