Microsoft’s next offering in the console market is the Xbox One. A new sleeker design and a hardware upgrade are a marked improvement on its predecessor, although its steeper price point relative to the PS4 might dissuade some.
Noticeable hardware upgrades are the 500gb HDD and the blu-ray disc drive: the latter seeing Microsoft finally embrace the technology long after their failed competitor, HD-DVD, was laid to rest. It also gives the discs far greater capacity which should allow for much more detailed and expansive games. Some interesting exclusives were also announced, including Ryse, Dead Rising 3, and an as yet unnamed Halo game.
But despite all of these positives the limelight has been entirely focused on Microsoft’s blunders, not the console itself – with the first of these being the decision to implement possibly the worst thing in modern gaming: always online DRM. Microsoft were initially coy on the issue, before confirming that the Xbox One would have to connect to the internet every 24 hours even for offline play. As the internet exploded in a torrent of entirely justified outrage, Sony made sure to note in their presentation that the PS4 would not have DRM, something which resulted in almost universal praise. Microsoft held fast and came precariously close to falling on their sword before completely backtracking and deciding to remove DRM.
Another questionable decision is their forcible inclusion of Kinect with every console. Not only is the price pushed up by this (not to mention that the majority of gamers will have no use for it), but it can also potentially hear and see everything you do. This bordered on scandal as the NSA revelations came to light and drew further criticism in Microsoft’s direction concerning their collusion with the NSA.
The Xbox One certainly has its redeeming features and many fans of the system will have already decided to buy the console in spite of its drawbacks. However for those on the fence the PS4 certainly seems the more attractive investment. The cheaper price point due to the lack of unnecessary extras will be the biggest selling point, and one can’t help but feel that if Microsoft was less strict on the Kinect they would sell far more consoles, although that is yet to be seen.
Mired in less controversy was the announcement of the Playstation 4 at E3. The console is sporting a new, sleeker design and a revamped controller as Sony’s next foray into console gaming attempts to shift units.
The Dualshock 4 now has a touch pad on the top which “offers new ways to interact with games”, although its uses are yet to be seen. There is also an LED bar to give signals to the player as well as a “share” button in place of the old “select” button.
The console itself has been fairly liberal from the outset relative to the Xbox One with no restrictions on game reselling or sharing and no DRM or region locking, a stance met with great appraisal. Some could argue that reception of these features led Microsoft to change their mind on their draconian limitations in order to attempt to win back their customers.
Sony have made some changes to their online subscription service, the most notable being that players will now have to pay a fee to play online, similar to Xbox Live. Sony attempted to soften the blow by announcing many benefits to the service including instant access to a collection of games, a music service, Twitch streaming and a whole host of entertainment services.
There is no free alternative for online play in the console market and Sony has done their best to persuade gamers to part with their money for the privilege by including many non-gaming related incentives, much like Microsoft has been doing with their service, leaving the two on very similar online footing heading into the next generation.
In terms of games the PS4 does have some promising exclusives including Driveclub, Infamous: Second Son, Killzone: Shadow Fall and The Order: 1886. There is a nice mix of sequels to successful franchises as well as new IPs announced which is refreshing, providing a lineup of some good solid titles with a good history interspersed with brand new, exciting ideas.
Overall the PS4 has some things over the Xbox One, mainly the cheaper price. This alone may be the deciding factor for many customers, although Sony has built an impressive roster of release titles as well as many other incentives to accompany the introduction of their new console.