Sony finally unveiled a host of PS5 games during its recent PlayStation 5 event, alongside a somewhat surprising first-look at the next-gen console. However, the biggest curveball of the showcase was that the company is not releasing just one Ps5 console later this year, but two.
Alongside the standard PS5, Sony is also releasing a PS5 Digital Edition. In a similar vein to Microsoft's Xbox One S All-Digital Edition, this streamlined console does away with the traditional disk-drive and focuses solely on digital content.
However, while a more affordable offering to the (no doubt) costly standard PS5 is welcome news, I don't think Sony is quite ready to move into the digital-only space. Not without major improvements. Here's why.
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Xbox's push into digital streaming
When Xbox released its Xbox One S All-Digital console in May 2019, the move made sense. Microsoft has spent years honing its digital-streaming offerings for a console such as this through the expansion of Xbox Game Pass and the gradual roll out of Project xCloud.
Despite being primarily a PlayStation player, I own an Xbox One S All-Digital and can happily utilize Xbox Game Pass without issue. I never miss the newest launches, I can take advantage of backwards-compatible titles and, when Project xCloud officially launches this year, I expect to be able to seamlessly jump from playing those games on my console to a tablet or other mobile device. And I'm not alone, Microsoft reported 10 million Xbox game Pass subscribers back in April 2020.
So it makes sense that a digital-only next-gen Xbox (codenamed Project Lockhart) seems to be on the cards. Xbox is the digital platform right now and, as Game Pass expands, the future looks bright for the company. I, as a digital console owner, see a clear pathway that Xbox has laid out which assures me that, in the future, I'll be looked after.
On the other hand, Sony's digital offering with the PS4 has been lacklustre to say the least. Sony's game-streaming service, PS Now, has only 2.2 million subscribers compared to Xbox Game Pass' 10 million.
As it stands, PS Now needs some serious work – and Sony knows it. For a start, the subscription price was too high for what's on offer (something Sony has since corrected) but the key issue is that there's little sight of new titles landing on the service until months later. PS Now is great for those who want to play some older-generation PlayStation games, but while Xbox offers both brand new and old titles on its service, PlayStation floats in between.
Xbox Game Pass is great value because for less than a tenner a month you get access to the newest games and old games – without having to shell out a substantial amount to play the latest game. That makes it accessible.
In addition, both Microsoft and even Google are moving into mobile gaming spaces, allowing players to jump from console to mobile seamlessly. Meanwhile Sony has confirmed that, while the PS5 will continue to support PS Now, there are no plans to bring the service to mobile.
Hopefully improvements are coming
While PS Now isn't up to scratch, it's worth noting that this is something Sony is likely working on behind the scenes. We're likely to see PS Now hitting Xbox Game Pass standards at some point but, as it stands, we can't be sure.
Microsoft introduced its digital plans before heading into the next-generation, so we know the Xbox Series X (and any potential digital versions) will be able to utilize that base that's been built up and a digital edition will be viable.
While the PS5 Digital Edition will have plenty of room (at least 825GB) for downloaded games to live on, streaming services are vital to digital-only consoles.
Hopefully Sony will reveal it's next-gen digital plans in the coming months. Because even though the PS5 Digital Edition is likely to be somewhat cheaper than the standard edition, we're still expecting the console to be costly - and I, for one, want to know I'm getting my money's worth first.
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