How long should Microsoft wait before it tips its hand for the next generation?
Unexpectedly, out of nowhere, Sony released some information about the upcoming PS5 earlier this week via an interview with renowned tech outlet WIRED. While they were careful to keep things vague—they wouldn’t even commit to calling the console the PS5 yet, instead opting to use the more ambiguous “next generation PlayStation”—they did share a few concrete details, and those were enough to have console gamers around the world salivating at the prospect of what Sony’s new machine might provide.
Sony were very smart with the details that they shared—confirming things like raytracing support, or an in-built SSD, suggests a powerful console with fast, high end hardware, for instance. Confirming that the new system will be backward compatible with the PS4 addresses and counters what is arguably the biggest doubt and question people have had regarding Sony’s ecosystem, and how it will handle the next generational transition. Confirming VR compatibility, including with the current PSVR headset, tells would-be buyers of the accessory that Sony is in it for the long run, and will continue to support VR even with the PS5.
It was a smart reveal, with Sony’s sharing enough to share the impression of a high end, powerful machine, but leaving enough unsaid to let imaginations run wild. As important as what Sony said were the things that they didn’t—not only are hard specs never committed to, for example (it would be too early for that right now, anyway), but something like the price was never mentioned. The original piece doesn’t even approach the topic, and instead the writer shared a short exchange about the price he had with Mark Cerny, the architect of the upcoming system, about how the PS5 will be priced “fairly”. Again, this is sharing not just the right quantity, but also the right type of information.
The question of course is, should Microsoft look at responding to the early tease at the PS5 similarly? While Phil Spencer, the head of Xbox, did confirm that a next generation Xbox is in the works at E3 last year, and that it will be headed by the same team that developed the Xbox One X, other than that, there has been little word on Microsoft’s next generation efforts. We have had multiple insider reports, of course, which suggest that Scarlett is the name of the next generation initiative, that Anaconda is the name of the devkit, that there may be multiple models at launch, or that Microsoft is looking to have Xbox be the most powerful console of the bat again, this is all unofficial. These are reports by journalists and reporters with well placed sources, but they aren’t verifiable, and while their track record speaks for itself, this information is still unofficial.
So should Microsoft follow? Should they too take the wraps off of the next generation Xbox—if only a little?
The answer to that is “yes, but not yet”. Because right now, anything they do will seem too reactionary, and will frame the conversation around the next Xbox relative to the next PlayStation, rather than letting it be assessed on its own terms.
No, the smart thing they can do is spend some time during E3 having a similarly preliminary look at the upcoming Xbox. Share some preliminary specs, as well as a vision for the next generation console. At E3, Microsoft gets the stage to itself—remember, Sony isn’t at E3 this year, so Microsoft has full reign over the messaging. Sony cannot counter.
So if Microsoft, on the world’s largest stage for gaming, spends some time to talk about the next generation Xbox, and how it will be the most powerful console ever made, they manage to reach a far bigger audience than Sony did—and Sony can’t counter their messaging, like they did, for example, with the PS4’s pricing and DRM policy at E3 2013 in response to the Xbox One’s. Microsoft can’t be upstaged, and they get to dominate the news cycle.
A part of this also has to do with when the next Xbox is launching. I have previously made the case for the next Xbox launching before the next PlayStation does—even if it is only by a few months. I still stand by that, and I feel that Microsoft could cement themselves into the public mindshare even further at E3 by having something concrete to show, because their console is closer to release, and they can commit to things more firmly.
In fact, Phil Spencer has already confirmed that Microsoft’s new studio purchases will have something to show at E3 this year. It may be in an early stage, but they will be showing games—and it is also unlikely that games they are working on are for the Xbox One, when its successor is presumably a year or so away. This means that feasibly, Microsoft could share not just vague specs and a vision for the console, but hard details and even a name and games. This means that Microsoft would get ahead of Sony by properly announcing the next generation Xbox months ahead of them.
This is me spitballing, of course—but even if Microsoft plans for the initial reveal of the Xbox Scarlett to be a tease similar to what we got for the PS5 or the Scorpio, E3 is still the best time they could take the wraps off of the console. So the answer to the question of whether or not Microsoft should follow? Yes, but at E3.
Until then, what details Sony has shared about the PS5 are juicy enough for us to get a few months’ worth of discussion anyway.
Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, GamingBolt as an organization.