Games Inbox: Is the PS5 outselling the Xbox Series X?

The Thursday Inbox wonders what video games will be like in a hundred years’ time, as one reader recommends A Plague Tale: Innocence.

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Early lead
So the PlayStation 5 is the fastest selling PlayStation ever and has already passed the 10 million mark, eh? That’s impressive stuff (I guess, I’ll take everyone’s word for it that 10 million in eight months is good) but there are so many factors involved I’m not sure it can be taken as clear sign of anything in particular.

The 1.1 million sales of Ratchet & Clank, in so quick a time, is a better indication that the PlayStation 5 is really popular because it means that more than 10% of owners went out and bought the game, which is a really good attach rate. Although even that is complicated by the fact that it was also sold in bundles, where people might not have particularly wanted the game.

Is there any indication of how well the Xbox Series X has sold? I know Microsoft say Game Pass is more important to them now but I’m sure they’d be all too happy to talk about if they were beating Sony. It’s interesting times at the moment, with Sony seeming to be in the weaker position but actually selling really well. I shall be very interested to see what happens when both consoles are easily available.
Gorf

GC: Officially it’s impossible to tell because Microsoft hasn’t released hardware sales figures since the Xbox One era. Unofficially, Xbox Series X/S sales are estimated to be around 6 million worldwide. But at this point that’s merely an indication of how many have been manufactured, not of popularity.

A trained eye
RE: David. I saw that my last letter was a bit overkill for some of the other readers as well. I have to show my working out when it comes to console powah or else folks get a bit accusatory. Here’s the TL;DR.

Basically, the difference in performance between the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, when you account for resolution, frame rate, textures and effects, was often quite large between games. It could add up to over a 40% difference in performance, although the perceivable difference isn’t that big.

Based on Digital Foundry analysis, the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X are doing the same textures, effects and frame rates the vast majority of time. The Xbox Series X scales resolution a little higher more often (the equivalent of about 5% to 11% extra performance) but the frame rate tends to be very slightly less stable (VRR can fix it). Sometimes, even recently, games can perform better on PlayStation 5. The difference is so tight that it can be down to other factors as to what determines best performance on any given game.

As for what difference can be perceived to the untrained eye, it’s going to be nothing. I can’t really tell the difference between 1440p and 4K on my TV, so I definitely won’t be able to tell the difference between 17XXp and 16XXP, or whatever it usually is.
Twigglypuff

GC: You obviously know your stuff but the most interesting thing to us is that you’ve proven just how unhelpful stats and measurements are in quantifying any of this. No one would dream of describing the difference between an average Xbox One and PlayStation 4 game as a 40% performance gap, which renders all the technical specifications meaningless. ‘To the untrained eye, it’s going to be nothing’ sums it all up very neatly.

A year of anniversaries
I’ve been playing both Hades and A Plague Tale: Innocence recently. Innocence came courtesy of PS Plus and I found it surprisingly enjoyable. In many ways it was quite similar to The Last Of Us, but oddly I found myself enjoying it more. The setting is more interesting, the choices you are obliged to make are less unpalatable, and crucially it’s shorter. The voice acting is also surprisingly excellent (so is The Last Of Us to be fair). Would recommend to anyone who enjoyed Naughty Dog’s games.

Hades is a real surprise for me. I don’t typically enjoy roguelikes and bounced really hard off Spelunky 2 when I tried it recently. Hades is great. Tons of personality, terrific art style and combat, and the drip feed of interesting changes each time you complete a run is perfectly judged. You always feel that there’s going to be something new to enjoy, which is something I never felt with Spelunky. I’m playing it on the Switch, but I understand it’s coming to the other formats in August. Again, I would really recommend it.

As an aside, I’m curious why anniversaries are a thing in gaming? It’s not something that is recognised much in film and music, but us gamers seem to want to celebrate every five years of any significant game, though it seems rare that this is reciprocated by any games company (not surprising given the time it takes to make games I guess).
Matt (he_who_runs_away – PSN ID)

GC: Video games age very quickly. For one to stay relevant for 25 or 30 years – or 40 in the case of Donkey Kong – is a huge achievement. There just happens to have been a lot of them this year, which is really unfortunate given the pandemic, as they can’t be properly celebrated.

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FPM
I don’t know if anyone in the Inbox or Underbox has mentioned this film before but I have just seen a film called Hardcore Henry, which is basically a first person shooter/action film by the director of the recently released Nobody film. I didn’t expect to like it but gave it a go and thoroughly enjoyed it, to my surprise. It came out in 2015, so a bit late to it.

It won’t win any Oscars but if you like video games and films you should give it a go. It stars Sharlto Copley from District 9, which reminds me of Half-life. Some of the acting isn’t great but some of it is supposed to be cheesy and not too serious.
Andrew J.
PS: Mothergunship and Train Sim World 2 are free on Epic Games Store from Thursday, 29th July at 4pm.

The greatest teacher
Much like the reader in yesterday’s Inbox, I too gave up on both Dark Souls and Seikiro due to the constant trudging from the last bonfire to the boss, only to die again. I thought his idea of being to save anywhere is a great one and would certainly mean I would try the games again, as I still feel you would be able to learn from your failures of repeatedly dying against the boss. Genuine question, is there a design decision why they don’t put a checkpoint immediately before a boss fight?

Anyway, it got me wondering whether there might be a PC mod which allows saving anywhere?
Angry_Kurt (Twitter)
Now playing: Zelda: Skyward Sword (Switch) and F1 2021 (Xbox Series X)

GC: You’re meant to be worried about dying, not shrugging it off as a minor inconvenience. Also, it leaves plenty of room for distractions along the way, such as discovering new secrets or deciding you’d be better off banking more souls before trying again. Save scumming would greatly reduce the impetus for that.

The far future of gaming
In my attempts to be a published author one day, one of my projects is set in the mid-22nd century. And, despite teenagers being central characters, gaming has weirdly never come up nor have I found a natural moment to shoehorn it in. But that has got me thinking: what does the future hold for video games? Not just in five, 10 or 20 years’ time – but over a hundred? Huh?

Now, of course there’s the holodeck from Star Trek. But assuming there are no major, society-ending disasters between now and 2150 – how would evergreen franchises fare as holodeck programmes? Would you be Sonic himself? You could mess with gravity and spatial awareness to give you the feeling of being the Blue Blur – yet doesn’t that sound like a recipe for lots of vomit?

Augmented reality holds enormous potential, along with holograms that can be fully interacted with and adjusted to be any size you wish. However, that is simply fancier touchscreen controls – which we know are not great at everything. In fact, they’re highly specialised.

Let’s face it: video games have evolved alongside physical controller devices. Having an implant that, say, lets you play your own dreams might be good, but there would be a danger of you waking up more tired. Not to mention that implants might not even catch on in the first place.

Going back to AR, what if your controller simply turned your room into the game? Into the level? A panoramic Green Hill Zone or Spirit Temple? Or, wow, something like Rainbow Ride?

What do you think, GC? What do other readers think?

Yes. I am totally going to steal ideas…
DMR

GC: We think that’s a bigger assumption than you let on in the second paragraph. Mad Max ain’t got time for playing video games.

Dry run
For anyone contemplating a Dark Souls or similar playthrough but is afraid of the difficulty. I would recommend watching a glitch-less speed run of the game(s). You can see where the easiest route through the game is, learn boss cheesing tactics, and skip a lot of the annoying enemies. Should you then give it a go you will have a better understanding of what you need to do.
Bobwallett
PS: you need to rename the Gaming tab on the Metro site as gaming doesn’t exist, apparently. Thank goodness for EA marketing execs, although I don’t know what my hobby is called now.

GC: It was the term ‘gamer’ they felt was outdated, not gaming.

Ethical boycott
Activision Blizzard staff walked out for four hours yesterday, standing together to show the company they will not allow the alleged behaviour to continue.

I know there is bad in the world, and few companies truly operate ethically. As an individual it’s difficult to be ethical even when buying food and clothing. We all have to draw our line somewhere.

I find it extremely difficult to enjoy any game made under conditions like those outlined by Kotaku in their recent report about Ubisoft Singapore. Then a mere week later we hear of the most recent allegations about the culture at Activision Blizzard. The idea of playing anything forged in that culture makes my skin crawl.

What surprised me about both reports is that there appears to have been no meaningful change in the industry since the revelations at Ubisoft and Riot Games last year. Is it that no one at Activision Blizzard thought it could happen to them or are they so arrogant, callous, and short-sighted that they didn’t even entertain that they might need to change?

I have boycotted Activision and Ubisoft for years, but I don’t expect anyone else to do the same. However, if anyone decides to stop playing games produced by any of these companies, and cancel subscriptions, I applaud you.

Bobby Kotick’s statement promises they will ‘listen’ and that a former statement was ‘tone deaf’, but it is difficult to see as anything but posturing for shareholders. What’s tone deaf is a company earning over $2 billion in revenue and rewarding Bobby with over $100 million whilst over 100 staff were laid off and whilst those who actually make the games have to choose between heating and eating. Oh, and they can’t even afford to eat in the staff canteen.

It’s utterly reprehensible and I hope that for once, those responsible actually face repercussions rather than being moved, or being allowed to resign with stocks and a full pension.
Matt

Inbox also-rans
That Abandoned dev really is playing with fire and I don’t understand what they think they’re going to get out of all this. Are people really going to rush to buy an indie survival horror game because they once pretended it was a Metal Gear spin-off? I’m guessing not.
Danse

10 million PlayStation 5s have been sold and I still haven’t got one? Admittedly I haven’t made the effort I should (because I’m lazy, not that I don’t want one) but that’s impressive for how impossible they are to get hold of.
Caskade

This week’s Hot Topic
The subject for this weekend’s Inbox was suggested by reader Olliephant, who asks what is your least favourite video game genre?

No one likes every type of video game so which ones do you automatically avoid? Was there a particular game that put you off them and how many have you tried, to know you don’t like them? Given modern games often include elements from multiple genres do you ever avoid them too, if they have too much of the genre you don’t like?

What’s the closest you’ve come to enjoying the type of game you don’t like and is there anything simple developers could change in order for you to enjoy it more?

E-mail your comments to: [email protected]

The small print
New Inbox updates appear every weekday morning, with special Hot Topic Inboxes at the weekend. Readers’ letters are used on merit and may be edited for length and content.

You can also submit your own 500 to 600-word Reader’s Feature at any time, which if used will be shown in the next available weekend slot.

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