The next generation of consoles starts today with Xbox Series X

It’s day one of a new generation for video games but what does the future hold for Xbox Series X and gaming in general?

The ninth generation of video game consoles has officially begun. The Xbox Series X and Series S are released today and so the next gen becomes the current gen once more. Although the UK will have to wait till November 19, the PlayStation 5 will release outside of Europe just two days after the new Xbox consoles, completing the transition in unusually quick measure.

We’ve already reviewed the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X consoles but at this point it’s already clear that there’s a vast difference in approach between the two consoles. Sony are – understandably, given the success of the PlayStation 4 – focusing on exclusive first party games, with several available at launch, while the highest profile games Microsoft can muster are multiformat titles Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla and Yakuza: Like A Dragon.

We’ll review more of the PlayStation 5 line-up in the coming days and weeks but with the delay of The Medium there is nothing to look forward to this year on Xbox Series X/S beyond more multiformat games like Call Of Duty: Black Ops Cold War. Instead, Game Pass has emerged as the console’s killer app and considering the value for money it offers, and how cheap the Xbox Series S is, it’s clearly a very tempting offering.

Microsoft’s policies are almost the polar opposite of Sony’s and yet already they’ve influenced their thinking by ensuring it would’ve been politically impossible to launch the PlayStation 5 without backwards compatibility for at least the PlayStation 4. It’s also hard not to imagine that, if Game Pass continues to be a success, Sony won’t eventually create their own equivalent.

Why they didn’t go ahead and do so straight away is a mystery, especially since they’re already halfway there with PS Now, but then both companies can be peculiarly slow to pick up on ideas that seem blindingly obvious to most gamers. Why, for example, has Microsoft only decided now, seven years after the disastrous unveiling of the Xbox One, that maybe it should do something about its dangerously undernourished first party games output?

Only in the last two years have they made any serious effort to acquire major new studios, the associated lead times ensuring the influence on the Xbox games line-up will remain minimal for several years to come. Incredibly, it is only this week that rumours have emerged that they’re interested in acquiring Japanese studios (or indeed anyone not from North America or the UK) despite Japan having been a blind spot for Xbox since its very inception almost 20 years ago.

The Xbox Series X/S still has many of the same problems the original Xbox did, with the perception that its first party line-up is inferior to Sony and Nintendo (and has been getting worse since the peak of the Xbox 360 era) and that both the games and the marketing are too focused on American tastes, with efforts to evolve beyond the stereotype of the ‘ShooterBox’ still proceeding at a glacial pace.

These are issues that should have been addressed decades ago (Phil Spencer may have only taken over as Xbox boss after the failure of the Xbox One’s launch but previous to that he was in charge of its first party publishing), which is frustrating because if it wasn’t for the little issue of having no exclusive games the Xbox would be seen to be in a much more favourable position right now.

The Xbox Series X launch line-up isn’t bad, it’s non-existent but that doesn’t take away from the fact that its backwards compatibility is excellent (we’ve been playing XCOM 2 recently and it’s absolutely transformative) and that Game Pass and xCloud are unquestionably the future of gaming. How far away that future is remains a matter of debate but in terms of subscription services and cloud gaming Microsoft already has a clear advantage over Sony.

None of that is going to make the act of setting up your Xbox Series X or S, and then realising you’ve got nothing new to play on them, any less dispiriting but it does mean that in the long-term Microsoft already has a winning strategy. Xbox Series X/S is the future of gaming, regardless of how the new consoles fare against Sony at first.

By the end of the Xbox Series X/S and PlayStation 5’s lifetimes consoles will likely be irrelevant and so too will the question of who ‘won’ the console war to end all console wars. But at the very least the Xbox Series X can say it was the one that kickstarted the final generation.

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