It’s 2014 and we’ve finally made it through the launch period of the first new generation of gaming and entertainment systems in almost a decade.
We’re only eight months into this console generation. You’d think that in the short time that has passed since launch there wouldn’t be a ton of difference in how the PS4 compares against the Xbox One. But there is, and users thinking about purchasing either console have slightly different things they should be taking into account.
Here’s a complete breakdown of what you need to know before choosing between the Xbox One or PS4 now, roughly eight months after launch and two months before the holiday buying season kicks off.
With the Xbox One and PS4 being less than a year old, you’d think that nothing about the hardware – that is, the device you plug into your television set and insert game discs into – has changed.
For the most part, it hasn’t. The PS4 is still the more powerful console as far as internals are concerned.
That being said, you shouldn’t base your buying decision off this alone, I suspect that in many cross-platform games it’s hard to tell the difference between games running on both. Microsoft has also changed its software so that video game developers can boost performance of games that don’t use the Kinect 2 sensor. That software change is how Destiny developer Bungie plans to release an Xbox One version of the game that has full 1080p resolution.
Looks are always going to be important to some people and the PS4 still wins out in that category.
The Xbox One is every bit the VCR-like black box with vents that users got last fall while the PS4 has a more angular body. Both consoles have new white variants coming that could make this a bit more interesting. There’s a special Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare Xbox One coming later this year that gives the Xbox One its first real themed paint job.
Everyone who purchases an Xbox One still gets a chat headset, power cable HDMI cable and a single wireless controller. Users who opt for the $499 version get a Kinect 2 sensor as well. PS4 buyers get a wireless controller, headset, USB cable, HDMI cable, power cable and the console itself.
The Xbox One’s controller remains a huge liability. It’s comfortable to hold and feels great in the hand, but it misses the innovation mark on a couple of different levels. First, there’s no built-in headset jack like there is with the PS4. Second, there’s no rechargeable battery in the Xbox One controller, either. One of these alone would be enough for a raised eye, but that someone at Microsoft thought not including both these things in order to save on costs was a good idea is a bit troubling.
The Xbox One’s Play and Charge Kit costs $25. The Xbox One’s Stereo Headset Adapter costs an Additional $25. There’s no getting around it – today the PS4’s DualShock 4 controller still puts the Xbox One controller to shame.
Price & Bundles
The Xbox One loses when it comes to the controller flat out, but lately Microsoft has improved on other core experiences in huge ways.
You finally get to choose whether you get the Xbox One’s Kinect 2 sensor or not. In early June the company released an Xbox One console that doesn’t include the Kinect 2 sensor and has a price tag of just $399. The $499 Xbox One with Kinect 2 sensor is still available, though. New Xbox One bundles that include games at no additional charge are also popping up everywhere. Today there’s the Madden 15 Xbox One bundle for just $399. Forza 5 and Titanfall have their own bundles, too.
By comparison Sony isn’t giving users free bundled games inside the box. Instead, it’s counting on them to set up an account and join PlayStation Plus, which isn’t a bad strategy. It’s just not as straight forward. Microsoft gives Xbox One users with an Xbox Live Gold account two free games a month too, but it’s changed its program to match the PS4. When your subscription stops on either console, your free games stop working. The PS4 still costs $399 and has only a single hardware configuration.
No matter what you might hear, these consoles are still very focused on providing users with a decent gaming experience. A lot has changed about gaming, but one thing that has remained constant is why users purchase a specific console: exclusive games are still the keys to success, that one thing that can overcome sluggish sales and botched initial launches.
With its E3 2014 Media Briefing Microsoft focused heavily on games. The company spent two hours hauling out game developer after game developer. Here’s how the company’s exclusives shake out so far. If you’re a fan of first-person shooters the Xbox One will be the only console you can play Halo 5: The Guardians on next year. Xbox One owners can also expect a new edition of Crackdown, and the next Tomb Raider game to be available on the platform before it goes anywhere else. This year there’s Halo: The Master Chief Collection and Sunset Overdrive.
PS4 users do get a bunch of special games of their own. Uncharted 4 is coming at some point. DriveClub is coming later this year too. It’s also definitely worth noting that the PS4 has the only real next-generation baseball game in town with MLB 14: The Show. To baseball fans, that has to be worth three exclusives alone.
Both consoles are heavily courting and promoting titles by independent developers too. Today the PS4 boasts dozens of decent indie games to buy on the cheap. It also has an impressive array of free-to-play games available, like DC Universe Online. Microsoft isn’t doing nearly as well in the free-to-play games space. That being said, it is getting Dungeons and Dragons, in the form of Neverwinter, sometime next year. Free-to-play games don’t have a cover charge but do include extras that users have to pay for.
Today, that’s the gaming ball-game for the Xbox One and PS4. More nuanced buyers will also want to explore specific topics, like how many entertainment apps each has or whether one console’s online multiplayer network is markedly better than the other. I file those as personal indicators, things that you’ll want to examine based on your own outlook. Mostly, that’s because they’re really debatable.
For example, Microsoft was the first to introduce an online gaming service, but hasn’t really introduced anything as innovative as the PlayStation Now video game streaming service that Sony revealed earlier this year. On the other hand, the PlayStation Network has had a few serious outages, and is routinely taken down for upgrades for hours.
It is worth noting that Microsoft has been super aggressive in updating the Xbox One with new features. Just this week a massive update containing external storage support for media and games began rolling out. Sony has done alright by PS4 buyers, adding coveted features every so often, but that’s nothing compared to what Microsoft has done.
The PS4 is on paper the most powerful console, but games on the Xbox One look just as good to the average gamer.
Choose what’s right for you.