The last generation of consoles released by both lasted about seven years. With the latest systems, Microsoft and Sony are employing different strategies to attract gamers and generate even more revenue from gamers.
A lot is on the line.
The pandemic has given people more free time to play games. Gamers could stay hooked for years to come, which means big business for both companies.
Gaming represents 24% of Sony’s revenue. It’s 8% of Microsoft’s revenue, but Microsoft is more widely held as the third most valuable public company, behind only Apple and Saudi Aramco, and any success in gaming can benefit many shareholders.
What happened last time
In 2013, when Microsoft introduced the Xbox One and Sony released the PlayStation 4, Sony shipped 4.2 million new consoles, ahead of Microsoft, which shipped 3.8 million, according to estimates from technology industry research company IDC.
Sony had set the price of the PlayStation 4 at $400, $100 below the $500 price of the Xbox One. Microsoft spent time promoting the entertainment capabilities of the Xbox, rather than focusing more directly on gaming. At first, the Xbox One came with the Kinect, a device that let people control the Xbox with voice commands and motion gestures. It wasn’t a major hit, and Microsoft wound up releasing a $400 Xbox package that left out the Kinect in 2014.
In later years, PlayStation 4 owners got access to exclusive games unavailable on other systems, including “Uncharted 4,” “Horizon Zero Dawn” and “Spider-Man.” The Xbox One got a few exclusives of its own, including “Halo 5.”
Still, each year the PlayStation 4 outsold Xbox One, according to IDC.
Microsoft has tweaked its gaming approach since the Xbox One launch. Phil Spencer, the executive vice president in charge of gaming at Microsoft, said in an interview with the Verge last year that console shipments, the usual measurement of success, were not as important as engagement, including the number of people are playing.
The shift follows revolutions in other Microsoft products under Satya Nadella, who replaced Steve Ballmer as CEO in 2014. The company stopped being so insistent on defending Windows. It released versions of its Office apps for Android and iOS, and it brought the Teams productivity app in the Office suite to Linux, the open-source operating system. Linux became accessible in Windows. Microsoft started migrating Office customers to subscriptions, and it gave away Windows 10 for free.
The new Xbox Series X and S have no slate of exclusive new titles like last time. So how will Microsoft stand out?
The answer is Xbox Game Pass, an online subscription service that gives customers a catalog of more than 100 games, spanning all three previous Xbox consoles, to download — all for as little as $10 a month. Microsoft plans to bolster the service with new titles over time, just as Netflix does with video.
Microsoft’s offering is broader than Sony’s new PlayStation Plus Collection, a similar service with 20 PlayStation 4 games people can play if they subscribe to the PlayStation Plus online multiplayer service, which costs $5 per month.
Game Pass subscribers who pay an additional $5 per month get access to a service for playing Xbox games on Android devices; the games are delivered over the internet from Microsoft data centers. (Microsoft wants to provide a similar service for iOS device, but says Apple’s App Store policies have prevented it from doing so.)
The mobile option represents an answer of sorts to the Nintendo Switch, which delivers powerful gameplay in a portable design. Sony’s PlayStation Now cloud gaming service does not support mobile devices.
More games are coming.
Microsoft’s gaming wing has been on an acquisition spree, with 23 game-development studios, including those stemming from the $7.5 billion Zenimax acquisition Microsoft announced in September. It’s up from 11 in 2018 and larger than Sony’s 14-studio collection. Microsoft has approached game developers in Japan, the home country of Nintendo and Sony, Bloomberg reported earlier this week.
Microsoft’s 343 Industries studio was supposed to release the next episode in its popular “Halo” series of science-fiction shooting games this holiday season to go along with the new Xbox consoles, but in August the company announced the game would be delayed until 2021.
In contrast, both the $500 PlayStation 5 and the $400 PlayStation 5 Digital Edition (which has no disc drive) can play exclusive games such as “Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales” and “Demon’s Souls.” The PS5 also boasts a software overhaul and major controller design.
Without any of these features in the new Xboxes, people are looking for hardware improvements as a reason to go with Microsoft.
They are there, but they might not be enough to topple Sony.
What Microsoft cares about now
“I don’t see any technologies in this generation that provide an obvious bump to the content,” said Seamus Blackley, the former Microsoft employee credited as the father of the Xbox, who first pushed Microsoft to take on Sony.
Blackley has tried Microsoft’s new gaming hardware, and he said he thought that Sony’s PlayStation 5 will have the upper hand at least at first.
IDC concurs with Blackley’s expectation. Lewis Ward, IDC’s research director for gaming, said he expects Sony to sell as many as 5 million PlayStation 5 consoles this year, and he sees Microsoft selling 3.8 million Xbox Series X and S consoles. (Microsoft will sell every console it makes this year and expects a record holiday in terms of gaming usage, Jerret West, chief marketing officer of Microsoft’s Xbox business, told CNBC in an email. Tim Stuart, chief financial officer of Microsoft’s Xbox business, told Jefferies analyst Brent Thill on Thursday that he expects supply to outstrip demand in the fourth quarter and the first quarter.)
Investors are focusing less on Microsoft’s console sales anyway. Last year the company introduced a new metric: Xbox content and services revenue growth, which includes subscriptions to Game Pass and the longstanding Xbox Live service for online play, as well as sales of popular games such as Minecraft for non-Microsoft devices. That figure has been higher than overall gaming revenue growth in each of the past four quarters.
Moreover, higher console sales do not necessarily help Microsoft’s finances. The more console revenue Microsoft ends up with in its current fiscal year, which ends June 30, the lower the company’s total gross margin will be, Morgan Stanley analysts Keith Weiss and Josh Baer wrote in a note distributed to clients last month.
“I do think that Sony will probably come out of the gate more quickly with selling hardware, but I don’t think that Microsoft cares,” said Ben Throop, founder of Vermont game-development company Frame Interactive. He’s worked on several PlayStation games, and he expects to buy a new PlayStation and a new Xbox — just not right away. He said Microsoft is more focused on racking up Game Pass subscribers than moving consoles, unlike Sony.
West countered that Microsoft offers the most powerful console ever built, and claimed that it absolutely does care about selling consoles.
“But focusing solely on the console is an incomplete way to evaluate the gaming industry and how it will grow in the future,” he wrote. “Developers that work with us can reach gamers across PC, console, and mobile through the cloud. And all the new players picking up their games have just as many options for how to play.”
How Sneaker Culture Predicted PS5 and Xbox Series X Scalpers – IGN – IGN
“All major retailers and Sony, [they] had so many bugs and issues where the PS5 would get taken out of my cart,” Ace, a Twitter user who shared their experience buying a PlayStation 5 to IGN. So, after failing to secure a PS5 through the usual digital stores and even directly from Sony, Ace did what anyone does after missing a sale, and started shopping the gray market.Ace ended up paying $900 for a PS5 on Craigslist – and they weren’t the only ones going to such extreme measures.
The PS5 and Xbox Series X are this season’s hottest items, and their popularity is wildly driving up prices among unofficial retailers. It’s a trend we’ve seen in another industry, on a far more regular basis — the second-hand market reacts similarly when there’s a limited sneaker release from brands like Nike or Air Jordan.
It’s an apt comparison, says Professor Jemayne Lavar King, an Assistant Professor of English at Johnson C. Smith University and author of Sole Food: Digestible Sneaker Culture. Professor King says the way customers are responding to the hard-to-find PlayStation 5 — creating a surge in demand and prices in second-hand retailers — is part of a consumerist trend that’s been building up over the years in no small part because of the rise of sneaker culture.
“The same individuals who would pay $500 for a pair of Nike Dunks, or maybe a pair of Air Jordans, or whatever shoe that happens to be in demand at the moment — these are the same individuals who are also playing the latest consoles,” says Professor King. He says that the same consumer culture for sneakers has conditioned buyers into paying more for something that they can potentially get cheaper down the line if they wait.
21st Century Customers
The first signs of trouble began when the PS5 suddenly became available for pre-order at different retailers, despite Sony promising that the pre-order date wouldn’t be a surprise. Notifications that PS5s were sold out quickly followed.
Even the Xbox Series X, which announced its pre-order date weeks in advance, faced similar shortages. It seemed that anyone who couldn’t get a pre-order was suddenly facing the reality that they might not be able to procure a new system, even by the end of this year.
In the void of any official retail listings, scalpers have moved in, selling PS5s for sometimes triple the retail cost on sites like eBay and Craigslist.
“We know there’s going to be an abundance of PlayStation 5s around the holiday season. But entrepreneurs are capitalizing on the pacemaking culture, the pick-me culture, the ‘I have and you don’t’ culture. It’s the same marketing,” Professor King explains. He likens it succinctly by saying the second-hand console market is “the same offense in a different sport” to the sneaker market.
Even the official retailers are imitating the marketing strategies pioneered by streetwear fashion. Sony announced it would open up a limited number of PS5 orders directly to its most loyal PlayStation customers, and other retailers have created digital queues for the next batch of PS5 or Xbox Series X sales, with a precise date and time for when the sale goes live.
This is otherwise known as a “drop,” a term that began simply by referring to a product release, but became synonymous with the streetwear industry thanks to brands like Supreme, whose product drops have led many zealous fans to camp outside stores for days to score items emblazoned with the red Supreme logo.
The digitization of the drop is already well underway with sneaker brands. Nike’s SNKRS app features a calendar of upcoming releases that customers can sign up to be notified of when they go up for sale. Valued customers are allowed early pre-order privileges, not unlike how Sony sent unique invites to PS5 pre-orders for loyal PlayStation players.
Confirmed PlayStation 5 Games
Supply and Demand
Earlier in the year, analysts wondered if the new consoles would be delayed due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic but Sony and Microsoft repeatedly assured customers that these systems would be available in time for the holidays.
What the two manufacturers cautioned — repeatedly, in fact — is that there could be shortages. That there might not be enough consoles in 2020 for everyone.
But a PS5 and Xbox Series X aren’t like limited sneaker drops. Some shoes, once they’re sold out, no longer go into production, driving up their collector resale value. PS5s and Xbox Series X are consumer goods and will be in production for years.
And yet the language from console manufacturers has broadly been to shine a light on shortages: Microsoft CFO Tim Stuart says that Xbox Series X and S demand is huge and thinks “we’ll continue to see supply shortages as we head into the post-holiday quarter, so Microsoft’s Q3, calendar Q1 [the period ending March 31, 2021].”
Sony Interactive Entertainment CEO Jim Ryan said in a recent interview that, “Everything is sold. Absolutely everything is sold. I’ve spent much of the last year trying to be sure that we can generate enough demand for the product. And now in terms of my executive bandwidth I’m spending a lot more time on trying to increase supply to meet that demand.”
When even the heads of the companies making them are telling us that they don’t have enough consoles to go around, it’s probably no wonder that every deal chaser on social media is blasting links to digital stores that may have a drop of PS5 or Xbox Series X stock. I myself acquired a PS5 pre-order, not from any traditional retail channel, but through a sneaker deals Twitter account.
Professor King doesn’t see those company announcements as an apology — he sees a tactic: “That particular strategy is to build — and it happens in everything — you want to build anticipation. And there’s a false pretense. You know — I know that these units are going to be readily available, but to make money in advance you create the illusion that there are not going to be that many of them. You just don’t acknowledge the fact that we’re going to have more pretty soon.”
Creating a narrative of scarcity has been good business for sneakers, and it may well be good business for console makers as well. There certainly appears to be an enhanced fervor to acquire a new console driven in part by their scarcity.
Confirmed Xbox Series X Games
That scarcity is exacerbated by factors outside of Sony and Microsoft’s control. While there could be elements of marketing engineering at work, driving up hype and in turn demand, we’ve also seen scalpers utilizing tools like bots to pick scan retail sites and buy up PS5 and Xbox Series X stock before customers can get a chance to order one at retail price.
Shopping bots have been around for years now, and are used to purchase all different kinds of items online, such as concert tickets. But they’ve become particularly aggressive when it comes to sneakers and streetwear. Bird Bot, a retail bot used to buy up Nintendo Switch stock, was originally developed by a sneakerhead who learned how to program bots trying to purchase sneakers.
Reports have emerged that one Europe-based reseller group purchased nearly 3,500 PS5 consoles through bots, ensuring in some cases that resellers are the only place some customers can acquire the sought-after console.
Making matters worse is how the Bots Act of 2016 only outlaws the use of bots when purchasing digital tickets. Bots for shoes and popular holiday gifts are still technically legal, though they are against individual stores’ terms of service.
What has emerged is a perfect storm where the video game console market and the trends of 21st-century consumerism collide. Whereas in the past the barrier to acquiring a new console or shoe may have been strictly financial, i.e. not having the funds to purchase the desired item; it’s no longer enough to just have the money. Customers are expected to be first, whether they’re competing against digital bots, or other customers who have more available time to queue up in line — physical or digital — for the same item.
While Covid-19 may have had a unique impact on availability — something we won’t fully understand until concrete sales and production figures is released — it’s also not unfair to say that some of these conditions have been created by retailers who want to drive up demand. The console marketing cycle effectively began in 2019, pre-COVID, and anticipation for the PS5 and Xbox Series X has been building ever since.
Stoked by a chaotic pre-order experience, official company communication that stock remains rare, and bots that remain legally dubious, we have a situation where hype and rarity are funneling customers to an unfair gray market that has had plenty of experience charging desperate customers a premium.
While writing this article, I scoured retailers like eBay to find the going price of a PS5 on the second-hand market. While there are listings that go as high as $2,000, searching through sold listings reveals customers typically purchase second-hand PS5s at around $950 but can go as high as $1,200. This is a staggering price compared to the suggested $499 retail price for the PS5.
But Professor King says these rates of increase are typical in the sneaker market. “How much is a sneaker worth? A sneaker is worth however much someone is willing to pay for it. How much is a console worth? Well, a console is worth whatever someone is willing to pay for it, and typically someone is willing to pay retail plus half of what it costs.”
At the time of writing this story, one retailer on eBay is selling a PS5 disc version for $1,699.99. eBay’s website says this seller has already sold 33 units, and a notification below the listing says in bright bold red, “Almost gone.”
Matt T.M. Kim is a reporter for IGN.
Samsung Galaxy A12 and Galaxy A02s announced: 6.5" screens and 5,000 mAh batteries – GSMArena.com news – GSMArena.com
We’ve been hearing about the Galaxy A12 and Galaxy A02s for some time now and today Samsung made both smartphones official as the first members of its Galaxy A (2021) lineup.
Samsung Galaxy A12
The Galaxy A12 succeeds the Galaxy A11 introduced back in March and brings upgrades to the camera and battery departments.
The Galaxy A11 packed a 4,000 mAh battery, whereas the Galaxy A12 ships with a 5,000 mAh cell, both charging at 15W.
The A11 featured a triple camera setup on the back comprising a 13MP primary, 5MP ultrawide, and 2MP depth sensor units. The A12, on the other hand, retains the ultrawide and depth sensors, swaps the 13MP camera with a 48MP module, and gets a 2MP macro unit. These are arranged in a square formation.
The Galaxy A12 packs a slightly larger 6.5″ HD+ Infinity-V display that has a notch for the 8MP selfie camera, which remains unchanged from the A11.
Under the hood, the Galaxy A12 has an octa-core processor consisting of CPU cores clocked at 2.3GHz and 1.8GHz. Samsung doesn’t say what chipset it used, but looking at the configuration it appears the smartphone is powered by the Helio P35 SoC.
Samsung also doesn’t reveal what version of Android the Galaxy A12 boots to. The smartphone comes with 3GB, 4GB, or 6GB RAM on board and has three storage options – 32GB, 64GB, and 128GB. You also get a microSD card slot for storage expansion by up to 1TB.
The Galaxy A12 features a side-mounted fingerprint reader, comes with the Samsung Knox security platform, and is offered in Black, Blue, White and Red colors.
The Galaxy A12 will be available from January 2021. The 64GB variant is priced at €179, and for €20 more, you can get double storage.
Samsung Galaxy A02s
The Galaxy A02s follows up the Galaxy A01 announced last December. It is built around a 6.5″ HD+ Infinity-V display and is powered by an octa-core processor clocked at 1.8GHz, which could be a part of the Snapdragon 450.
The smartphone comes with 3GB RAM and 32GB storage onboard, and it also has a microSD card slot, which allows storage expansion by up to 1TB.
For photography, you get a total of four cameras – a 5MP shooter inside the notch and a 13MP primary camera on the back joined by 2MP macro and 2MP depth units.
Fueling the entire package is a 5,000 mAh battery with 15W charging, which is a significant upgrade over the A01’s 3,000 mAh cell.
The Galaxy A02s has Black and White color options and will go on sale from February 2021 for €150.
The best TV for 2020: LG, Samsung, Sony, TCL, Vizio and more compared – CNET
If you’re looking for the best TV to buy right now, it’s probably been a long time since you bought your last one. You may be new to all of the current TV jargon: TVs for , since the days of and . My focus is on finding the best picture quality for the money, whether you’re looking for a top-of-the-line OLED TV or something a little less flashy., , , , , and . I’ve reviewed
The list below represents the best TVs I’ve reviewed in CNET’s test lab (for 2020, ), where I compare their picture quality, smart TV, design and features side by side to see which ones are most worth buying. I look at things like contrast ratio, local dimming, viewing angle and uniformity, gaming input lag and refresh rate, as well as how well the television supports streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu and Disney Plus. Here are my recommendations, with the following notes to keep in mind:
- Unless noted otherwise, all of the prices you’ll see are for 65-inch models.
- Looking for a specific screen size? Check out: 32-inch TVs, 43-inch TVs, 55-inch TVs, 65-inch TVs and 75-inch TVs.
- The end of the year, starting around and , is usually the best time to get a good deal.
- If you’re worried that next year’s TV will have some great feature you’ll miss out on if you buy a TV now, relax. TVs are generally a mature technology and our advice is that if you need a new TV now, .
- This list is updated periodically.
No TV I’ve ever tested offers this much picture quality for this little cash. The 2020 TCL 6-Series has even better image quality than its predecessor, thanks to mini-LED tech and well-implemented full-array local dimming that helps it run circles around just about any other TV at this price. It’s also a solid choice for gamers with a new THX mode that combines low input lag and high contrast. As if that’s not enough, the Roku TV operating system is our hands-down favorite.
Sizes: 55-, 65-, 75-inch.
What’s that you say? You just want the best TV, money no object? Here you go. In my side-by-side tests, the 2020 LG CX is the best TV I’ve ever reviewed, with world-beating contrast, perfect off-angle viewing and excellent uniformity. If you can afford it, this is the TV to get.
Sizes: 48-, 55-, 65-, 77-inch.
Aside from the TCL 6-Series above, this is the runner-up for best TV for the money. The TCL has a better picture and better smart HDTV system so it’s a superior TV overall, but it’s also a couple hundred dollars more expensive. If you can’t afford the 6-Series, this Vizio is a very good runner-up.
Sizes: 50-, 55-, 65-inch.
If you value Sony’s brand X900H is an excellent choice, with image quality on par with the TCL 6-Series and a price that’s not that much more expensive. And its suite of connections is actually better than the TCL’s. In winter 2020 it will get full 4K/120Hz HDMI input capability to maximize the potential of the new Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5, and right now it’s the cheapest TV that works with ATSC 3.0 antenna broadcasts.
Sizes: 55-, 65-, 75-, 85-inch.
Roku is our favorite platform for a live TV streaming service like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime Video, and it’s even better baked into the TV. This TCL 4-Series can’t beat any of the models above on image quality — its 4K resolution and HDR compatibility don’t do anything to help the picture — but it’s perfectly fine for most people, especially at this price.
Sizes: 43-, 50-, 55-, 65-, 75-inch. (The price shown below is for the 43-inch size.)
TCL’s 8-Series also features mini-LED and the result is superb contrast, brightness and high dynamic range that beats the less expensive 6-Series in my side-by-side comparison. The overall image quality doesn’t quite hit OLED levels, but it comes pretty close and costs a lot less, especially in the 75-inch size.
Sizes: 65-, 75-inch.
Samsung sells more TVs than anyone and our favorite for 2020 is the Q80T series. Its sleek design stands out compared to the other TVs on this list — although the ultra-thin LG CX OLED is even sleeker — and it also offers excellent image quality, next-gen gaming connectivity and a great smart TV system. The TVs above are superior values but if you want a Samsung anyway, this is a great choice.
For sizes smaller than 55 inches, and for people who value smarts over image quality, these non-4K Roku TVs make the most sense. The picture is “good enough” and the built-in smarts are superb — just enough to watch the final season of “The Office” or “Friends” content. And the price is perfect for a kids’ room or secondary room where you don’t need a massive screen.
Sizes: 28-, 32-, 40-, 43-, 49-inch. (The price shown below is for the 40-inch size.)
Other stuff to know about buying a new TV
I’m pretty sure you’d be happy with any one of the TVs above, but a new set can be a big investment, so maybe you’re looking for a bit more information. Here’s a quick and dirty list.
- In my opinion, bigger is better. Big TVs are cheaper than ever, and your money is best spent on large screen sizes rather than a slight upgrade in image quality.
- If you don’t like the built-in smart TV system, you can always add a media streamer. They’re cheap and easy to use, and receive updates more frequently than most smart TVs. See our picks of the best media streamers.
- The sound quality of most built-in speakers is terrible, so it’s worthwhile to pair your new set with a sound bar or other speaker system. Good ones start at around $100. See the best soundbars.
Looking for even more info?
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