Opinion: The Next Generation Of The Console War Is About To Begin

The PlayStation 5 and the Xbox Series X launched in November 2020. The two giants of console gaming dropped their latest hugely anticipated systems not with a bang, but with a whimper. Despite the lackluster launches of next-gen consoles, it seems we’re starting to see the signs of a reinvigorated “console war”.

When we describe the launches as “lackluster”, we certainly don’t mean the quality of the games available, but rather the quantity of exclusives.The PS5 released with Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales, a solid game, but one that was available on PS4 too. This would become indicative of a broader trend over the next couple of years, as more of Sony’s major hit games like God of War Ragnarök and Horizon Forbidden West were hyped as PS5 titles, but still dropped on the older PS4 too. There were some exceptions, like Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart and Returnal, but these weren’t franchises that hold the same power that the cross-gen releases did.

Spider Man Miles Morales
Despite great first-party releases, the PS5’s truly exclusive line-up is lacking.

We saw the same occurring over in the Xbox camp, where outside of standouts like Halo Infinite, the lineup was still sparse from the Xbox One generation. Xbox Game Pass offers some of the best value for money in the industry, but much like the PS5, nobody really needed an Xbox Series console. You’d get better performance for games you could’ve already played, but nothing new, nothing that you can’t find elsewhere. 

The hype was certainly big for both systems, and consoles were flying off shelves and being resold online for hugely inflated prices. Yet, they didn’t really offer much. 2023 is the year this all changes. Both Sony and Microsoft have spent the pandemic years preparing to clash once more, and it seems like the fight is about to begin. Unlike last time where the PS4 undoubtedly steamrolled the Xbox One’s game library, it seems there’s finally some real competition incoming between the two.

halo infinite
Halo Infinite was a spark from Xbox after an otherwise dim generation with the Xbox One.

Microsoft knows how poorly it performed last generation, and just how important it is to have good exclusive games to the system. For this reason, in the ‘console war’ discourse, Microsoft is the one that has to be on the offensive against a reigning Sony. This is what fuelled Microsoft’s massive acquisitions in recent years, and also sets the stage for the company’s first considerable attempt at releasing an exclusive Xbox Series game since the start of the generation. Put simply, Starfield has the potential to be a turning point for Xbox. 

Being a new IP from legendary Skyrim creators Bethesda Softworks, acquired by Microsoft in 2021, Starfield is sure to be a hit. Whilst the gaming output of the company has not quite lived up critically to the initial response of Skyrim since its release, Starfield takes that formula to space, a dream crossover for many Bethesda fans. What makes Starfield so important is that, however it performs, it will significantly shift the impression of many gamers towards the console, and Microsoft as a gaming brand. 

starfield
Microsoft are gearing up to use their acquisitions on the offensive against the ruling Sony.

If Starfield hits, it will put the Xbox Series consoles into the perfect position to be seen as the underdog console. The device with hit games that hasn’t performed as well but offers great value for money with Game Pass and also has unique gaming experiences. People love a comeback story and a return to glory, and Microsoft would have the opportunity to seize that narrative if they can deliver an exclusive hit. On the other hand though, if Starfield misses, the Xbox Series consoles will become a punching bag of memes, console war discourse and, ultimately, reinforce Sony’s existing hegemony over the domestic American console market

Then there’s the PlayStation, the defending champion of the console wars. Sony thrived in the last generation, with a staggering number of exclusive AAA games across genres, like Marvel’s Spider-Man, God of War, The Last of Us Part II, Ghost of Tsushima, Ratchet & Clank and even more. A pile of gold has already been built under the PlayStation 4, but what Sony does need to do in order to keep that status is to shift that existing huge audience over to the PS5. That’s where exclusive games come in. 

Ratchet and Clank PS4 screenshot of spaceship flying through city
Sony is riding a wave of success after the PS4 with a diverse number of titles, like Ratchet & Clank.

The first big exclusive coming soon will be Final Fantasy XVI, which kicks off the first month of summer in June for PS5. There has been heavy investment by both Square Enix and PlayStation into marketing and building hype for this game, and the impressions by fans seem to be positive. It shifts away from the so-called ‘JRPG’ roots of the Final Fantasy series, and towards an Action RPG approach, one which could do very well in the American market. Sony isn’t only interested in winning over American audiences though, as the use of Final Fantasy as a console exclusive franchise is also beneficial to their home in Japan. We’ve seen PS5 sales numbers rising recently in our regular Famitsu coverage, so perhaps the audience will be there to make the game and the system see international success this summer. 

If Sony did falter with their investment into Final Fantasy XVI, they’ll also have the massively anticipated Marvel’s Spider-Man 2, which releases in the Fall. Following on from both Marvel’s Spider-Man and the spin-off Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales, the Spidey sequel has a huge existing fan base to appeal to. The teaser trailer for the game suggests that both Peter Parker and Miles Morales will be primary protagonists in the game, and perhaps even both playable. Keeping the same satisfying web-slinging formula, but raising the narrative stakes and broadening the gameplay horizons could be a recipe for success.

Final Fantasy XVI 16
Final Fantasy XVI is one of a few PS5 exclusive blockbusters releasing this year.

If just one of these two games becomes a smash hit, Sony could accelerate transitioning its audience from the PS4 to the PS5. As a company though, Sony also wants growth, and it seems to be working so far. Sony said just a few months ago that 30% of PS5 owners actually didn’t have a PS4. Getting PS4 owners onto PS5, then adding another significant chunk of either new gamers or older ones that skipped the generation will be key to maintaining their market dominance.

All of this exciting stuff we just covered couldn’t have been said just last year. Even though we had both systems out and ready, they were still hard to find on store shelves, Microsoft weren’t moving much with Starfield getting delayed (twice), and Sony’s biggest first-party hits were cross-gen.

Xbox PlayStation
The console wars will rage on with critics of both sides, but which flag(s) you fly is your own to decide.

In 2023, we’re finally in a position now where both the gaming juggernauts are ready to start swinging their corporate fists with some big releases, and whoever lands the hits could just determine the outcome of this generation of gaming. Whether Xbox has a surprising comeback, Sony dominates a floundering Microsoft, or both release massive hits that leaves us spoiled for choice, we’re sure to have fun watching it all play out. 

What are your thoughts on this current generation of consoles? What do you think about the console war rhetoric? Do you just play Nintendo consoles and laugh at the trivial ‘war’ mentality? Let us know in the comments below, and keep your eyes on GameLuster for more gaming news and extended features like this one!

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Chris
Chris
1 year ago

So you honestly think there is a console war still…you my friend are delusional. I would agree with you but let’s really break this down….you my friend are an Xbox fan which can Cleary be seen with this bullshit you are trying to pass off as reporting you tell me one upcoming exclusive xbox game shipping out that’s not running at 30 fps….I’ll wait cause Redfall sure as hell isn’t and if you wanna be honest it’s cause of the Lil S series which is killing a already dead xbox when a company cares more about game pass then quality games then that company is dead…Xbox using old tech such as battery fed controllers and forcing studios to make game pass games it shows Xbox has no care or time for its fans….so in saying this your article is pure shit and you sir have no idea what the hell you are talking about

Last edited 1 year ago by Chris