Games: Microsoft and Sony announce release dates and pricing for their next-gen consoles

Microsoft's new Xbox Series X and S
Neil McGreevy

Sony and Microsoft take the gloves off

MICROSOFT blinked first. After months of playing chicken, and with the holiday season looming, neither Sony nor their rival would tell us when we could play their next-gen hardware or for how much.

However, last week the US giant tore off the shroud to reveal that their Xbox Series X would hit retail on November 10 for £449.99. More surprising, though, is the bottom dollar on their diddy version – the Series S – which skimps on some of the trimmings to come in at a pauper-friendly £249.

All eyes were on Sony, and on Wednesday the current console king announced a November 19 release date for PS5, matching the full-fat Xbox price-tag of £449.99, and with a disc-less digital-only version for £359.99.

Both offer phenomenal kit that shunts eye-wateringly large amounts of data around lickety-split for practically zero loading times, and the pricing is a steal considering their guts. Six years ago, the Xbox One launched at £430 while the PS3 cost a whopping £425 back in 2006.

Recognising that times are tough for expensive new tech purchases, and with much ground to make up from the last generation, Microsoft will even finance your purchase, meaning in two months' time you could be bingeing their next-gen toy for £20.99 a month (£28.99 for the Series X). This includes a subscription to Game Pass Ultimate, ensuring a majestic trickle of free titles to play.

Looking like a drive-through speaker, the cheaper Series S is much smaller than its big brother but plays the same games, albeit without native 4K resolution. Though with less on-board memory (512GB compared to 1TB) that hard drive is gonna fill up quickly – especially with no discs to take the strain – so factor in the cost of additional silicon down the line.

Matching the Series X price, Sony's PS5 will be a no-brainer for fans of their meaty narrative blockbusters, and though the budget Digital Edition is over £100 more expensive than the cheapest Xbox option, it's the same full-fat PS5 experience, with no skimping on specs.

A word to the frugal, though – opting for a digital only console forever shackles you to paying official online store prices.With no option to bag a supermarket bargain or go second-hand, they've merrily got you over a barrel. Better to dig deep now and go for the disc-spinning version of either.

Only time will tell if pandemic-stretched pockets will prefer the budget Xbox Series S to PlayStation's offering, or if the goodwill Sony has generated with the PS4 generation powers them through the next.

Whichever way you swing, Covid's second wave is gonna prove a lot more bearable for gamers.

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