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Xbox Scarlett finally has a feature PS5 won't

We're expecting the match-up between the Xbox Scarlett and the PlayStation 5 to be pretty close. Microsoft has gone on the record to state the system "will not be out of position on power or price." And Sony's talked quite a bit — mostly to Wired — about some of what the PlayStation 5 will bring to the table.

And we know where both companies stand at the moment. Microsoft stumbled pretty hard at the start of the generation, though it's mostly regained its footing thanks to initiatives like Xbox Game Pass. And Sony? To say the PlayStation 4 is a juggernaut would be an understatement. Over 100 million PS4s have been sold since 2013, and it's clear that Sony has the exclusives people want to play.

From the Xbox side, it's tough to see how Microsoft's next system will compete. If it's comparable in power and price, Sony still has the upper hand thanks to its catalog of exclusives. But the Xbox Scarlett does have one secret weapon that isn't getting a whole lot of attention, and it's one, frankly, that a lot of gamers are really going to appreciate heading into the next gen: Xbox Play Anywhere.

For those out of the loop, Xbox Play Anywhere enables you to purchase a game once and play it on both console and PC. Your game saves travel with you, as do your achievements. And some Play Anywhere titles even support cross-play between the console and PC versions. This is a nifty feature for those who own an Xbox One and a PC. But we can see it becoming a killer feature by the time Xbox Scarlett launches; one that could set Scarlett apart from the PS5 in a big way.

Allow us to explain.

What benefits will Play Anywhere bring to Scarlett?

We already know that Xbox Scarlett will support backward compatibility with Xbox One titles, so it shouldn't come as a surprise that Xbox Play Anywhere titles from that generation will continue to work. Microsoft's Phil Spencer, however, recently confirmed that Xbox Play Anywhere will be supported on Xbox Scarlett, as well. That means games developed specifically for Scarlett could also join the Play Anywhere program, netting you a free copy of the same title on PC (should you purchase it digitally). Do you want to play the next big Gears game on both Xbox Scarlett and PC? Thanks to Xbox Play Anywhere support on the platform, you'll be able to do so, and you'll only have to buy the game once.

Xbox Play Anywhere on Scarlett will also make the transition to Microsoft's next-generation machine a lot easier for players. Let's say you're happy with your Xbox One X and you're really looking forward to Halo Infinite. You could purchase the game digitally for your Xbox One X and experience Master Chief's latest adventure on the console you already have. Should you later decide to upgrade to Xbox Scarlett, though, you'll also have access to the version of Halo Infinite specifically developed for that machine. Yes, Xbox Play Anywhere won't just work between console and PC; it'll work between Xbox One and Xbox Scarlett, as well. That's pretty huge.

We don't suppose PS4 players who purchase The Last of Us: Part 2 will be getting a free copy of the game on PlayStation 5, where it'll undoubtedly show up looking much prettier. So you can probably understand how this approach gives Xbox Scarlett at least one advantage over the PS5.

How can the PS5 match this Xbox Scarlett feature?

To be honest, we're not sure what Sony can do to counteract Play Anywhere with the PlayStation 5. To match it, Sony would have to adapt its approach pretty significantly. Can you imagine God of War showing up on PC? Can you ever picture a day where Sony would sell Uncharted on Steam?

A move like that doesn't quite jive with Sony's philosophy. The company pours money into exclusives in order to sell consoles. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it.

Sony could, however, pledge to support cross-buy and cross-progression for PlayStation 4 titles that also show up on PlayStation 5. It might not have been in the company's original plans, but with Xbox Scarlett supporting Play Anywhere, perhaps Sony will feel pressured to enact a similar program. Sony claims to be "for the players," after all. At least matching Play Anywhere in this one regard would do a lot to prove it.

We'll have more news for you on both Xbox Scarlett and PlayStation 5 as it comes.