Sony finally revealed its PlayStation 5 console hardware this week, and while the console design will undoubtedly be labeled divisive, the real surprise was Sony’s plans for two PS5 models. There’s a PS5 Digital Edition that will ship with the same hardware specs as the main model, without the 4K Blu-ray drive. Sony didn’t mention pricing for either variant, but the PS5 Digital Edition will obviously be priced below the model with the optical drive. It sets Sony up for an interesting price war against Microsoft’s Xbox Series X.
Microsoft has long been rumored to be preparing to launch two next-gen Xbox models. The Xbox maker has already revealed the Xbox Series X, but a second, cheaper Xbox (codename Lockhart) has also been in the works. Like Sony’s PS5 Digital Edition, the Lockhart model is likely to ship without an optical drive, but it’s also expected to include changes to at least the memory configuration and GPU inside that make it less powerful than the Series X.
Sony’s PS5 Digital Edition doesn’t directly counter Microsoft’s rumored plans, but it does offer the company some leverage around pricing for the PlayStation 5. Even though a 4K Blu-ray drive doesn’t make up a huge amount of the cost of next-gen consoles, it should equate to roughly a $50 price cut, thanks to the drive costs and associated licensing charges. Price is a huge factor in this next-gen console phase, particularly as it’s clear we’re about to enter one of the worst recessions for decades. Any small price savings could be key, especially if Sony and Microsoft are willing to stretch their usual losses on hardware to aggressively chase after game sales and subscriptions.
The PS5 Digital Edition eliminates the optical disc. But it also means Sony takes its cut on every game someone buys through its digital store. Sony hasn’t addressed whether it plans to allow people to loan games to friends digitally or even resell digital games, both of which could drive digital sales of games if they’re not supported.
Microsoft has already been experimenting with digital Xbox editions and even the idea of sharing games digitally. The software giant introduced a disc-less Xbox One S All-Digital Edition for $249 last year, shaving $50 off the Xbox One S retail price. It’s been a popular choice, especially as so many games now require large updates and need to be installed to a drive. Microsoft even originally planned to let Xbox One users share any games digitally, but a backlash over the used games policies and online check forced the company to reverse most of its more promising plans.