Opinion: Sony’s PlayStation 5 Digital Edition is the perfect answer to rumored Xbox “Lockhart”

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Sony finally revealed the design of its PlayStation 5 console yesterday, which was the climax of an hour-long event that showed many upcoming exclusive and cross-platform games running on the new console. If we weren’t completely sure that Sony would finally reveal the design of its new console yesterday, the company probably couldn’t wait any longer to prevent leaks while the manufacturing process has likely already begun.

Actually, it is quite impressive that nothing leaked about the design of the PlayStation 5 in the past couple of months. And Sony did have a “one more thing” moment yesterday with the discless PlayStation 5 Digital Edition, which was completely unexpected. It’s quite fascinating to see Sony follow Microsoft’s intuition with the Xbox One S All Digital Edition, though with an important difference: the PlayStation 5 Digital Edition will be a flagship device.

Now that we had the time to digest all the PlayStation 5 news from yesterday, it seems that the PlayStation 5 Digital Edition was actually the biggest news from Sony’s event. Speaking with the BBC yesterday, PlayStation chief executive Jim Ryan explained that this discless version of the PlayStation 5 is just a sign of the times. “Many of our consumers are purchasing solely digitally these days. We thought that we would do what we typically try and do, and just offer choice, explained Ryan.

If Sony isn’t ready yet to discuss pricing details, it’s safe to expect that the PlayStation 5 Digital Edition could be $50 or maybe $100 cheaper than the regular PlayStation 5. While Xbox marketing exec Aaron Greenberg congratulated Sony on its PlayStation 5 event yesterday, it’s possible that the announcement of the PlayStation 5 Digital Edition caught Microsoft off guard.

As of today, there’s no discless version of the Xbox Series X, though Microsoft has been rumored for a long time to be working on a cheaper next-gen Xbox SKU codenamed “Lockhart.” This new SKU recently appeared in Windows 10 files, though the idea of a discless next-gen console with an inferior GPU that can’t do 4K is making less and less sense now that the PlayStation 5 Digital Edition has been announced.

Again, keep in mind that the PlayStation 5 Digital Edition is the real console without a disc drive: It will have the same AMD Zen 2-based CPU, 10.28 teraflops RDNA2-based GPU, and ultra-fast SSD. On the other hand, Microsoft’s “Lockhart” console is rumored to be coming with a next-gen CPU and SSD, but with a 4 teraflops GPU that would be less powerful than the 6 teraflops Xbox One X GPU. Lockhart apparently targets 1440p resolution and 60 frames-per-second, while both the Xbox Series X and the PlayStation 5 will both support 4K at up 120FPS, as well as 8K.

According to Jeff Grub from VentureBeat, Microsoft was actually planning to reveal Lockhart this week, but the announcement has apparently been postponed. “The company was aiming to show off the long-rumored, more-affordable Xbox Lockhart around June 9. But it pushed those plans all the way to August — at least for now. Microsoft doesn’t want to go before Sony’s Thursday event,” Grub wrote.

Starting a new console generation with two different consoles would be quite unprecedented: it’s more work for developers who will have to scale down their games for Lockhart, and it’s still not clear if a discless console that can’t do 4K in 2020 would really appeal to many gamers. Overall, I think a discless version of the Xbox Series X would be a much more interesting proposition to compete with the PlayStation 5 Digital Edition, and it’s quite surprising to see Microsoft ignore an idea it pioneered with the Xbox One S All Digital Edition.

Microsoft’s silence about Lockhart is a bit curious, especially since the company was the first to unveil its next-gen console back in December 2019. It’s possible that Lockhart could still be canceled ahead of launch, as the software giant did in the past for other products like Surface Mini or the “McLaren” successor to the Lumia 1020. The PlayStation 5 Digital Edition may well have made the idea of Lockhart completely irrelevant, especially since Microsoft has been beating the “most powerful console” drum again and again in recent weeks.

Do you think that Microsoft should cancel the rumored Lockhart console in favor of a discless version of the Xbox Series X that wouldn’t compromise on performance? Let us know in the comments below.