As we make our way through the summer, console gaming titans Sony and Microsoft are gearing up for the start of their next generation. Expected to arrive in the winter, Sony’s PlayStation 5 and Microsoft’s Xbox Series X will be the figureheads of mainstream console gaming over the next seven-plus years, with much of the focus so far being on specs.

Outlets such as Forbes have discussed the frame rate and SSD developments in the consoles, as those details have been officially revealed. However, when it comes down to it, these factors will do little to decide the outcome of this console war. People buy consoles to play games, and, generally speaking, both consoles will offer the same thing. Unless there’s a tremendous gulf in pricing, this war will be decided by the software, not the hardware, as it always does in entertainment.

The PlayStation 4 of this generation has stormed to a triumphant victory in unit sales. The Xbox One attempted to focus on being a multimedia platform with superior hardware, but the Sony console becoming one of the best-selling of all-time – while the Microsoft console has sold less than half as many units – shows that the PS4’s focus resonates with gamers.

Sony went all-out to make the PS4 a must-own console

Consoles exist as a means to play games. As such, a console that grants exclusive access to several exciting, high-quality games immediately becomes more appealing to potential players. With Sony’s PlayStation 4, it’s been clear for a long time that the game you buy the console to play will be followed up by yet another top-class title.

Games like Shadow of the Colossus, Detroit: Become Human, The Last Guardian, Ratchet and Clank, Horizon Zero Dawn, Marvel’s Spider-Man, Bloodborne, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, and God of War have defined the generation started in 2013 and were all exclusive to the PS4 console. They are all top-class and regularly released, giving the platform the image of having an ever-evolving and always-new experience.

The stream of exclusives on the PlayStation 4 will almost certainly put the PlayStation 5 in good stead from day one, regardless of the somewhat kooky design rumors of the PS5. In the generation before the Xbox One and Playstation 4, the Xbox 360 went head-to-head with the PlayStation 3, with the Xbox 360 riding superb exclusives such as Gears of War, Halo 3 and Fable 2. Without these in the generation prior, the Xbox One could have seen even weaker sales, comparatively, upon release.

With momentum and established brand trust being essential factors in console sales, the Xbox Series X has a lot of work to do to effectively just bring itself back into the spotlight. With precious few highly-rated exclusives, the Xbox One faded. While the Forza Motorsport and Horizon series are always reliable, it was only supported by the likes of Ori and the Blind Forest, Sea of Thieves, Sunset Overdrive, Halo 5: Guardians, and Gears of War 5 – many of which turned out to be less appealing than previously hoped.

The lack of console-selling exclusive games from Microsoft was further emphasized when Nintendo launched the Switch. The hybrid console, which is currently run in the US by a perfectly named president, was innovative enough on its own, but like the PS4, it made the Switch a must-have console by bolstering it with a stream of top-class exclusive games.

Exclusivity decides the battles across entertainment industries

Emphasis is placed on the console wars because it’s a very expensive form of entertainment. However, as other spaces of entertainment have become more competitive – primarily due to the internet – we can see that exclusive content is invariably the decider. Just to compete, brands usually need to match competitors on basic features like accessibility, welcome offers, and pricing, making the key field of battle the exclusive content.

In the increasingly segmented field of video streaming, Netflix has had its territory invaded by several new platforms. They all offer huge libraries of shows and movies at a similar price and quality, so exclusivity comes into play. Looking at two of the biggest, Netflix and Amazon Prime, they both push their own high-quality, exclusive shows, which end up being the deciding factors for many subscribers. Amazon recognizes the appeal of exclusive content and is now investing a rumored $1 billion in a new show set in Middle-earth.

Other online-based entertainment platforms also see similar battle lines being drawn. In online casino gaming, platforms offer hundreds of games across set types, such as slots and live casino, and offer newcomers welcome bonuses. However, more successful sites like Betway offer eye-catching exclusive games like their Nevada Nights and Final Furlong, which prove to be decisive in winning over many potential players.

Offering an experience that can’t be enjoyed elsewhere when most other factors are closely matched will always be a key area that customers examine.

Ramping up to the big reveals

The PlayStation 5 team certainly recognizes the value of exclusive games, but it’s yet to be seen if the Xbox Series X has learned the importance of exclusivity. As of early June, both consoles have held their cards fairly close with regard to platform-selling titles, with the Xbox Series X showing bits of The Medium and Scorn while the PS5 has revealed Godfall.

Both Sony and Microsoft do, however, have major showcases lined-up for the summer. The Xbox has been much more aggressive and active on the campaign front, even hosting a 27-minute show that features trailers of games coming to the console. Expected in June, the PlayStation 5 will have a reveal event, while the Xbox Series X is looking to July to present its first-party Xbox Series X games.

As has been shown across all mediums of entertainment, when there are two closely-matched competitors in terms of platform, hardware, and price, people gravitate towards the more enticing exclusives.