Xbox One vs. PS4: a next-gen battle royale

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PlayStation 4. Image: PlayStation Europe.

Xbox One

Xbox One. Image: Major Nelson.
Xbox One. Image: Major Nelson.

I believe that Microsoft has done several things well in order to set itself up to provide the better console experience.

One of the chief reasons for this is the company’s emphasis on the user interface and console experience, which has been honed with the existing Xbox 360. Microsoft understands that the interface is just as important when you aren’t playing games as when you are, and over the years it has strived to tailor the Xbox experience to each individual’s gamertag, making it steadily easier and more convenient to use this personalised profile. Couple this with Microsoft’s simple-to-use party chat system and other social gaming innovations, and you will find that those used to Microsoft’s ecosystem are far more likely to stick with it. Carrying over friend lists and Achievements wasn’t even an issue during the last generational transition, but I think it will be a major factor in Microsoft’s early success versus Sony.

In fact, Sony’s lack of equivalently successful features shows that it has, in a way, missed the point of contemporary consoles. Console gaming has moved beyond its fixation with being the very best technically. PCs will always have the best graphics and performance rates, but consoles have PCs beat when it comes to the ease with which experiences can be shared, both in person and online. Despite this, Sony still chases hardware metrics as the sole means of defining console success; the Japanese tech giant has focused on improving its hardware without a thought towards the software. The PlayStation 3 was, by all accounts, a technically superior console to the Xbox 360, yet it lost out for a long time due to an inferior user experience. Sony has been so focused on what’s under the bonnet that they have forgotten to put padding on the seats. As a software company, Microsoft understands that the creature comforts are just as important as the theoretical potential. This lack of ‘padding’ makes me think that all but the most diehard Sony fans are likely to be choosing between the two new consoles, whereas Xbox gamers are more likely to just upgrade from a 360 to a One.

Additionally, the fact that Microsoft’s system adds more for the money is a powerful incentive for many who are on the fence. Going into a new generation, the competing consoles have never been more similar from a hardware perspective. Both have the same sized hard drives, both have Blu-ray drives, both have 8GB of RAM, and both run on the same chipset. In fact, they are almost identical if you simply read a list of the hardware that goes into them. This is why the software and the user experience will be so important. As I said before, Microsoft is a software company and this plays right into their hands. The Xbox 360 has always had a more intuitive interface and more streaming options, and with even more planned for the Xbox One this new console provides consumers with greater value despite its more expensive price tag. This, combined with the fact that the Xbox One arrives a week earlier in Europe, in addition to including voice and motion controls (something not included with the PlayStation 4) will, I believe, see it carry the day against Sony’s competitor.

PlayStation 4

PlayStation 4. Image: PlayStation Europe.
PlayStation 4. Image: PlayStation Europe.

First off there’s the issue of price: the PlayStation 4 (PS4) comes in at £349, compared to the Xbox One’s expensive £429. As a result, Microsoft’s console starts on the back foot before it’s even booted up.

The main concern when deciding which console to plump for, however, is probably the exclusive games they boast. On this count, the only real reason one could justify writing to Santa for the Xbox One this Christmas is the promising Titanfall, with its admittedly exciting mixture of slick mech and FPS gameplay. Other than this, there’s nothing really ‘new’ coming from the Xbox in terms of game content. In contrast, PS4 has some ace looking fresh IPs coming to its device, including Knack, DriveClub and The Order: 1886. The latter is a steampunk-themed shooter set in an alternate Victorian London, haunted by a mysterious and ancient enemy, and looks to have a hint of BioShock about it, which can only be a good thing. It’s safe to say then, that the PS4 has a strong catalogue of original content, not to mention its established blockbuster titles, such as Infamous: Second Son and Killzone: Shadowfall.

Somewhat surprisingly, principle is another key reason to adopt a PS4 over the Xbox One. This stems from the simple fact that Sony deserves your custom a lot more than its competitor. Twice Microsoft has tried to milk its customers through frankly offensive product policies, and twice have its misjudgements resulted in humiliating U-turns. The first involved the decision to abandon its ‘always online’ policy where Xbox One gamers had to be connected to the internet within the last 24 hours in order to play offline games. The second was a hugely unpopular decision to ban the use of trade-ins.

So the PS4 has more interesting exclusives, better indie game support, a more respectful parent company and, crucially, a £70 price advantage when compared to the Xbox One. It’s a clear winner. Oh, and then there’s the most important reason to pick up a PlayStation of all: the name. Who really wants to buy a console that can be abbreviated to ‘XBONE’?

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