Sony and Microsoft have been fighting the next-gen console war for a few months, with each company taking turns at revealing details about their upcoming products. The PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X will have similar hardware, as we learned months ago, and both of them will hit stores ahead of the holidays this year. But neither company was willing to go into more details until December. Just days after I told you Microsoft was already losing the marketing battle against the PS5, Microsoft did the unthinkable: it unveiled the Xbox Series X name and design during a gaming event that wasn’t expected to involve any big announcements like that. Microsoft, which up until that point relied on a generic “Project Scarlett” moniker that hurt the new Xbox more than it helped it, decided to hijack the Game Awards with its bold Series X announcement.
It’s now almost March and Sony is yet to show the final design of the PS5. Not only that, but Microsoft delivered yet another big surprise on Monday, unveiling many of the specs and features of the Xbox Series X. Sony now has no choice but to respond and give us a taste of the PS5 soon. Very soon. Or else.
If it wasn’t for the coronavirus, this particular Monday would be buzzing with news about new smartphones, including Sony’s new Xperia hardware. But things are different this year since MWC 2020 was canceled, so the announcements aren’t as plentiful or as exciting. Now, it’s the perfect time of the year for Microsoft to hijack the news cycle with an unexpected Series X specs revelation.
All that Microsoft needed to make the world pay attention to the Xbox this week was a simple blog post that dove into the Series X’s specs. Microsoft’s head of Xbox Phil Spencer revealed many of the secrets of the next console and even confirmed some of the current Xbox rumors.
For example, we now know the Xbox Series X will deliver 12 Teraflops of GPU performance, twice the performance of the Xbox One X, and precisely in line with what leaks said. The exec also said the GPU will support variable-rate shading and hardware-accelerated DirectX raytracing. The latter was always expected, and the PS5 should feature its own raytracing tech.
Microsoft also said the console will feature a next-generation SSD, but stopped short of telling us exactly how many gigabytes of storage gamers are getting. The company did reveal that gamers will be able to resume gameplay of multiple games from their suspended states almost instantly. Interestingly that’s also a PS5 rumored feature.
The new HDMI 2.1 spec is also a welcome addition to the next-gen Xbox, which will bring features like Auto Low Latency Mode and Variable Refresh Rate support to your gaming setup. And speaking of refresh rates, the Xbox Series X will support gaming at up to 120 frames per second (fps). We’ve already seen a bunch of rumors that said some games will go up to 90 fps in 4K on the PS5, while some developers said they’re aiming for even higher rates for future titles.
Spencer touched on the backward compatibility aspect of the Series X as well, saying that the new console will play some Xbox 360 and even original Xbox games. The PS5 is also rumored to play games from all four PlayStation versions that preceded it. Finally, the Smart Delivery feature that lets you buy a game once and then have the appropriate version of it delivered to the Xbox Series X once you buy it sounds like the kind of feature the PS5 should get.
Microsoft likely kept other Xbox secrets — in addition to SSD capacity, amount of memory, and price — and it will unveil these details down the road, maybe at E3 2020. And that’s yet another reason why Sony simply has to make its move now with the PlayStation 5 or risk falling far behind among gamers’ mindshare. In other words, you should expect to see PS5 specs and other key details made public any day now.