In a few short months, the latest consoles from Sony and Microsoft will be hitting store shelves. While many stories discuss upcoming game releases and system functionality, rumblings about ‘which system is more powerful’ have been getting more and more popular. Techradar claims that the PS4 is 50% faster than the Xbox One, while others claim that Microsoft’s latest has much better support and architecture for gaming. In either case, how much of a difference will it really make? By now we would know if one system was incredibly more deficient than any other. Both Microsoft and Sony have consoles that are more or less equal to each other. Where their differences are, and what will make or break the system, is not in the exact components of their architecture, but in the consoles’ support, utilization, and gaming library.
Something we do know is that Sony and Microsoft are taking very different approaches in the marketing and utilizing of their system. These are important topics on their own, and will no doubt affect the gaming library of both consoles. To start with Sony, they are positioning the PS4 to be the ‘next level’ of gaming. Sony already has a hold in the marketplace including televisions, BluRay players, and multimedia options. Their PS4 is built around gaming, and it also includes media streaming services and social functionality. While it could very well do what Microsoft’s system will do, that isn’t their strategic goal. They’ve set their sights to deliver a gaming console with social and multimedia capabilities. As Sony is generally already in most home entertainment systems, they aren’t trying to become the only box under the TV, but a compliment to all the other Sony products.
Microsoft is taking quite a different approach. They obviously aren’t as entrenched into the media-hardware market as Sony, but they are trying to change that with this box. They want the Xbox One to be the only piece of hardware under your TV. While Sony will also offer streaming and various media services, Microsoft is making it a marketing focus and pushing the hardware to better utilize this idea. The idea of Snapping different applications (game and web, chat and movie, etc) on the same screen is a great idea and will be a great way to get more than gamers to pick up the console. I can think of plenty of people who may only buy 3 or 4 games in the system’s lifetime, but will buy it so they can watch tons of streaming TV and movies while chatting and tweeting from the same screen. With the addition of Smartglass technology and optimization, Microsoft may well be on their way to dominating your living room.
Another way the two systems will be different, aside from their marketing and utilization, will be the games featured on them. Obviously there will be more than a little crossover, and most blockbuster games will be featured for everything. Something we saw develop in the last few years was the ‘indie-explosion’. Many smaller companies, through options like Steam, XBLA, and PSN, were able to offer their games to a much larger market than before. Games such as Fez, FTL, and Hotline Miami are now mega-successes. While both Microsoft and Sony would be wise to embrace these developers, both parties have made it clear where they stand.
Sony has decided to make the PS4’s architecture much more friendly to create for, and they have said they will work more closely with smaller developers in order to create a much larger gaming library. Microsoft has decided that they won’t really follow the same policy, not because they think it is ‘beneath them’ as some have said, but because if you look at how they are marketing their machine, it just doesn’t seem to be in their best interest. If they want to target a much larger demographic outside of gamers, then they would be wise to offer a streamlined experience that can get the user from A to B as quick as possible. This isn’t to say that they won’t feature or support indie developers, but they have not made it the type of focus that Sony has. Outside of that, it will come down to first and third-party IPs.
For every Halo or Gears of War, there is an Uncharted or LittleBigPlanet. For every iteration of Call of Duty, there is a Battlefield. Both companies will support and stock their gaming libraries with plenty of amazing games, and many will be console exclusives. I feel that perhaps with this new cycle, it won’t be so much the exclusive games or console specific ‘content’ to those games (whoopee, a map or gun…), but the sort of features unique to each system. Can the Kinect do something that Sony’s camera can’t? Well then, I hope Microsoft uses that to their advantage. Does Sony’s social connectivity work in a way that Microsoft’s doesn’t? You best be using that in your game.
And that’s really what it’s all about: the games. Both systems are locked and loaded to be major contenders, and I’m sure they’ll offer some unique games and features. What is really important at the end of the day is the actual games we get to play on them. Specs don’t matter as long as the games work to the best of their ability and they’re fun. Console exclusives are fun, yes. They let us feel like we’re in a club, but if the game isn’t any good, than no one will care. So while some on the internet will continue to argue about the PS4’s better processing power, or Microsoft’s better chipsets, we’ll be here and we’ll be having fun on whatever console we enjoy. Because, hey, if a game is good, it doesn’t matter what sort of specs you’re running.