Sony PlayStation 5 and Microsoft Xbox Series X: The gaming story, a year later
For the entirety of last year, the PlayStation 5 and the Xbox Series X have been largely out of stock. When they did show up, the stocks didn’t last for too long. It was a mix of limited supply and pent-up demand
The Sony PlayStation 5 and the Microsoft Xbox X gaming consoles have been around for a year now. A lot has happened in the time since, yet, it doesn’t feel like a lot has changed either. As Sony and Microsoft have struggled with semiconductor shortages, these consoles have flown off physical and virtual shelves when stocks have turned up.
For the entirety of last year, the PlayStation 5 and the Xbox Series X have been largely out of stock. When they did show up, the stocks didn’t last for too long. It was a mix of limited supply and pent-up demand. It was caused largely by the semiconductor shortage, something Microsoft and Sony have alluded to through the last few months.
Almost a year later, after the initial demand has been met, the stock availability tends to stabilise. Yet, that hasn’t happened because production isn’t matching demand - even now.
A quick glance (at the time of writing this) on multiple shopping websites in India lists the Xbox Series X as either “currently unavailable” or “coming soon”. This has a price tag of around ₹49,990. The stocks of the Sony PlayStation 5 aren’t any easier to find. This is also priced around ₹49,990. Though both have “digital” versions as well, which rely on game downloads from the respective stores, and cannot run games off discs.
Offline availability at stores may also have eased up a bit with more stocks on shelves - but that’s more a matter of hope than expectation. Estimates suggest the semiconductor shortages will stretch into 2022, which means it’ll be a while before you can readily buy a new PlayStation or Xbox console off the shelves.
Despite limited availability, the Sony PlayStation 5 has sold well. Sony’s official numbers at the end of September clock total sales of 13.4 million units so far. Microsoft doesn’t release Xbox sales numbers, but market research firms indicate as many as 8 million Xbox Series X and Series S consoles have been sold so far.
Those numbers are healthy and could have been a lot higher if the persistent shortages didn’t play their part.
Game titles: The exclusives and more
It took a while for the game libraries to bulk up, but the exclusives and cross-platform titles are looking good enough for you to take your pick between the PlayStation 5 and the Xbox Series X. The thing is, many more are coming in early 2022 as well, which gives you a fair idea of the road map and how your game library will bulk up.
The Xbox exclusives for this year already include the Forza Horizon 5 and Flight Simulator, with Halo Infinite topping things off before the end of the year. Next year, Far Cry 6, Redfall, Starfield, Psychonauts 2 and Outer Worlds 2 are just some from an exhaustive list of additions.
Sony has a lot in store for next year, as far as exclusives go. Gran Turismo 7, Horizon Forbidden West, God of War: Ragnarok and Forspoken will join the exclusives released this year - Astro’s Playroom, Sackboy: A Big Adventure, Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart and Deathloop, to name a few.
The third-party cross platform games are streaming in consistently through the year, which is great for gamers, but it is becoming increasingly difficult for Sony and Microsoft to create a distinct pull-factor for their consoles. This isn’t how crowded it used to be till a few years ago, but the playing field has levelled off nicely since.
You’ll need a subscription, too
The way these consoles have been designed to be used, you will ideally want to subscribe to the companion subscriptions. Microsoft has the Xbox Game Pass subscription that genuinely adds value - a lot of the games, including the ones from Xbox Game Studios, are available to play as part of the subscription.
You don’t need to pay extra for the titles. For instance, the Forza Horizon 5 is part of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, and so will be the upcoming Halo Infinite, when it releases next month. For ₹699 per month, that is not a bad deal and between the two consoles, this undoubtedly offers better value.
Sony’s PlayStation Plus subscription doesn’t quite have the same vibrancy of game additions every month, but there’s a substantial library of games that are accessible as part of this and new titles are added to the list every month. The PlayStation Plus is priced at ₹499 per month, and you’ll also need this with a lot of games for any online play elements.
Is there a winner?
No, not in the strictest sense. There is the sense that one year later, the Microsoft Xbox Series X and the Sony PlayStation 5 aren’t exactly sitting on a landscape that’s drastically different (read: improved) from when they were launched.
Yes, there have been game and software optimisations and game libraries are getting more titles regularly. But that’s about it. Nothing has changed drastically, and you wouldn’t feel like a year was lost, if you are to buy any of these gaming consoles now. In fact, you’d get an experience that could be smoother and more refined.