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Release of next-gen consoles to intensify Sony and Microsoft’s rivalry: COVID-19 to cause sales to be unpredictable

The next generation of Sony and Microsoft gaming consoles, although not given an exact release date as of yet, are expected to be released at the end of the 2020 which will see the renewal of rivalry between the two firms. This release will be unpredictable than those before it due to uncertainty caused by COVID-19. The pandemic has led to a surge in gaming due to lockdown measures but economic recession will impact disposable income. However, the intense competition between Sony and Microsoft will undoubtedly remain.

The gaming industry has been boosted by the COVID-19 pandemic with stay at home policies across the world encouraging gaming habits. In the US, NPD Group reported that video game sales in March 2020 increased by 34% compared to the previous year whilst spending across the first quarter was up 9% compared to the previous year. It is unusual to see a rise like this in a year when a next-gen console release is expected and can therefore be wholly attributed to the effects of the virus. Despite being beneficial to the industry in the short term this may harm next-gen console sales as many may put off upgrading until deemed absolutely necessary. Sony has increased production of PS5 consoles in an optimistic move. It had previously aimed for around five million consoles by March 2021 but now intends to reach 10 million.

Microsoft will be looking to challenge Sony on the next generation after its Xbox One console lagged significantly behind Sony’s PS4. According to Ampere Analysis data from early 2020, since both were released in 2013 PS4 sales were more than twice those of the Xbox One with 109 million units compared to 49 million. In terms of the consoles themselves there is little to separate them specification wise, as has been the case with previous releases. 

Sony is pushing exclusivity through specific new releases. Sony’s livestream event, “PS5: The Future of Gaming” on June 11th showcased 25 new games of which a number are not available to the Xbox Series X. Prominent examples include Gran Turismo 7 and flagship title Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales. Microsoft has looked at promoting alternative services. For example, the firm has been much more proactive in marketing the new Xbox Game Pass than Sony has been with its similar service PlayStation Now. The new Game Pass will be a monthly subscription of $9.99 offering access to hundreds of games as Microsoft looks to appeal to the player.