Xbox One vs. PlayStation 4: Game Sharing

The Xbox One and PlayStation 4 will compete on a few different fronts when they launch this November. The biggest front is on graphics capabilities. Fans of each console have compared screenshots and video footage from each console for weeks.

Of course, neither fans nor industry insiders have been able to come to a valid conclusion on which console is visually better. In fact, the same scenario – both consoles being on equal footing – seems like a hidden elephant in the room.

Take each console’s game sharing features, for example.

Sharing Physical Games

Sharing physical games, that is games that are saved on a disc and purchased at any online retailer or store, can be shared with friends on the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4 with no restrictions.

To be fair, it wasn’t always this way. Initially, Microsoft’s Xbox One treated every game as it were a digital game and installed them on the hard-drive. That meant that every game on the Xbox One was subject to specific rules that restricted what users could do with them like reselling them or sharing them. After receiving no-end of criticism for that, Microsoft relented and will now treat physical games the same way they do for the Xbox 360. Users can trade Xbox One games or lend them without fear of them not working.

The PS4 beats the Xbox One in consumer interest based on search trends.

To their credit, Sony didn’t’ go down the same path as Microsoft did early on. It’s always been the company’s position that physical games are physical games and shouldn’t have any restrictions placed on them.

Sharing Digital Games

Sharing digital games, games that were purchased through Xbox LIVE or the PlayStation Network, are were things get more interesting.

According to Xbox’s Marc Whitten, digital games purchased on the Xbox One are specific to each Xbox account and console. When users purchase a game with their account, that game becomes attached to that specific Xbox account and travels with that account between Xboxes. That means that users can purchase games that are available to everyone on their Xbox One, then head to a friend’s house where everyone can play those games there too.

The process will be nearly identical for PlayStation 4 owners according to a newly posted FAQ on the company’s PlayStation 4 website. Digital games purchased from the PlayStation Store will travel with the user’s PlayStation Network account and be playable on systems that aren’t designated as their “primary PlayStation.” The difference here is that the other users on the “primary PlayStation” can enjoy the games purchased by that account even if that user isn’t logged in. Only the original PlayStation Network user who purchased the game can begin playing games on systems that aren’t marked as the “primary PlayStation.”

Originally, Microsoft said that it would allow Xbox One users to load other Xbox One user’s games from their library for a limited time. As it changed many of its digital game policies, it’s unclear if that feature will still come to users down the road. It is clear, that that functionality won’t be there at launch.

All told, the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 sharing features are next to identical. That means that it’s probably not a good idea to choose one or the other based on these sharing features alone. The PlayStation 4 goes on sale November 15th, with the Xbox One launching a week later on November 22nd.