This past weekend Activision, the makers of Call of Duty announced that the next big title in the franchise, Call of Duty: Ghosts won’t run at the highest resolution possible on high-end televisions. Instead the title will run at 720p then upscale to 1080p. Since then, industry watchers have been claimed that this means that the Xbox One is somehow inferior to the PlayStation 4, and that this could be the defining thing that puts Microsoft on the defense in the gaming console wars.
I’ve never heard more ridiculous things in my life.
For starters, both systems have comparative hardware and one or even two games running at a lower resolution than on other consoles isn’t indicative of the performance users will see for the life of the console. Like computers, smartphones and anything else users can buy at their local electronics retailer, the experience will get better with time. Developers will learn how to take advantage of the hardware that’s there.
Does the PlayStation 4 have a graphics processor that seems to slightly outperform the one in the Xbox One? If you’re a third-party developer apparently the answer is yes. However, that isn’t the case universally, Microsoft’s Forza 5 does have a resolution of 1080p and Ryse: Son of Rome runs at 900p before being upscaled to 1080p. That’s according to tweets collected by Unscripted360 from Microsoft’s Aaron Greenberg. So, it’s not as if the Xbox One can’t run any games at that frame rate. It’s just that for some reason Activision decided upscaling the game from 720p was better for their particular game.
Look, I don’t mean to minimize this issue, or turn this issue into an artificial exercise of figuring out which console is better. In fact, my problem is with the people who are doing that.
The Xbox One upscaling Call of Duty: Ghosts to 1080p isn’t a resolution change akin to going from an Xbox 360 to playing games on a Wii. In fact, I suspect many users will be hard pressed to noticed a difference unless they are running the both copies of the game side by side.
Customers have voted with their wallets over and over that sometimes settling for something that performs well and is usable is good enough for them to adopt in droves. MP3s purchased from iTunes were blasted by audiophiles for having terrible sound quality. Yet, the iTunes Store grew to become the world’s largest music store. The Xbox 360 featured slightly less robust internals than the PlayStation 3, yet the Microsoft just wrapped up a 32-month sales winning streak against the PlayStation 3 and Wii U.
This console war won’t be decided by who has the best looking high-definition frame rate on one game. It’ll be decided by the entire entertainment experience. Based on Xbox LIVE usage numbers shared by the LA Times, customers spent around 84 hours logged into Xbox LIVE. Over half of that usage was people watching video and listening to music. That statistic was up 30% from the year earlier. Video game consoles aren’t just video game consoles. They are entertainment consoles.
To recap, the Call of Duty: Ghosts running at 720p will be good enough for consumers and games aren’t the only thing that define a console’s life cycle even if that resolution wasn’t good enough. Come and talk to me if the Xbox One can’t play 1080p videos from Netflix.