As the major video game console manufacturers begin gearing up for the impending release of the next generation, the bitter rivalry between their opposing fan bases, often known as the “console war,” is heating up. The two remaining players in this age-old conflict are, of course, Sony with its PlayStation 5 and Microsoft with its Xbox Series X, as well as their throngs of fanboys.
Although Nintendo used to be a competitor in this battle, the company has largely diverged into a vein of its own since the GameCube, quietly exiting the once three-front war that existed between them for years. Even so, after the recent showcases and events that’ve taken place over the last two months with Sony and Microsoft unveiling launch lineups, features and hardware specs, the 2020 console war is renewing dormant hatreds between the two sides as we edge closer to a holiday season release.
So, what does the current console war look like exactly, and how are the two brands and their fandoms contributing to this generational schism? Let’s take a look at each, breakdown the major events so far and see how the war stacks up against previous years.
Microsoft and the Xbox Series X
Late last year during the Game Awards event, Microsoft gave the world its first peek at the Xbox Series X, which was formerly called by the codename “Project Scarlet.” At the event, Microsoft showcased a few of the next generation’s planned titles, like Hellblade 2 and Halo Infinite, as well as hardware specs and the design itself. As expected, users online rushed to express their hype and satisfaction with the reveal, setting the stage for some of the earliest skirmishes between Sony and Xbox loyalists in the war to come.
The biggest news of the day was easily the unveiling of the XSX’s contentious design, which was unlike any Xbox before it. With its blocky, tall and rectangular build, the new Xbox looked more like a small PC than the slim, flat aesthetic of nearly every gaming console to date. As a result, social media lit up in the following days with a throng of memes and Xbox Series X parodies, taking precedence over most of the discussion that revolved around games and hardware.
At the end of July, we got a much closer look at what Microsoft had in store for the Xbox Series X during its Xbox Games Showcase event. Over the course of the hour-long stream, Microsoft teased its lineup of games with a mixture of never-before-seen titles and previously unveiled favorites, including the biggest glimpse of Halo Infinite to date. Although die-hard fans remained staunch in their hype for Master Chief’s big return, many online weren’t so impressed, especially in regards to the graphics shown during the demo.
Perhaps the biggest breakout star of the showcase was none other than Craig the Brute, a nondescript enemy that only appeared for the briefest of moments in the eight-minute demo. Despite his brevity, the internet latched on and gave life to perhaps the biggest gaming meme of the summer as Craig’s blank stare swarmed online communities everywhere. His success was, in part, due to the criticisms of Halo Infinite’s graphics, as the meme was largely used to poke fun at their quality.
Just yesterday, only a few short weeks after Halo Infinite (and Craig) were touted as the Xbox Series X’s flagship exclusive title, 343 Industries and Microsoft announced that the game would be delayed until sometime in 2021. The official statement said that the reasoning for pushing back the game was due to “the result of multiple factors that have contributed to development challenges, including the ongoing COVID-related impacts,” but that didn’t stop soldiers in the console war from jumping on the opportunity to speculate and attempt to dunk on their rivals through memes.
Microsoft has more news, events and showcases planned between now and the eventual release of the Xbox Series X, which it recently confirmed will launch this November, so only time will tell if they can recover from the recent disappointment many fans have expressed over the loss of Halo Infinite in 2020.
Sony and the PlayStation 5
In early June, Sony held its “Future of Gaming” event and revealed a slew of slated PS5 games, as well as a first glimpse at the next-gen console’s design. Revealed during the course of the event were numerous, highly anticipated titles, such as Spider-Man: Miles Morales and Ratchet & Clank Rift Apart, as well as unexpected buzzworthy games like Bugsnax. The internet was quick to begin voicing their excitement over the various launch titles, while also being sure to throw punches at Xbox fans, to the surprise of none.
While the focus of the event highlighted the PS5’s impressive lineup of titles, including several notable exclusives, much of the ensuing discussion online revolved around the controversial design of the console (as seen with the XSX reveal). Through a series of PS5 design parodies, memes were perhaps the most widely spread response following the event’s conclusion. Various parodies depicting things like the PS5 as PS2 wedged between a binder garnered hundreds of thousands of reactions on platforms like Twitter, often overshadowing discussions that dominated the console wars of old.
Never a group to miss the opportunity to remind “console peasants” of their inferiority, PC gamers, also known as the Glorious PC Master Race, have responded to this latest war much the same way as previous years — watching from the sidelines while mocking both and continuing to convey their dominance.
Looking back to the war between the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4, much of this previous conflict revolved around things like hardware specs. During the last generation, the focus of both companies and fans alike often compared the performance of one console against the other, although Microsoft has always lauded the XB1 for its versatility as a home entertainment device. When the XB1 and PS4 launched, it was common to see PlayStation fans boasting their side’s console as the most powerful. This was true of the generation for quite some time until Microsoft unveiled its Xbox One X, which was marketed everywhere as the “world’s most powerful console.”
Because of this shift in focus that previously centered almost exclusively on whose console was the “most powerful,” some even argue that the console war is dead. In an article published in July, Games Industry Biz said, “The console war, at least as we have known it, is done.” While that may be somewhat true due to the diverging business models of the PS5 and XSX, the war between console fans is far from ended, as the numerous shots taken by both sides throughout this article represent.
Whatever the end result of this console war, it’s undoubtable that memes will continue to play a major role in the battles ahead, on an unprecedented scale compared to previous clashes between fans dedicated to showing the world why their side is superior. The console war over the next generation is here, and it’s only just begun.