Later this year, for the first time, Microsoft and Sony will go head-to-head with brand new game consoles. While the Xbox 360 had a one year head start on the PlayStation 3, the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 will release within weeks of each other later this year.
The close release dates makes it harder to buy both consoles at launch. Many will likely have to choose just one console later this year. To help make the decision a bit easier, here’s how the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 stack up against one another based on what we know so far.
The Xbox One and PlayStation 4 are more aptly referred to as media devices, but their games will help set them apart.
At the Xbox One launch event Microsoft said it would have 15 exclusive games in the first 12 months after launch, including eight from brand new franchises. So far that list includes the new Forza 5 racing game, a new game from the makers of Alan Wake called Quantum Change and Crytek’s ancient Rome action game Ryse. Microsoft only showed brief clips of the former two games, while Crytek’s website says we’ll see the re-emergence of Ryse at E3 next month.
Sony didn’t commit to any hard number of exclusive titles for the PlayStation 4 during its event back in February, though it did show off a few new exclusives. During the presentation Sony showed actual gameplay of a new character-driven platformer from Mark Cerny called Knack and an opening sequence of the upcoming Killzone: Shadow Fall. Sony also showed short clips from the new superhero game Infamous: Second Son and the racing game Drive Club.
Both consoles will also have some exclusive content from games that are otherwise multiplatform. The Xbox One will get the first DLC from Call of Duty: Ghosts and exclusive content for EA Sports titles including FIFA 14 and Madden 25. The PlayStation 4 will get exclusive missions in Ubisoft games Watch_Dogs and Assassins Creed 4. All of those games will come to both consoles, but will be slightly better on one or the other.
Both the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 are big improvements over their predecessors. While the Xbox 360 and PS3 couldn’t be more different, the tech inside the new consoles is surprisingly similar.
The Xbox One and PlayStation 4 both use custom AMD processors with x86 architecture, similar to processors found in desktop PCs. Both consoles also have 8GB of RAM, which is big for developers and should mean more immersive games. Both consoles also have built-in hard drives for storing games. Sony wouldn’t say how big the HDD inside the PS4 is, saying only that it was “very large.” The Xbox One will use a 500GB internal hard drive.
Ultimately, no matter what the consoles do, they’ll have to sit somewhere near a TV where users see them all the time. So what do they look like?
Microsoft’s Xbox One looks a lot like a 1990′s vision of a futuristic VCR that uses Blu-ray discs instead of tapes. It’s just a large, shiny black box with a lot of vents. It’s not ugly, but not particularly interesting.
Unfortunately, the best glimpse Sony gave of PlayStation 4 so far was a 39-second video that showed a blurry black box and close-ups of vents. We don’t know any other details right now.
With every new console generation the controllers change, at least nominally. The Xbox One and PlayStation 4 controllers still look familiar, but they have a number of changes.
The Xbox One controller looks like a more refined version of the current Xbox 360 controller. It has a fixed D-pad that looks better than the one on the 360 controller, slightly redesigned sticks and the buttons appear shallower. The controller also features a newly designed battery compartment that makes the controller easier to hold and has more responsive triggers. Microsoft also built in a new rumble system that can reproduce things like a beating heart or a revving engine.
Sony stuck with the familiar DualShock design for the PlayStation 4, but the DualShock 4 has a few added features. The biggest change is the addition of a touchpad that will likely either add to gameplay or only prove useful in menus. The controller also features analog sticks with a concave design, triggers that are easier to use, a light bar for the PlayStation Eye and the new share button. Otherwise, the controller has the same design Sony introduced on the first PlayStation.
Motion and Voice Control
Microsoft and Sony both introduced their own motion control technology during the current generation. While the Kinect and Move were optional accessories, both new consoles wil come with their respective accessories in the box.
The new Kinect has a 1080p camera that can detect more people at once and read more data from those users. The device can detect more points on a user’s skeleton (including finger movement), limb rotation, weight shifts and even the user’s heart rate. The new Kinect can also track controller movement when the player is sitting on the couch, potentially adding new motion features to games.
Kinect can also listen to voice commands, letting the user control the console with simple word commands. Saying “Xbox on” can turn on the console and log the user into their account. From there they can issue basic voice commands to start playing a game, watching a movie or watching TV.
The PlayStation 4 will come bundled with the new PlayStation Eye, which will use the Move controller and presumably track the light bar on the DualShock 4. The device can also stream video when the user is streaming a game. Sony didn’t go into many more details about the device in its presentation.
The Xbox One will use Xbox Live, like the Xbox 360, but will add a number of improvements. The new console will let more gamers play multiplayer games at the same time and let developers change and release new achievements for games based on the game’s community. The console will also increase the friends list maximum from 100 to 1000 friends.
The PlayStation 4 will include Facebook integration, making it easier for gamers to connect with their friends. Gamers will have the ability to stream games they’re playing on the PlayStation 4 online either through PlayStation Network or UStream. Sony’s Gaikai technology will also let friends help each other through games. With the cloud gaming technology a friend on the other side of the country can take over control of a game, helping them through difficult portions of the game.
Unfortunately, neither the Xbox 360 or PlayStation 4 will play games from their predecessors thanks to the new system architectures. Sony may let gamers stream PS3 games in the cloud, but that’s not guaranteed for launch or any time after launch.
While there are parallels between the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, each have at least one standout feature that help differentiate them.
The Xbox One uses an HDMI passthrough that lets gamers watch TV from their cable box without switching the input. Users can easily control their cable box with Kinect voice commands, and use Snap to open apps next to the live stream.
Microsoft will also include Skype in the Xbox One, letting users video chat with friends and family in 1080p through the Kinect’s camera.
Sony’s major differentiator is its indie game support. Sony will let independent studios publish their own games on the PlayStation 4, something Microsoft wont allow on the Xbox One. Sony wants the PlayStation 4 (and the PlayStation Vita) to become the platform of choice for indie developers, while Microsoft seemingly only wants to deal with major publishers.