While the actual hardware in this generation of consoles is more similar than ever before, the approaches of the systems is very different. Making the decision to buy a PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X or Series S comes down to much more than just which has the better hardware specs.
Everything from the types of games you prefer to what you've played in the past matters. If you can't make your mind up between the two consoles, ask yourself one or more of the following questions.
1. Which Game Genres Do You Prefer?
If you're into multiplayer shooters, sprawling open-world collectathons, or massive open-ended RPGs like Skyrim or The Witcher 3, you probably prefer western-developed games. If you like fast-paced fighting games, TK, and RPGs closer to the Final Fantasy series, you probably prefer Japanese developers.
When it comes to Japan, history has shown that Microsoft's consoles don't sell well there, and that doesn't seem set to change. Hence, you can expect a whole lot of Halo and similar shooters, plus with Microsoft's recent purchase of Bethesda, you'll get a ton of open-world RPGs. If you're looking for JRPGs or anime fighters, the PlayStation 5 is the console for you.
2. What's Your Gaming History?
Are you relatively new to gaming? If so, you probably don't have a massive backlog of games you want to play on a new system. In that case, this really doesn't effect the console you should buy.
That said, if you're a longtime Xbox fan, the Xbox Series X or S is probably for you, as you get backward compatibility all the way to the original Xbox. In the case of the PlayStation 5, you get access to older games through PlayStation Now, but you can't pop in your old PS2 games.
3. What Are Your Favorite Series?
This one is simple, as it really comes to down the exclusives you prefer. With the Xbox consoles, you get Halo, Gears of War, and Forza. With Sony, you get God of War, Uncharted, and Gran Turismo.
If your favorite games start with "Tom Clancy's" or have years attached to them (think sports games), it really doesn't matter. Everything from Call of Duty to Yakuza will come to either console.
4. Do You Prefer Physical or Digital Games?
This is only really an issue when it comes to the two PlayStation 5 consoles. You can choose the standard version and the Digital Edition, which is cheaper. It all comes down to how much you like or dislike discs.
With the Xbox consoles, it's a matter of power, with the Series X being more powerful than the Series S. Either can play discs, though the extra power from the Series X makes it seem like the better choice between the two.
5. How Much Do You Want to Spend?
When it comes to cost, Microsoft wins here, with the Xbox Series S costing $299 compared to the Series X at $499. In the case of the PlayStation 5, the standard model is $499 while the Digital Edition comes in at $399. That said, the PlayStation 5 Digital Edition isn't any less powerful.
Of course, you could also buy both, but then you're looking at spending nearly $1000 if you choose the priciest version of each.
Waiting Is a Valid Option
One thing to keep in mind is that you don't have to buy a new console at all. If you're happy with your Xbox One or PlayStation 4 games, keep playing them until you feel like you have an actual reason to upgrade.
This is actually a good idea for a few different reasons. If you're curious, check out our reasons why you might want to wait a while before buying one of the new consoles from Sony or Microsoft: