I sold my PS5 and bought an Xbox Series S

What made me jump from Sony's hardest-to-get console to Microsoft's smallest next-gen machine? Read on to find out.

Xbox Series S console and controller

by William Lobley |

It’s been less than two years since, covering the next-gen console launches, I somehow managed to preorder the PlayStation 5, guaranteeing launch-day delivery. Now, it’s gone - my next-gen experience is brought to me exclusively through an Xbox Series S, and I couldn’t be happier.

I’ve never been into the whole console-war thing - it’s an ugly and embarrassing part of gaming culture. However, on paper, my background reads as a staunch PlayStation-head.

In the nineties, it was PlayStation One, WipEouT, Spyro and Syphon Filter. My first Christmas console? That was the PlayStation 2, where I found the delights of Metal Gear Solid 3, GTA: San Andreas and Guitar Hero III. Damn, I even liked the PlayStation 3. PSP and PS Vita? You bet.

Of course, the PlayStation 4 looms large in recent collective memory - its first-party catalogue is pretty unbelievable. However, I’ve never been in love with this console - a few years after its launch, I stepped away from gaming to focus on my university studies. I sold it in 2016.

Sometime after this, I fooled myself into thinking I could afford to be a PC gamer. Realising I was wrong, I purchased a Nintendo Switch in 2019 and a PS5 in 2020.

Related: The best places to order the... PlayStation 5 | Xbox Series X and Series S

My time with the PlayStation 5

Yakuza: Like A Dragon
©Yakuza: Like A Dragon/SEGA

The PlayStation 5 is an excellent machine. The loading times and visual power are astoundingly good, and the DualSense feels like nothing else. This I believed in the hype cycle, and I’m happy to report it was true in reality. Although, the Pulse 3D headphones were only okay.

The launch of the PS5 was, if not overshadowed then coloured, by the growing spectre of Xbox Game Pass and the Microsoft studio spending spree. It drew my attention and raised an eyebrow but I was still more excited by the Sony offering. PS Plus membership promised access to a slate of highly acclaimed titles I missed during my console hiatus, plus a few potential gems in the monthly free downloads.

The launch lineup was exciting too. I completed Marvel’s Spider-Man: Remastered and the somehow-even-better Myles Morales quick-sharp, and the free Astro’s Playroom showcased the hardware well and managed to be a neat little platformer. Demon’s Souls wasn't completely my bag, but I gave it a fair swing and loved the atmosphere (but those squid wizards can go to hell).

PS Plus was a success for me - it gave me the chance to tick off Detroit: Become Human, God Of War, Uncharted 4: A Thief's End from my list. The backwards compatibility and saturated PS4 pre-owned marketplace let me enjoy cheap copies of The Last Of Us Part II, Dishonored 2 and Metal Gear Solid V to name the standouts. The PS5 upgrades of Control and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 were great. My favourite experience on the PS5 was undoubtedly sinking 80-plus hours into Yakuza: Like A Dragon - what a joy that game is.

As I hope the above demonstrates, I’ve hammered the PS5. But, pretty much as the final credits of Like A Dragon rolled, I felt my time with it was over. That was in January, and it's the last game I played on the PS5.

Why I ditched Sony’s latest console

My Nintendo Switch with the installed games listed
©What's The Best / William Lobley

The Nintendo Switch has a lot to do with my decision to trade in my PS5. I treat my Switch as an indie and odd-ball machine. I’ve been playing it throughout my ownership of the PS5, and it was my sole platform from January until I picked up the Series S at the end of March.

Highlights from the past year have been Moonlighter, Stardew Valley, Owlboy, Night In The Woods, Kentucky Route Zero, SteamWorld Heist, Oxenfree and both instalments of Ori.

The truth is that these games have been changing my player DNA. Though I’ve completed many critically and commercially acclaimed titles from Sony, something about them has me unperturbed.

The polish and spectacle they carry are a testament to the power and creativity of console gaming, but ultimately they have little charm, quirky interest or narrative innovation. The few “triple-A” games that I enjoyed were multiplatform and, at their core, the same experiences I could’ve had on a previous-gen console (the double-edged blade of cross-gen support, I suppose).

Not only this, but I felt myself struggling to get excited about what was on its way to Sony’s PS5 exclusively. I was even less excited at the prospect of paying £70 to abate my lukewarm interest.

Related: The best Switch deals | The best Switch games

Yes, Game Pass was a deciding factor

Tunic the Zelda-like game being played
©Tunic/Finji

If you like a varied gaming diet Xbox Game Pass is a steal. I’ve grown increasingly aware of this over the last year and when contributing to our roundup discussing the best games on the service.

My Switch has given me an appreciation for stimulating smaller gaming experiences, both in scale and playtime. The Game Pass catalogue is awash with such titles, and I’m already taking full advantage of it.

The excellent Zelda-like Tunic and head-scratching puzzler The Pedestrian were first on my list, and now I’m thoroughly enjoying everyone’s favourite roguelike, Hades. Maybe Chinatown Detective Agency or Paradise Killer will be next. Then I’ll probably head over to play the original Psychonauts before exploring its next-gen sequel.

The Series S isn't a powerhouse like the PS5 or Xbox Series X, but it can easily play smaller indie, legacy and retro-imitating games. So, it's all I need. Besides, it can push out 4K and variable frame rates when I do fancy braining out to a blockbuster or online play.

Clearly, Game Pass gives me access to games with a frequency and flexibility I could ill afford otherwise.

Related: The 19 best games on Xbox Game Pass to play right now

Yes, the price was also a deciding factor

PlayStation 5 console prices
©Sony

I was lucky to get a PS5 at launch, and it was a blessing not to fight scalpers for limited stock post-launch. In the same vein, the scarcity of the PS5 console means that it has held its value. Once you consider postage, I’ve about broken even on trading in my PS5. It’s not so bright with the PS5 discs which are worth about £15 a pop, but still.

Some quick maths tells you that I have a little pot left over after purchasing the Xbox Series S for £250. This has funded my Game Pass subscription and provided me with some savings. Sensible adult choices, ahoy.

Besides the numbers, I was increasingly glum at having to pay £70 for upcoming PS5 games. Day one release on Game Pass, plus access to hundreds of other games for around £7 a month - or £10, if I fancy heading online - is a winner here.

Of course, it's not as clean-cut now that Sony has revealed a contending service, loaded with a roster of over 700 games from across its generations. Yet, in typical Sony style, it looks to be a more complicated affair than it needs to be. There are three tiers of increasing price: the first is the PS Plus we know today while the second gives you PS5 and PS4 games. The top tier is the one you need to unlock all generations for download, apart from PS3, which is streaming only, for some reason. Game Pass is just far more streamlined.

Any sacrifices?

Xbox controller and Nintendo Switch Pro controller
©What's The Best / William Lobley

Going all-digital is a significant change - no second-hand market for me, so no trading-in regretful purchases. This is undoubtedly a shame and I lose some credibility when standing up for the importance of physical ownership and the presence of brick-and-mortar shops on our high streets. Though, I do own a Switch and maintain a physical game collection. It's just void of PlayStation games and will never gain the green splash of Xbox cases.

Giving in to the lure of Game Pass does feel like I’ve been bought, too. I know that Microsoft wanted me to join its service cult - it built an affordable machine to make the decision even more alluring. Having said that, it's all business. Just because Sony is currently sticking to a more traditional model doesn’t mean they are any ‘better’ than Microsoft.

Practically, there is one problem I am running into daily. Now I own both an Xbox and a Switch, I keep pressing the wrong A-button. The hardest boss of all is muscle memory.

PS5 vs Xbox Series S: Should you can Sony?

PS5 and Xbox Series S

Should PlayStation 5 owners go out en masse and cross over to the positively dinky Series S? Maybe, if they want to.

We are all free to choose the console that provides us with the gaming experience we enjoy. If you’ve tried a platform and it's not working out, there should be no tribalism - you should make the jump.

If you enjoy smaller games, discovering new titles and aren’t really fussed about the Sony-style single-player blockbusters, then maybe the PS5 isn’t for you. If the opposite is true, don’t bother with a Series S.

We all love gaming, so let’s do whatever is in our powers to make sure that remains the case.

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William Lobley is a Deputy Editor and reviewer for WhatsTheBest, specialising in technology, gaming and outdoors. He also writes for Empire Online.

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