Games: Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo gearing up for a 'new console' Christmas showdown

X Box Series X will be the next offensive in Microsoft's campaign for console dominance
Neil McGreevy

:: The 'Big Three' gear up for Christmas showdown

THE Doomsday Clock is officially at 100 seconds to midnight, but if the world hasn't burned down by this Christmas, we can at least look forward to three new consoles jostling for space under the tree.

Of course, the big battle is between Sony's PS5 and the new Xbox, but Nintendo – seasoned thorn in their sides – is rumoured to be targeting the holidays for a souped-up version of its Switch.

In December, Microsoft announced their next console was the Xbox Series X, a name as horrible as it is confusing. Befuddled parents being asked if they want one Xbox One X or One Series X may well just buy four candles instead. And, while the Xbox One would be forever truncated to the embarrassing 'Xbone', at least potty-minded teens will surely find no unfortunate abbreviations for Xbox Series X.

But what's in a name? The 'Series' bit suggests this will be a family of hardware along the lines of the Xbox One X and S, with lower-end machines selling at a budget price.

Sporting the chunky look of a subwoofer or PC tower, specs suggest it'll be over eight times more powerful than Xbox One, though all that silicone finery is sure to come at a price. Analysts suggest selling it for even £500 would mean a serious loss on each unit.

The PS5, by comparison, seems to be aiming for a performance/price balance. Sony won this generation on games – and it's exclusives, not microchips, that'll shift these machines.

In that regard, the Japanese giant has a considerable lead, having built up a tonne of goodwill with PS4. In fact, a recent survey of developers shows the PS5 is generating more interest within the industry than its Microsoft rival, with just 9 per cent currently making games for the Series X compared to 11 per cent for PlayStation.

The official unveiling of the PS5 is rumoured to be this February, with the console launching in time for Christmas, around the same time as the Series X.

Of course, there's another player already on the market – from the richest company in the world, no less. But a confusing price structure and many features remaining unavailable have hobbled Google's streaming service, Stadia – and PS5 and Series X will provide its sturdiest coffin nails. While I'm loathe to admit it, there will be a successful 'Netflix of games' someday – but it ain't this, and I suspect it won't be long before it's off to the farm for poor old Stadia.

But this isn't a two-horse race, and while Nintendo have never confirmed a Switch Pro, it's an open secret that they're working on a beefier version of the portable. Historically, Nintendo have never attempted to match the graphical whizz-bang of PlayStation and Xbox – with Zelda, Mario and the gang, they don't have to.

But without the 4K and 8K possibilities of their upcoming rivals, the poor old Switch is in danger of looking antiquated by year's end. It's reported that the guts of the Switch Pro, powered by Nvidia's Volta chips, won't result in major performance increases, instead focusing on pushing frame rates to 60fps and improving the battery life. Expect official word at this year's E3 in June.

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