While Microsoft’s best is still to come, today’s PlayStation 5 debut gameplay event proves the value of first impressions.
The PlayStation 5 has received its full formal unveiling, spotlighting the first batch of titles targeting Sony’s next-generation home console. The showcase follows near-radio silence from the Japanese platform holder, which pivoted to a steady one-hour reel of both in-house and third-party projects scheduled for the year ahead. The meeting of blockbusters and indies illustrated commendable variety, leaving the system well-positioned to launch this holiday.
However, the impressive showing from Sony highlights a missed opportunity for Microsoft with its Xbox Series X gameplay debut back in May. While both events served first impressions of the next-generation titans, Sony’s presence paraded quality and variety simply absent from the Xbox Series X, so far. Microsoft still has a ton to come, with its July event set to highlight first-party blockbusters, but Sony just proved the value of nailing the first impression. Microsoft, now it’s your turn to jump back.
How the PS5 showcase stresses the value of first impressions
The “Future of Gaming” broadcast provided our first peek into what the PS5 will offer, following a slow drip-feed of features over recent months. We’ve received a surface-level glance at key traits, followed by a highly technical deep dive in March. Meanwhile, Microsoft previously dominated mindshare and was dropping scoops on the regular, which was set to continue every month until release.
However, today’s event marked the first consumer-oriented show from Sony, just months from release. The event represents a turning point for PlayStation 5, catching up with Microsoft’s recent efforts, and is arguably now positioned ahead. It wrapped with us knowing how the next-generation box will look (it’s adopted a winged, two-tone design, reminiscent of conceptual, future-facing renders), and presented a vast lineup of titles, headlined by Horizon: Forbidden West, Spider-Man: Miles Morales, and Gran Turismo 7. Third-parties also pulled out their flagships, including Resident Evil 8: Village, Arkane Studios’ Deathloop, and the cryptic new “Pragmata” IP from Capcom.
The programming overshadowed the equivalent first sample of Xbox Series X gameplay, which focused on a tighter group of partners primarily assembled from small external studios. While many titles impressed on the hardware, it’s hard to say any translated as potential “system sellers.” Bright Memory Infinite, a smaller-scale first-person shooter conceived by one-person development studio FYQD, led the show. While Assassin’s Creed Valhalla represented to the triple-A attendance, the one-minute “gameplay” trailer caught later backlash for its lack of authentic gameplay footage.
I initially attributed those missteps to the challenges of COVID-era marketing, as the industry adapts to working from home. The home webcams and loosely stitched trailers simply lack the spectacle of full stage presentations. Yet, despite logistical hurdles, Sony managed to nail high production value, maintaining a more cohesive brand identity over Microsoft’s 45-minute showcase.
The best for Xbox Series X is still to come
Microsoft is preparing for another flagship stream in July centered around Xbox Game Studios. That event will feature heavy hitters like Halo Infinite, and is sure to provide some of the spectacle felt in Sony’s latest. However, that will come two months after the first showcase, which ultimately left many uncertain of the “most powerful console” headed to the market
It spotlights two vastly different approaches adopted by Microsoft and Sony with its next-generation devices. Redmond remains keen to share new Xbox Series X details through a steady rhythm of monthly announcements so as to regularly making the headlines. Sony has stayed quiet, even if to the early frustration of many, fostering a sense of awe around reveals. To Sony’s credit, what it has shown exhibits consistent high quality, with a heightened sense of curation over the Xbox Series X vision.
Microsoft’s next moves will be watched closely as it prepares for its July event. Several years of high-profile acquisitions see Xbox Series X launching with the backing of over a dozen established studios, and most are expected to talk their latest projects around the forthcoming generation.
Xbox Lockhart — a long-rumored, cheaper alternative to Xbox Series X featuring just some of the next-generation features — also still appears to be brewing. That two-pronged approach could help undercut the PlayStation 5, especially with the added curveball of an all-digital model.
For now, thanks to our first tastes from the new consoles, and buyers gauging which console meets their demands, what comes next is more crucial than ever.