Both Microsoft's Xbox Series X/Series S and Sony's PlayStation 5 (PS5) consoles were launched this month. It seems both have been a success and are sold out with demand outstripping supply for the foreseeable future. However, there are some early signs that Sony's device is off to a better start than Microsoft's.
This week a couple of pieces of information we have covered point to a wider issue between the two devices. Firstly, there is a suggestion the PS5 is outselling the Xbox Series consoles, although there are plenty of caveats surrounding that point. Secondly, ongoing performance tests show the PS5 is outperforming the Xbox Series X.
Let's start with those performance gaps because they are the most surprising. As we reported this week, side-by-side comparisons between the Xbox Series X and PS5 show Sony's console to be better.
Across several major titles, including Dirt 5 and Assassins Creed: Valhalla, the Xbox Series X has lower framerate performance, worse images, and simply slower performance. That has confused many considering the Xbox Series X has the better specs on paper.
Microsoft has often billed the console as the most powerful ever, and indeed its specs suggest it is. However, having the potential and fulfilling it are separate things. At the moment, Sony's less impressive PS5 is the performance champ.
Why this is happening is unclear, although Microsoft says it is working with developers to solve the problem. One potential reason could be the PS5 uses the established AMD RDNA technology, whereas the Xbox Series X uses the newer RDNA 2. Developers may not have had time to prepare games for the upgraded tech.
Whether that's the reason for the performance gap is unclear. Although, it would explain why Microsoft is actively working with dev's to bring them up to speed. We will know in the next months if this is successful and performance increases.
Delays and Sales
Interestingly, the RDNA 2 tech is also related to why the PS5 may so far be outselling the Xbox Series X. Microsoft chief Phil Spencer confirmed this week Microsoft's Series console manufacturing was behind Sony's. The company wanted to wait for that RDNA 2 tech to be available whereas Sony used the older tech.
Before continuing, it's worth noting it remains unclear whether holding out for RDNA 2 will provide Microsoft with any major advantages or not.
Microsoft delayed production suggests the company built fewer launch units than Sony. Both new consoles are sold out, but if Sony produced more units it means the PS5 has sold more than the Xbox Series devices. We already know that is the case in some obvious markets, such as Japan, but it could also be the case worldwide.
Over the next months, it will be interesting to see if Microsoft's can ramp up manufacturing to catch Sony's production. However, Sony has said this week it continues to keep production levels high and more units will come to retailers before the end of the year.
We want to thank gamers everywhere for making the PS5 launch our biggest console launch ever. Demand for PS5 is unprecedented, so we wanted to confirm that more PS5 inventory will be coming to retailers before the end of the year – please stay in touch with your local retailers.
— PlayStation (@PlayStation) November 25, 2020
Regarding sales, there are a lot of ifs involved. Still, if Sony is outselling the Xbox already, it could be a situation that sticks. Yes, it's too early to call the sales winner from this generation, but it's worth noting last generation the PS4 took and early lead over the Xbox One and never relinquished it.
Late 2021 or even 2022 will be the best indicator of the sales outlook for this generation. In the meantime, expect all the new consoles to remain sold out and in hot demand.