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Ninth generation of video game consoles

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The ninth generation of video game consoles began in November 2020 with the releases of Microsoft's Xbox Series X and Series S console family and Sony's PlayStation 5.[1][2][3]

The consoles represent significant performance upgrades from the prior Xbox One and PlayStation 4, adding faster computation and graphics processors, support for real-time ray tracing graphics,[4] output for 4K resolution, and in some cases, 8K resolution, with rendering speeds targeting 60 frames per second (fps) or higher.[5] Internally, both console families introduced new internal solid-state drive (SSD) systems to be used as high-throughput memory and storage systems for games to reduce or eliminate loading times and support in-game streaming.[6] The Xbox Series S and the PlayStation 5 Digital Edition lack an optical drive while retaining support for online distribution and storing games on external USB devices.

The positioning of these consoles as high-performance computing devices places competitors such as the Nintendo Switch and cloud-gaming services such as Stadia and Amazon Luna as overlaps from the prior eighth generation of video game consoles.

Background

The duration from the eighth generation until the start of the ninth was one of the longest in history, having started in 2012 with the release of Nintendo's Wii U. Past generations typically had five-year windows as a result of Moore's law,[7] but Microsoft and Sony instead launched mid-console redesigns, the Xbox One X and PlayStation 4 Pro.[8] Microsoft also launched a monthly console lease program, with the option to buy or upgrade.[9] Some analysts believed these factors signaled the first major shift away from the idea of console generations because the potential technical gains of new hardware had become nominal.[10]

Microsoft and Sony had announced their new consoles in 2019 for release by the end of 2020, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.[11][12] When the pandemic struck in March 2020, it impacted both marketing and production of the consoles. The cancelled E3 2020 had been planned as a major venue to premiere the consoles, and instead both Microsoft and Sony turned to online showcases to highlight the systems and launch games. Both companies acknowledged that the pandemic had strained their production supplies due to hardware manufacturing slowdowns starting in March 2020, but would not impact their console release windows, and they set consumer expectations that console supplies would likely be limited in the launch window and would slowly become more relaxed as the pandemic waned.[13][14] This created a wave of scalping through online stores, which was countered by manufacturers and vendors.[15] The ongoing global chip shortage continued to affect console shipments through the end of 2021, with Sony warning of lower production numbers during the final calendar quarter of the year and into 2022; this also affected Nintendo's Switch console production rates and Valve's plans to release the portable Steam Deck handheld gaming computer in 2021.[16]

Main consoles

PlayStation 5

The PlayStation 5 was developed by Sony as the successor to the PlayStation 4 and was first released on November 12, 2020.[17] The primary goal of the PlayStation 5's development was to reduce loading times in games, particularly those that use in-game streaming such as when the player moves across an open world. Sony developed a custom solid-state drive (SSD) architecture based on a 12-channel, 825 GB SSD along with a fast software decompression method that enables an input/output speed of up to 8 to 9 GB/s. In most early development tests, this virtually eliminated loading screens and masking loading times for open world games.[18] The main system is backed by an AMD Zen 2 system on a chip running at a variable frequency capped at 3.5 GHz, and a RDNA 2 GPU also running at a variable frequency capped at 2.23 GHz. The GPU has a total potential processing power of 10.28 teraflops. The system comes with 16 GB of memory.[19]

The PlayStation 5 was launched with two models. The base model includes an optical disc reader for most disc formats including Blu-ray, UHD Blu-ray, and retail PlayStation 5 games. A cheaper Digital model lacks the disc reader, but otherwise is equivalent to the base model. Both models support expanded memory options to store games and other data onto external drives, thus allowing players to obtain and store games through online distribution via the PlayStation Store. The PlayStation 5 has mostly complete backward compatibility with PlayStation 4 games, with only a limited number of games not currently supported on the console,[20] while the PlayStation Now cloud service is available for users to play games from the older PlayStation consoles.[21]

Xbox Series X/S

The Xbox Series X/S is the successor to the Xbox One and was released on November 10, 2020 in select regions.[22][23] Microsoft followed the Xbox One's dual console models: a high-end line (the Series X comparable to the Xbox One X), and a cheaper model (the Series S comparable to the Xbox One S).[24] The performance goal for the Xbox Series X was about four times that of the Xbox One X,[25] but without sacrificing game development for the lower-end Xbox Series S.[24]

Both the Xbox Series X and Series S use an AMD Zen 2 CPU and an RDNA 2 GPU but with different frequencies and compute units. The Series S has lower frequencies with reduced performance, and the Series X has graphics performance estimated at 12,14 teraflops compared to the Series S's 4.006 teraflops.[26][27] Microsoft developed a Velocity Architecture, which includes an internal SSD system (1 TB on the Series X, 500 GB on the Series S) used for storing games and new DirectX interfaces with improved input/output and in-game texture streaming and rendering. The Series X includes an optical disc reader supporting Blu-ray and UHD media, which is absent in the Series S.[28] Both consoles support external game storage media and online distribution via Xbox Live. Full backward compatibility was announced for all Xbox One games, including previously supported Xbox and Xbox 360 games but excluding Kinect games.[29][30] Microsoft encouraged third-party developers and publishers to use its Smart Delivery approach to give Xbox One games free performance upgrade patches for Xbox Series X/S.[31]

Comparison

Product Line PlayStation Xbox
Name PlayStation 5 Digital Edition PlayStation 5 Xbox Series S Xbox Series X
Logo PlayStation 5 logo and wordmark.svg Xbox Series X S black.svg
Image PS5DigitalEdition.png PlayStation 5 and DualSense with transparent background.png Xbox Series S with controller.jpg Xbox Series X 2.jpg
A PS5 Digital Edition with the DualSense controller A PS5 Standard Console with the DualSense controller An Xbox Series S with its controller An Xbox Series X with its controller
Manufacturer Sony Interactive Entertainment Microsoft
Release dates
  • WW: November 10, 2020
Launch prices US$ 399.99 499.99 299.99 499.99
399.99 499.99 299.99 499.99
GB£ 359.99 449.99 249.99 449.99
A$ 599.95 749.95 499 749
JP¥ 39,980 49,980 32,980 49,980
Current prices Same as release
Sales Shipped 13.4 million (as of September 30, 2021)[34] ca. 8 million (as of September 30, 2021)[35][a]
Sold 10 million (as of July 28, 2021)[38] Currently N/A
Distribution
Media Digital Distribution UHD Blu-ray, Blu-ray, digital distribution Digital distribution UHD Blu-ray, Blu-ray, DVD, CD, digital distribution
Other N/A UHD Blu-ray, Blu-ray, DVD N/A UHD Blu-ray, Blu-ray, DVD, CD
CPU
Type Custom AMD 8-core Zen 2
ISA x86-64
Clock speed up to 3.5 GHz (variable) with SMT always on 3.4 GHz with SMT, 3.6 GHz without SMT 3.6 GHz with SMT, 3.8 GHz without SMT
GPU Type Custom AMD Radeon RDNA 2 architecture
Clock speed up to 2.233 GHz (variable) 1.565 GHz 1.825 GHz
TFLOP/s up to 10.28 TFLOPS 4.006 TFLOPS 12.14 TFLOPS
Compute units 36 out of 40 CUs (2304 out of 2560 SMs) enabled 20 out of 24 CUs (1280

out of 1536 SMs) enabled

52 out of 56 CUs (3328

out of 3584 SMs) enabled

Memory Main &
Other
16 GB GDDR6 SDRAM; 256-bit (unified)
512 MB DDR4 SDRAM (for background tasks)
10 GB GDDR6 SDRAM; 128-bit (semi-unified) 16 GB GDDR6 SDRAM; 320-bit (semi-unified)
Bandwidth 448 GB/s 8 GB (128-bit) (GPU) @ 224 GB/s & 2 GB (32-bit) (system) @ 56 GB/s 10 GB (320-bit) (GPU) @ 560 GB/s & 6 GB (3.5 GB & 2.5 GB) (192-bit) (system & OS) @ 336 GB/s
Clock speed 1.750 GHz (14.000 GHz effective)
Reserved 161 GB 200 GB
Storage Internal 825 GB PCIe Gen 4 customed NVMe SSD 512 GB PCIe Gen 4 customed NVMe SSD 1 TB PCIe Gen 4 customed NVMe SSD
External M.2 NVMe SSD support (with September 2021 system update),[39] USB 3.2 HDD Support (except for PS5 optimised games) Storage Expansion Card (up to 2 TB), USB 3.1 HDD Support (except for X/S optimised games)[40]
Bandwidth 5.5 GB/s (RAW or uncompressed), 8-9 GB/s, up to 22 GB/s (compressed) 2.4 GB/s (RAW or uncompressed), 4.8 GB/s (compressed)
Game Installation Updates are downloaded and installed automatically in Rest Mode Updates are downloaded and installed automatically in Instant-on Mode
Network Wireless 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac/ax dual-band Wi-Fi @ 2.4 GHz and 5.0 GHz 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac dual-band Wi-Fi @ 2.4 GHz and 5.0 GHz
Wired Gigabit Ethernet
Dimensions 390 mm × 260 mm × 92 mm
15.4 in × 10.2 in × 3.6 in
390 mm × 260 mm × 104 mm
15.4 in × 10.2 in × 4.1 in
151 mm × 65 mm × 275 mm
5.9 in × 2.6 in × 10.8 in
151 mm × 151 mm × 301 mm
5.9 in × 5.9 in × 11.9 in
Weight 3.9 kg (8.6 lb) 4.5 kg (9.9 lb) 1.92 kg (4.2 lb) 4.44 kg (9.8 lb)
Power 340-watt[41] 350-watt[41]
Included in the box:
  • DualSense Wireless Controller
  • USB Type-C to Type A charging cable for the DualSense wireless controller
  • HDMI cable (compatible with Ultra High Speed defined by HDMI v2.1)
  • AC power cord
  • Console base
Video Output HDMI: 720p, 1080i, 1080p, 4K UHD, 8K UHD HDMI: 720p, 1080p, 1440p, 4K UHD HDMI: 720p, 1080p, 1440p, 4K UHD, 8K UHD
Audio
  • Custom Tempest 3D Engine, supports: Dolby Atmos & DTS:X (Blu-ray and Ultra HD Blu-ray disc video when connected to a supported device), Dolby Digital (max 5.1ch), Dolby Digital Plus (max 7.1ch), Dolby TrueHD (max 7.1ch), DTS (max 5.1ch), DTS-HD High Resolution Audio (max 7.1ch), DTS-HD Master Audio (max 7.1ch), AAC (max 5.1ch), Linear PCM (max 7.1ch), up to 7.1 surround sound overall
Peripheral abilities
Controller DualSense Wireless Controller Xbox Wireless Controller
Touch capability DualSense controller includes a "touchpad"
Camera PS5 HD Camera
Online services PlayStation Network, PlayStation Now Xbox network, Xbox Game Pass
Downloads games and automatic updates in the background Downloads games and automatic updates in the background
Paid PlayStation Plus subscription required for Cloud saves, online multiplayer, except for free-to-play titles Paid Xbox Live Gold subscription required for online multiplayer, except for free-to-play titles, free cloud saves[42]
Game DVR Image Screenshots with Twitter integration
Video Up to 1 hour of gameplay with Dailymotion, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube integration
Live streaming Live streaming with Dailymotion, Twitch, Ustream and YouTube Gaming integration
Free
List of games List of PlayStation 5 games List of Xbox Series X and Series S games
Backward compatibility Almost all PlayStation 4 and PlayStation VR games All Xbox One games (excluding Kinect-required games) and Xbox 360 and original Xbox games playable on Xbox One (list)
System software Playstation 5 System Software Xbox Series X/S System Software
Updates Updates are downloaded and installed automatically in Rest Mode Updates are downloaded and installed automatically in Instant-on Mode
Sources "Inside PlayStation 5: the specs and the tech that deliver Sony's next-gen vision"[43] "Inside Xbox Series X: the full specs"[44]

Other consoles

Nintendo Switch

The Nintendo Switch's position compared to the PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X/S remains unclear.[2][3] The console was released in March 2017, long before either of these units, as Nintendo wanted to recover quickly from the commercial failure of the Wii U.[45] As they had done with the original Wii, Nintendo designed the Switch in a blue ocean strategy to set the console apart from the competition.[46] The Switch has generally been technologically considered a member of the eighth generation, due to lower processing power. It remains competitive, however, hosting multiplatform games alongside PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S. These Switch versions may be supplemented by the power of cloud gaming based solutions, as with Control and Hitman 3.[47]

Cloud gaming platforms

Two major cloud gaming platforms, Stadia and Amazon Luna, were introduced in November 2019 and October 2020, respectively. Along with existing cloud systems like GeForce Now, these systems lack any financial breakthrough as home video game consoles, but they are viable for multiplatform ninth generation games.[48]

While Sony promoted its PlayStation lineup of narrative-driven game exclusives, Microsoft promoted its cloud gaming Xbox Game Pass, a departure from console war strategy. This gave Microsoft a head start in what analysts expected to be a major complementary service, supplementing the unprofitable console business and appealing to more entry-level players with better accessibility at a lower price.[49]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Microsoft does not report exact sales for its consoles since the Xbox One, and sales are based on industry estimates.[36][37]

References

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