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What the PS5 Has That Nintendo and Xbox Are Missing

The next generation console race is starting to pick up speed. Both Project Scarlett and the PlayStation 5 are set to release during the 2020 holiday season, and the Nintendo Switch has already become one of Nintendo's biggest selling consoles to date. The hardware market will be mighty crowded toward the end of 2020, so each company is doing its level best to stand out from all the others.

Sony already has a good plan set to go with the PlayStation 5, which includes next-gen features like ray-tracing, 8K support, 3D audio, and (finally) 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray support. At the right price point, it should have no trouble moving units off of shelves when it arrives.

But more is needed in order to keep an edge over Microsoft's upcoming hardware and Nintendo's unstoppable Switch train. Fortunately, Sony has advantages that will give it a boost in the upcoming console race. Let's take a look at nine key factors that should make the PlayStation 5 a rousing success.

Potential compatibility with older PlayStation titles

It's already been confirmed that the PlayStation 5 will be compatible with PlayStation 4 games. Lead system architect Mark Cerny confirmed as such, since both systems will use a "similar architecture." But a patent filed by Sony suggests it may be looking to support other formats, as well.

Though a bit on the technical side, the patent basically states that the PlayStation 5 might be compatible with physical games from previous PlayStation eras. That would include the PlayStation 3, PlayStation 2 and the original PlayStation. If this feature is included, users would be able to play everything from Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions on the PS3, to their cherished PS2 copy of SSX Tricky, to the original Suikoden, without missing a beat.

Keep in mind, however, that this isn't a confirmed PlayStation 5 feature. The PS5 is only backward compatible with PS4 games, for now. And Sony hasn't addressed the possibility of supporting legacy consoles via backward compatibility.

Microsoft upcoming Xbox Scarlett will be backward compatible with the Xbox, Xbox 360, and Xbox One. And the Nintendo Switch offers NES and SNES games through its Nintendo Online service, but no other backward compatibility at the moment. So Sony could have an advantage with the PlayStation 5 if it manages to support games for the PS1, the PS2, the PS3, and the PS4.

PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Now support

Even if we don't end up with the ability to play games from Sony's earlier consoles, we'll still have plenty to play on PS5, thanks to the huge library of titles released this generation on the PlayStation 4.

Those who own a PlayStation 5 will be able to experience every single Uncharted game, for example, along with critically acclaimed titles like Spider-Man, Bloodborne, and Horizon Zero Dawn. And there are still more releases on the way, as well, such as The Last of Us: Part 2.

But for those that don't have a physical library, there's also PlayStation Now. The cloud streaming service recently got a price cut, and is now available for just $9.99 a month. What's more, it's added premium titles that consistently switch up every few months, including God of War, Persona 5, and other fan favorites. And there's a chance the service's download feature will continue to work on PlayStation 5.

As for the competition: Microsoft did state that it's pushing for unprecedented backward compatibility with Xbox Scarlett. And the Nintendo Switch doesn't currently have any backward compatibility; just classic NES and SNES titles available via Nintendo Switch Online. Based on the quality of the PS4 library, most would agree that Sony's PlayStation 5 is going to have the upper hand in this department. We'll just have to wait and see how good the support truly is.

PlayStation 5 exclusives

If you're a platform holder, having exclusive developers working on your console is crucial. Xbox Studios learned this, acquiring the likes of Obsidian Entertainment, inXile Entertainment and Double Fine. Nintendo has its own internal studios, as well, along with strong third-party relationships with key companies.

But Sony's been building up an impressive team of developers for years; and now they appear ready to cash in with an array of impressive titles. Talented teams like Naughty Dog, Media Molecule, Guerrilla Games, Santa Monica Studio, and the recently acquired Insomniac Games will no doubt give the PS5 the core exclusives it needs.

And Sony may not just benefit from new, original titles for the PS5: it could also re-release some classic favorites. We've seen Bluepoint Games' Shadow of the Colossus win over gamers, and the just-released Medievil seems to be doing well with fans of the original. Perhaps we'll see some other beloved hits make a return when the PS5 finally arrives.

How does the competition compare? Microsoft has its fair share of big exclusives coming – Halo Infinite, for example – as well as a collection of newly acquired studios who can pump out new games. And Nintendo has its fair share of big licenses, including a slew of Mario titles, Pokemon, and the upcoming Animal Crossing.

It seems Sony will face some stiffer competition next generation. But we still think the PS5 will have the upper hand in terms of exclusives.

Old-school franchises that could make a comeback

Sony is no stranger to franchise follow-ups. New entries in the God of War and Uncharted sagas have done significantly well. And The Last of Us: Part 2 will undoubtedly be one of the biggest releases of 2020. But the PlayStation 5 could be home to a few franchise revivals, as well, should the company bring back some favorites we haven't seen in years.

For instance, Sly Cooper hasn't been seen since Thieves In Time on the PlayStation 3. Twisted Metal could get a new lease on life with the right development team. A new Ratchet and Clank could follow up on the PS4 adventure quite nicely, and would be easier to pull off now that Insomniac is part of the PlayStation family. And fans would no doubt like to see Jak and Daxter back, perhaps with a little help from Naughty Dog.

Looking at Sony's competitors, Microsoft has largely left its dormant IPs alone. Have you seen a Perfect Dark game lately, or a new Banjo-Kazooie? And Nintendo has also ignored some fan favorites, leaving successful franchises like Advance Wars in the dust. Sony has a nice stable of forgotten intellectual properties it could tap into if it wanted. Those could give the PS5 a big boost over its rivals.

Innovative features for the DualShock 5

Remember a few years ago when Sony introduced its PlayStation 3 SixAxis controller and it was a huge misfire? Never again. The company learned its lesson and gave its DualShock 4 controller a more effective design, packed full of features. And it doesn't sound like Sony is done innovating just yet, as it has something in store for the next evolution in DualShock.

Though an official design isn't available yet, an early report suggests that the DualShock 5 (as it may or may not be called) will feature both adaptive triggers (for unique levels of tension based on presses) and haptic feedback (similar to HD Rumble on the Nintendo Switch). These would help gamers adapt a better feel for their characters, and take better control of their actions. There's also word that the new controller may also have USB-C charging technology. And reports suggest the battery will be larger, which could enable longer playtime.

As we said, the Nintendo Switch has HD Rumble built in, so it utilizes its own form of haptic feedback. The Xbox Scarlett's controller hasn't been fully detailed yet, so we're not quite sure what to expect. Sony, for the moment, may have a slight edge thanks to the DualShock 5's expanded feature set. But we'll have to wait until we get some hands-on time with the controller to be certain.

Even better support for PlayStation VR

We already know that the PlayStation 5 will utilize 3D audio, and that it'll support 8K visuals. But those features may not only make the experience of playing on your TV better. They could also take Sony's PlayStation VR to a whole new level of immersion.

Initially introduced for the PlayStation 4, Sony's virtual reality headset has sold past 4.2 million units thanks to popular games like Beat Saber and Borderlands VR. PSVR could host even better experiences on the PlayStation 5, particularly in titles by developers who know how to take advantage of its tech. And it doesn't sound like the PlayStation VR will need an upgrade to do so, either. Sony's Mark Cerny made it clear that "VR is very important" to the company, and that "the current PSVR headset is compatible with the new console."

That gives the PlayStation 5 a push past its competition when it comes to virtual reality experiences. Microsoft is still hard at work on its HoloLens tech, and the closest thing Nintendo has to that level of experience is Labo VR, which isn't really trying to compete with what the others have to offer.

With the right developers — and games that can truly draw players in — PlayStation 5 could truly lead the way with virtual reality on consoles.

A next-generation virtual assistant

A recent report suggests that Sony could give a full-on virtual assistant feature a try with the PlayStation 5. According to that report, Sony filed a patent for a Voice Help System Using Artificial Intelligence that, if utilized in the final hardware, could serve as a Siri-like assistant for PS5 owners.

It's also said that the PS5's Voice Help System could do much more than launch games and perform simple functions. The assistant could also provide further details about objectives within a specific game, as well as details on opponents, puzzles, and more. One example points to Guerrilla's Horizon Zero Dawn, showing Aloy requesting more information on a specific weapon. 

The Xbox One did support voice commands with the Kinect (and still kind of does, for those that have one), but that peripheral is no longer sold alongside the console. And while the Xbox One does have the support of Google Assistant and Amazon's Alexa, the functionality isn't very deep. As for the Nintendo Switch, everything is manual at the moment via controller input.

Some could see the PS5 assistant as gimmicky, but there are others who might find the feature useful. This could be another area where the PlayStation 5 shines.

A much-improved user interface

While the PlayStation 4 doesn't have a bad user interface, the process of navigating around the console can be a bit complicated for those with a large game library or a bunch of installed apps. Not only that, the PS4 hides a lot of useful information deep inside its menus.

Fortunately, it sounds like that will be addressed with the PlayStation 5, which will have a "completely revamped" interface.

According to Sony's Mark Cerny, the last thing players want is to "have to boot the game, see what's up, boot the game, see what's up." With this overhaul, players will be able to engage more with their favorite games and their friends more quickly. Cerny explained that "multiplayer game servers will provide the console with the set of joinable activities in real time." But single players won't be left out, as their games "will provide information like what missions you could do," along with "rewards you might receive for completing them." In short, "all of these choices will be visible in the UI." It sounds like Sony may have done its homework on this one.

The Xbox One's interface is constantly being reworked, and as for Project Scarlett: the jury is out on what we'll get. The Switch has a simple, no-frills UI at the moment, and it doesn't appear that Nintendo is interested in adding to it. If the PS5's more engaging, more user-friendly interface delivers, Sony should have no problem jumping ahead of the competition.

A more environmentally friendly console

Sony wants to do some good for the environment, which is why the company recently joined the Playing for the Planet Alliance. As part of the Alliance, Sony is aiming to reduce the environmental impact of its future video game consoles. And you can expect to see changes in line with that as soon as the PlayStation 5, which will have improved energy consumption when it's in standby mode.

The company has already estimated that the PS5's standby mode will register at 0.5 W, which is a huge step down from PS4's 8.5 W, based on this report. And according to SIE president Jim Ryan, the low power consumption of the PS5 in standby mode will "save equivalent to the average electricity use of 1,000 US homes." Though Ryan didn't note whether stand-by would be turned on by default, it's probably a very easy switch to flip.

Both Nintendo and Microsoft have environmental initiatives, as well. The former engages in a number of green practices. And Microsoft is reportedly aiming to make 825,000 Xbox One consoles carbon neutral. The three appear to be really close in terms of what they're doing for the planet, but if Sony can truly reduce the amount of power being used in homes around the globe, that could have a greater impact.