The console war between the PlayStation 5 and the Xbox Series X is heating up, and all eyes are on which of the two next-gen gaming powerhouses will launch with the biggest fanfare later this year. But aside from all the innovative tech under the hood, one of the biggest talking points so far has been the design of the two rival machines.
When it comes to the current-gen consoles, there’s not all that much difference in terms of the external aesthetics – both the PS4 and Xbox One are relatively unflashy and, thanks to their simple square/rectangular design, look best laid-out flat.
For the next-gen, though, both manufacturers seem to have put more effort into diversifying their designs for the consoles’ outer shells.
Microsoft has gone for a no-nonsense, black-tower design, almost Brutalist in its style and more akin in stature to a traditional gaming PC. This was clearly a comparison that the makers of the Xbox Series X were aiming for, with the console being sold on the PC-rivalling strength of its impressive internal hardware.
Sony, meanwhile, took a different tack with the PS5, going for a much more futuristic and, dare we say it, snazzier architecture – complete with curvy white fascias, a glossy black inner core and some atmospheric blue LED lighting. It’s undoubtedly the more visually striking of the two and it has already stoked anticipation among gamers who are eager to see it in the flesh. But what’s the inspiration behind it?
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PS5: The appeal of 'retro-futurism'
While the designers of the PS5 haven’t detailed the design concepts behind the new console, other design and architecture experts have been offering their two pennies on the next-gen contender’s quirky look.
Mark Pasnik, founding principal of architecture firm OverUnder, has broken down the PS5’s design in a fascinating interview with Inverse (you can read the full analysis here). Most interestingly, one of his key comparisons wasn’t with an architecture style, but with an iconic piece of pop culture. Yep, he thinks the PS5 has taken its inspiration from, wait for it... a Stormtrooper!
Famously designed by Ralph McQuarrie, the uniforms of the fan-favourite henchmen from George Lucas’ Star Wars clearly have something in common with Sony’s latest console. “More than architecture, the retro-futurism [of the PS5] recalls the anthropomorphic forms of…Stormtrooper uniforms – moulded plastic plates in reflective white with deep black reveals between them,” Pasnik explains.
He goes on to give a reason behind this – and why the design and launch of new games consoles inspire such excitement among hardcore and casual gamers alike.
“The draw of retro-futurism is that it takes us to a nostalgic time in the past where we could imagine a different future from the one we are currently facing,” says Pasnik. “In the midst of a pandemic, dinosaurs like a gaming console may be the very thing we most want – the technological equivalent of comfort food.” Sounds about right to us.