The next generation: PS4 vs. Xbox One

PS4 vs Xbox One composite

A NEW GENERATION of gaming is upon us and the excitement for the new consoles from Sony and Microsoft, the Playstation 4 and Xbox One respectively, are ranked among the most hyped for any gaming generation. Question is: are you on the blue side, or the green?

In terms of pure power, the PS4 has an advantage on the Xbox One with its more powerful graphics card and faster DDR5 RAM, but how this will equate in terms of actually playing games we are yet to see. Both Sony and Microsoft have taken a different approach to their consoles this time around.

Let’s start with Sony. Sony will be one of the first to admit that life for the Playstation 3 didn’t start very well. Released almost a full year after the Xbox 360, it was very overpriced at launch, costing a colossal £425 compared to the £279.99 Xbox 360 launch price (which Sony blamed on the cost of the Blu-Ray technology), and a ‘Cell’ processor so complex that developers complained about the difficulties of producing games for the machine. Combine all this with the huge loss Sony made on every console sold and it was easy to tell things weren’t quite going their way, despite a number of positives that the console had, such as being one of the first Blu-Ray players on the market.

But this time it seems Sony has truly learnt their lesson. Retailing at a penny under £350, it’s certainly a step in the right direction for the Japanese giant. For that you get the console, a 500GB hard-drive (which, like the PS3, is expandable at your own leisure) and a DualShock 4 controller, although plenty of retailers are doing hardware bundles for a small price increase. With this, you’re getting a completely overhauled user interface and improved online capabilities including integrations with Gaikai, the streaming service that Sony purchased for $380m in order to have access to a huge Sony back catalogue- handy for those looking to playing those hidden gems you missed on PS1 and PS2 (Sony are hoping to incorporate as much of their back catalogue as they can, more than the PS3’s current offering).

On top of that there’s higher social media interaction designed to help show the world your gaming superiority, and an improved Playstation Eye camera to help with any face-to-face, err, stuff you might want to do.

On the surface, there doesn’t seem to be any downsides. But it’s not all quite roses for the new blue box. Developers now have the option to make their games only playable online through Playstation Plus, Sony’s premium service that was the rival to Xbox Live Gold. The service will still offer its Instant Game Collection feature, which will feature one PS4 game each month (although with Drive Club’s delay, the launch lacks a PS4 game), one to go right from the off (The Binding of Issac) and free-to-play games not using the paid service; however, it’s still a small kick in the teeth for those hoping to get away from Microsoft’s arguably draconian structure.

While Sony have still got a few exclusives like Killzone: Shadow Fall and Knack ready for launch, the delays for Watch Dogs and Drive Club have left the initial line-up a little thin. Most of the other choices consist of multi-format games, such as Call of Duty: Ghosts, Battlefield 4 and Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag being the few AAA options for gamers. While you could argue that it’s a better line-up than the Wii U had at launch, it’s still not a great set of games.
Meanwhile, Microsoft have had it pretty good this generation (in the West, at least). Their market share in the US for the 360 is huge compared to the PS3 (although still not as high as the Wii), and it’s growing in the UK. The 360 is a very good console and anyone denying that is just silly. But life for the Xbox One couldn’t have started any worse.

While announcing it at its own event back in May, they controversially revealed that the console would have some rather restrictive DRM that required the player to connect to the internet at least once every 24 hours. Understandably, this didn’t go down well with the gaming community; neither did the ‘always-on’ Kinect policy and the focus on the multi-media possibilities of the console instead of their focus on games.

Their marketing team did a great job at confusing the hell out of everyone and failing to actually demonstrate its benefits, like the family-sharing service and cloud-based services, which Microsoft had hoped would revolutionise how games are played. But, within a week of the reveal, the big M did a U-turn and now, like the PS4, the Xbox One requires no internet connection. The family-sharing is gone but the cloud will still be there, along with the updated system, user interface, streaming and TV services. They hope it to be the best multimedia hardware on the market. And it could well be.

But how much has their early ‘blunder’ cost them? It’s hard to tell at this point but, if GameSpot’s Twitter poll is any indication, it could be a lot. There were even accusations that Microsoft were trying to rig parts of the poll but it’s still rather damning. The Kinect is also now not required to be connected, but this will have also left a sour taste. The console itself is shaping up well but it’s clear to see that they were rattled by the reaction to the Xbox One. It didn’t help that Don Matrick, who was one of the pioneers for the system, jumped off what he must have thought was a sinking ship (ironically to Zynga).

In the long run though, will all of this matter? To be frank, it’s unlikely. While the Xbox One was previously seen as a big trap, they have bounced back with their line-up of games and relaxed policies on DRM (although they have left open the possibility of it coming back), and I think many gamers have recognised this. The PS4 is looking to be an excellent piece of kit but they have put a lot of faith in the indie game scene. While it’s a risky strategy, it’s probably as good a chance they’ve given themselves in succeeding seeing how much that community is currently booming.

Face-to-face, the winner of this battle is anyone’s guess. All you as the reader need to know is that there’s never been a more exciting time to be a gamer. Game on!