Which will you choose? The battle of console heavyweights has begun and we can begin to see who is going to attract the masses and who will be struggling. Once the consoles are launched this holiday season, they will most likely be sold for close to a decade before being upgraded, much the same way Xbox 360 and PS3 have lasted. So far with the information that has been released, we have a fairly clear picture of who the winner will be, but lets break it down to the details.
Xbox 360 is currently the reining champ of consoles. The Playstation 3 is close behind in sales with the Nintendo Wii pretty much dried up and the Wii U struggling with low sales numbers and lack of compelling Nintendo branded games. Microsoft launched Xbox One, its next generation console, with a pre-E3 press conference that was almost entirely centered on the box being a living room device the whole family would use. Kinect motion and voice commands would control the unit and you can watch TV live via an HDMI input, as well as via many apps featuring content, such as Amazon, Hulu and Netflix. At E3 Microsoft brought out the games and made an attempt to win gamers hearts.
It did not work.
Microsoft stated that the Xbox One would have some limitations and restrictions surrounding used games and on-line requirements. First MS put a hook in the operating system that allowed publishers to not allow sales of used games. Meaning that if you bought a new game on a disc, and wanted to sell it to Gamestop, or loan it to a friend, it would likely not work for the next user. This eliminates renting Xbox One games as well. Trading, selling and giving games on disc is a huge market, because after putting down $60 you would want to get some return on your investment if you decided the game was not for you. The market may shift to downloadable games now, since Xbox One (and PS4) will have games also available to download when they come out, but there will still be millions who want to purchase actual discs. Microsoft also added a gaming stipulation in that your Xbox One console must connect and be verified once a day via the internet. Watching DVD movies on the included blu-ray drive and live TV will work fine without internet, but gaming requires an internet connection.
Gamers were not happy at all. Twitter lit up like a Christmas tree when the news of these restrictions hit the fan, and it has not let up since. Aside from being more restrictive, it also negatively impacts a console’s life time value. Older systems from Nintendo and Sega and even Microsoft and Sony allowed buying games and playing no matter how old the system was, even after they were discontinued. Now in 10-15 years, Xbox One servers may be cut off, either on a game basis or on a console basis. With everything so closely tied to authentication to online servers, it could ensure that games in the future will not even get past a loading screen.
Think of a movie on DVD. Now you can buy them, collect them, sell them. But what if you bought a movie from a small independent publisher and to play it, your DVD player had to verify the movie and be connected to the internet at least once every 24 hours. Now imagine 5 years from now, that publisher goes out of business, closes down the server and your DVD does not play at all. It would not make me very happy.
Microsoft also is making the Kinect a required part of every purchase. It is no longer an option. Which has driven the price up to $499. I don’t want or need a KInect. But like everyone, if I have an Xbox One, I need to get one.
Specs wise the Xbox One is slightly less powerful than the PS4, not a deal breaker, and this is mainly because the box is built for more always-on performance. MS wants this to be the center of your digital living room, so they have sacrificed some power for lower energy requirements. Again not a huge deal but I would think they would want to pack as much processing in as possible for the hard core gamers. But this does not seem to be their focused mission. Gamers are great, and have made the current console number one, but Microsoft wants more. They want this to be your DVR and DVD player, your streaming box, your Apple TV and Roku, an all in one entertainment device. It’s a big bet, one that may or may not pay off.
Sony’s launch of the PS4 was also split into two separate press conferences (pre-E3 and at E3) and it was certainly a one-two punch to Microsoft. First came the mantra that PS4 was built from the ground up for gaming. Plain and simple. Sony is not trying to make a console that appeals to everyone, they want to directly target gamers, hard core and casual, and make that their primary focus. It does not matter that for things like video, the PS4 has many of the same apps as Xbox One (Netflix, Amazon, YouTube, Crackle, Vudu, etc), the primary focus is games, games, games. This one move already swayed many gamers who would choose only one console over to the Sony side, but then Sony kept on going. They stated that the PS4 would work offline for games, except of course for multiplayer, you can play games on DVD with no connection needed. No daily check in, nothing.
Gamers cheered. Loudly.
Jack Tretton at the PS4 launch also stated that the PS4 would be free of used game limitations and/or mandatory online authentication. In addition the console is region-free, meaning you can order PS4 games from other countries to play. Xbox One games are locked into different territories. Gaming fans were beyond enthusiastic with all the PS4 news, seeing the unit as much less locked down than Microsoft’s option. But then came the icing on the cake, the price.
Sony came in at $399 for the Playstation 4, $100 less than the Xbox One’s $499. Sony has a more powerful machine, with less restrictions and at a less expensive price.
Does that make the PS4 a winner over Xbox One? It does. For now. I should mention that I am actually an Xbox guy. I have had both an Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 since launch, and use them both, but always veered more towards the Xbox for a few reasons. I think their online users and avatar setup is more advanced. I have many friends on Xbox Live (add me: franklinmcmahon) but far fewer on PS3 (add me there too: franklinmcmahon), so I think MS did a better job of being able to add friends more easily. Also I love their on demand selection of game downloads, I find most disc based games I want or have are available for download a few months later. And I love the Xbox controller, the PS3 controller still fells not too comfy.
But I am more excited about the PS4 than Xbox One at this point. Which surprises me. I don’t need a media hub box to run in live TV. Who watches live TV? I watch my DVR and Apple TV or my iPad. I don’t want to speak voice commands and wave my hands, I just want to use my Logitech Harmony Ultimate remote. I think both consoles have some interesting games coming up, and I will probably get both units, but for now the PS4 has gotten far more appealing than the Xbox One. It’s still early, and news is more spin than facts, but PS4 is easily in the lead for now.
But how do the two match up when it comes to being an all in one entertainment box? Read on to hear my opinion on the entertainment side of this heated console battle:
Literally within hours of my releasing this blog post, Microsoft reversed or eliminated several of the bad features I had pointed out in the above review. Coincidence? You decide. 😉
Here is coverage from The Verge:
Microsoft reverses Xbox One online check and used games policies following backlash
As well as the official blog post from Microsoft:
Your Feedback Matters – Update on Xbox One
Very interesting to see Microsoft backpedaling so far, but in the end it does show that they are listening, and responding, to their future audience.