Chiming In On the Xbox One Vs. PS4 War

Posted Tuesday June 11, 2013 at 9:18:08 pm in Technology

Windows vs. OS/X. iOS vs. Android. Windows Phone vs. BlackBerry. Playstation 3 vs. Xbox 360. These are just a few examples of products and platforms that can be purchased that people feel the need to validate. So it is no surprise that the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One are already causing fanboi wars. 

With the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 conferences now over at E3, we finally have some final things to grumble about for both platforms. So I want to dive in and try to compare each product based on a variety of categories.

Visuals

Neither the PS4 or the X1 are much of lookers. They're both boxy, large and not very svelte by any stretch. But where the X1 is understated, simple and even a slight bit classy, the PS4 is more of an edgy product. The PS4 has sharp angles that make it look a lot like those angled erasers from back in your middle school days. The X1, on the other hand, is a lot simpler. Square. Black. Simple. Just like its accompanying Kinect device.

Xbox One

Picture above: Xbox One

PS4

Picture above: PlayStation 4

But, being a simple guy myself, I much rather prefer the Xbox One's design. It's not particularly earth shattering nor innovative like the new Mac Pro that was teased at the opening of the WWDC, but it has a simple kind of elegance to it that is largely a departure from the slightly over-the-top designs of the Xbox 360's of old. And I say of old because Microsoft has released a new Xbox 360.

New Xbox 360

Picture above: New Xbox 360

The new Xbox 360 is available now and it looks to be a solid bridge to the Xbox One, both from a design ethos as well as price. Speaking of price....

Price

Quite a few analysts tried to predict the price of the X1 and the PS4. The ranges being predicted were everywhere from $399-$599. But the basic premise that I was trying to echo was that there was a good chance that the Xbox One was going to be more expensive than the PS4. Especially with Microsoft announcing the price before Sony.

It really does follow common sense than the X1 would be more expensive than the PS4. We knew up until E3 that the X1 would come with the new Kinect bundled. Most were also assuming that the PS4 wouldn't come bundled with the Move/Eye. 

So: Xbox One with Kinect, PS4 without Move/Eye. Common sense.

Microsoft announced that the Xbox One would be $499. At first glance, that's quite a pricey proposition. But if you remember the PS3 launch, it's not unprecedented. Nor is it a recipe for failure. The PS3 launched at a starting price of $499 for 20GB or $599 for 40GB. And both of these launched in November. And it sold well.

Xbox One: $499. How much for the PS4? $399. Sony managed to undercut Microsoft. This is quite the role reversal. After all, the Xbox 360 launched at two price points: $299 and $399. And we all know how well the 360 sold. 

So, the PS4 wins on the price front. But fans of Move/Eye will have to pony up (most likely) an additional $70, putting it on par with the pricing of the Xbox One (and Kinect). 

After release and the holiday season I expect the Xbox One to drop in price similar to the PS3 after initial launch. This will then allow Microsoft to fade out the Xbox 360 and offer similar subsidized deals on the Xbox One as they do with the Xbox 360.

Games

Now this is another subjective category, but I believe Microsoft managed to impress more people in a shorter amount of time (30 minutes) than Sony did (2 hours). While Sony tried to showcase a large number of games, what they didn't successfully do was convey dominance in game exclusivity.

ExtremeTech had this to say:

The biggest difference between the PS4 and the Xbox One are the games and DRM. On the games front, it seems the PS4 only has a handful of exclusives: Final Fantasy 15, Kingdom Hearts 3, and a new franchise called The Order. The Xbox One, on the other hand, has more than a dozen exclusive titles. All told, there are apparently 140 games currently in development for the PS4, with 40 of those including ?experiences? that are exclusive to the PS4. Experiences is Sony?s way of saying that the PS4 will have lots of exclusive betas and DLCs, but not many exclusive games. As far as we can tell, all of the usual franchises will be available on both the PS4 and Xbox One ? Grand Theft Auto 5, Assassin?s Creed, NBA, Elder Scrolls, and so on.

Source: http://www.extremetech.com/gaming/158130-ps4-pricing-hardware-specs-and-games-detailed-the-anti-xbox-one

IGN:

I think the current tally is Xbox One has 21 exclusives announced, PS4 has something like 10. Furthermore, I think almost all of the PS4 exclusives are being developed by their internal studios, not a bad thing at all, but not really an advantage (those were guaranteed to be exclusive anyways). Where Xbox One is dominating is in third-party exclusives.

Source: http://www.ign.com/blogs/mr.pootawn/2013/06/10/xbox-one-vs-ps4

And a video from GameSpot on YouTube:

You can draw your own conclusions, but I think the X1 offers a more comprehensive lineup of quality exclusives and launch titles. I'm personally looking forward to the following:

  • Ryse: Son of Rome
  • Dead Rising 3
  • Killer Instinct
  • Forza 5

...and they're all exclusives for the Xbox One.

Peripherals/Accessories

This is another hot button topic. I've always been a big fan of both the PS3's and the Xbox 360's controllers. The 360's controller was more comfortable to me, but the slim nature of the PS3's Dual Shock controller was also light and small. Both are great controllers and shows that controller creation is not an easy process. Especially when trying to make it both a quality product and ergonomic. If you want an example of a poor controller look at the Ouya controller. Cheap, confusing and mushy.

To those hoping the X1 and the PS4 would support their previous generation console's controllers are going to be disappointed. The Xbox One does not support the Xbox 360's controllers. And just the same, the PS4 does not support the PS3's controllers.

The PlayStation Move will work with the PS4, but based on all the videos I've watched and articles I've read, it doesn't hold a candle to the new Kinect. The new Kinect is superb. David Pierce of The Verge (probably their best writer and reviewer) wrote an article speaking about the new Kinect located here: http://www.theverge.com/2013/6/11/4420610/xbox-one-kinect-trades-gimmicks-for-true-interactivity

Some take-aways from it:

I asked the Ryse producers and directors why the game is coming out now, fully two years after it was first announced at E3 2011. Their answer was Kinect. "It was announced as a Kinect game, where you would just stand in front of the TV and play like that. But as the Crytek team started developing the game and story further, they realized that the setting, the story, the things you want to do just more fit a third-person combat game." The new Kinect, they said, allowed them to create that kind of game and still have the fun, interactive features Kinect offers.

Take Ryse Son of Rome, for instance. The game is played with your controller ? you don't use your arm to swing your sword, or pull an arrow out of your eye. Instead, you shout "archers!" to summon some medieval aerial support, and beckon your men forward with your arm. You do all this while you sit on your couch: every part of Ryse works with your controller, parts of it are just better with Kinect.

In Dead Rising 3, an open-world zombie game that seems to be part Grand Theft Auto and part Kingdom Rush, your controller is once again your friend. Your Kinect might be your enemy. Zombies can hear you talking, even rustling on your couch, and they'll come after you. (Prepare to play Dead Rising 3 in the quietest room you can find.) Once they find you, if you wriggle on your couch as you presumably would if a zombie were attempting to eat your entire face all at once, you'll wriggle the zombie off you. The controller stays in your both hands, but as you react to the game, the game reacts to you.

In a more futuristic demo called "Reflex," Xbox reps took the idea even further. As we walked through a Tron-like level, we could raise the controller over our face to activate our shield, touch our temple to activate our X-ray vision, and duck out of the way to, well, duck out of the way. These are activities that make sense, that we might even reflexively do anyway while we game ? I know I lean a little every time I try to dodge a bullet in Halo. With an always-on, always-watching, always-listening Kinect, our surroundings and our actions become part of the game.

...and that's just for gaming. Imagine the possibilities for fitness, UI interaction, etc. The Kinect alone gives the Xbox One the nod in the peripherals department and it's not even close.

But I'm not finished. Where-as Sony tries to extend the functionality of the PS4 on its handheld device (Vita, $245), Microsoft goes a different route via its SmartGlass app. This app has only gotten better with time, and it's now available on iOS, Android, Windows Phone, and Windows 8. And it works with both the Xbox 360 and Xbox One. Sony is trying to make a companion app for the PS4, but the discussion of it wasn't touched on (much) at E3. And when it was talked about during the initial PS4 conference, it wasn't even close to the functionality and future of SmartGlass.

So, yeah. Xbox One scores a point in the peripherals/accessories category.

Online Services

Anyone familiar with the age ole argument of PlayStation Network (PSN) vs. Xbox Live (XBL) are familiar with this coming from the PlayStation camp:

"At least we don't have to pay for it!"

Well, all that is changing with the PS4. Sony will now charge users to play online via its PSN via a PlayStation Plus subscription. So, strike that from the PS4's original list of positives. 

Where-as Microsoft spoke both at length at its Xbox One conference as well as its E3 conference about Xbox Live, Sony has brushed past not only its UI but also the PlayStation Network. To those hoping and wishing that the PSN will come close to the capability and totality of Xbox Live are most likely going to be left wanting.

To put it quite bluntly, PSN has never held a candle to XBL and I don't suspect that will change.

Freedom

If there's one thing that Sony did well with the PS4, it was not shoot itself in the foot like Microsoft did with the Xbox One. Microsoft has been very fluid in its policies of the Xbox One. Instead of either keeping its mouth completely shut or speaking in definitives, at times Microsoft has spoke out of the sides of its mouth. And if there's one thing that is bad for consumers it's confusion. Luckily for Microsoft they have 5 months until the launch of the Xbox One to clear up its policies and customer confidence (confusion). But they're not off to a good start.

As of today, the PS4 does not require an online connection for gaming. The Xbox One requires online checks every 24 hours. In addition if you're playing on a friend's Xbox One, it'll require an online check every 1 hour. The fact the PS4 doesn't require this is a big selling point for some. How many remains to be seen, but it's been a hot topic for many. 

But if there's one thing that Microsoft has shown in the past is the ability to adjust. That was apparent in Windows 7. And it'll be apparent in Windows 8.1. To that end, Corporate Vice President of Microsoft Studios Phil Spencer had this to say:

...the reaction is complete when the product is on the shelf.

Does this mean that Microsoft will change some policies of the Xbox One? One would hope so.

Microsoft is pushing the new 360 as an alternative to the Xbox One for those that don't have internet connectivity or don't want to pay $499 for a console. 

Used Games

Another hot topic is the used game market. An initial rumour was that Microsoft would charge fees for using used games. This was proved false back during the initial Xbox One press conference, but here's the quote for safe keeping:

"In our role as a game publisher," reads a statement from Microsoft, "Microsoft Studios will enable you to give your games to friends or trade in your Xbox One games at participating retailers. Third party publishers may opt in or out of supporting game resale and may set up business terms or transfer fees with retailers."

"Microsoft does not charge a platform fee to retailers, publishers, or consumers for enabling transfer of these games," adds the platform holder.

Source: http://www.gamespot.com/e3/preowned-games-on-xbox-one-decided-by-publisher-6409422/

At launch, however, Microsoft is saying they won't support loaning or renting software. I predict this will change....and in very short order. Microsoft has too many partners in GameStop, GameFly, etc.

But as of now, Sony wins in this category as well. It really goes hand-in-hand with the Freedom category.

Entertainment

Microsoft received some initial backlash from gamers during their first Xbox One conference. And that backlash is that the Xbox One focused too much on entertainment, apps, UI, etc. than gaming. And that's precisely the exact opposite reaction that the PS4's press conference elicited: no/very little talk of the UI, apps, entertainment capabilities, etc.

The X1 is setting itself up for the future with a dual OS (one for gaming, the other for apps/UI), voice/gesture navigation, app integration, and set-top box integration via HDMI-CEC (with IR as a backup). And this the biggest selling point, to me, outside of the Kinect.

Sony is focusing more on freedom and the used game market, but they're not setting themselves up to be future proof. They have less partnerships with major media companies, no integration with set-top boxes, little app partnerships, and very little of the UI shown. 

So, chalk up the entertainment category to the X1.

Overall

To wrap things up, I think the X1 is the more capable and future proof product. It's more expensive, but Microsoft is pushing innovation by bundling Kinect and making the X1 the center of your entertainment system. With the ability to offload processing to the cloud, it further makes it a more future proof device. Now with its E3 conference complete, Microsoft has shown a deep set of exclusive titles to set fears of a lack of gaming focus to rest. 

But where the X1 falls short is with the used game market and freedom to not worry about the Kinect and online connectivity. Also on price. For those 3 topics the PS4 wins.

For me, I prefer the X1. I don't want a console to just be about gaming. I want it to do everything. And I want it to be future proof. I don't think the PS4 is that. Personally I think the PS3 is an incremental improvement, but nothing revolutionary. 

Ultimately the PS4 and the X1 will sell very well especially since they're being released this holiday season. This isn't a situation where either product will flop. With the Ouya getting torn apart in reviews, the Steam Box nowhere to be found, Nintendo quickly looking more and more like a software only company, and Apple ignoring the gaming community....it's easy to see that this will continue to be a 2 horse race. For now and the foreseeable future.

The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer’s view