You may be thinking that the headline for this article seems quite premature, considering the fact out of the two consoles, we didn't get to see games on one and we didn't get to see the other at all. But we're at a special point when it comes to technology. Like many, I believe that in terms of raw hardware, we may have hit a plateau when it comes to making unreal things look real. I believe that it doesn't matter how many more polygons you pump into your characters. It doesn't matter how many billions of pixels are in your texture. What's important to me isn't how real your game looks, but how nice it looks.
All of this is despite the fact that the controller is the only thing we've seen of the PS4
At the recent Xbox One unveiling, we learned what hardware Microsoft's next-gen console will be running on. We learned that it was more or less the same as that of Sony's PlayStation 4, which the company had unveiled all the way back in February. Of course, because of Sony's earlier event, the Xbox One managed to surprise and/or impress nobody, especially gamers. We learned that like the PS4, the Xbox One would be running on x86 hardware built by AMD. We learned that like the PS4, the Xbox One would have a Blu-ray drive. We learned that like the PS4, the online service on the Xbox One would be overhauled. However, there some key differences between the Xbox One and the PS4.
The most obvious difference between the Xbox One and the PS4 is that the latter is a tad bit more powerful than the former when it comes to raw power. This is because of the much faster GDDR5 RAM that the PS4 is equipped with. In comparison, the Xbox One is equipped with the same amount of RAM – 8GB – but it's a bit slower than the PS4's memory modules. Microsoft went with 8GB of DDR3 RAM for the Xbox One. Of course, this is by no means a bad thing. Currently, DDR3 RAM is the easiest version of RAM to find, and this directly means that the Xbox One will be cheaper than the PS4 to manufacture and hence, cheaper to sell to consumers.
Sony officially unveiled the PlayStation 4 back in February
Because of the raw hardware prowess, short of assembling a mid-to-high end PC, a PS4 becomes the most preferable purchase if you want next-gen graphics. This is mostly because Sony played a major gamble and it paid off. The company planned to have lower but faster memory units in its next-gen console ever since it started developing it. Sony probably thought that as years went by, higher amounts of fast memory will become more easily accessible, and boy, the gambit sure paid off. The company surprised everyone – including developers who had started their work on the console since Sony secretly passed along the devkits – with the unusually high amount of fast memory that the console would have.
The less obvious difference between the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4 is the philosophies that Sony and Microsoft have applied, or are giving the impression of applying. When Sony unveiled the PlayStation 4, the company showed off things like the next version of Unreal Engine, and even some of the games that will be released for the console. This included games like Infamous: Second Son, Killzone: Shadow Fall and Knack. And these are just some of the exclusives. Now, compare this to the Xbox event. We saw three-fourths of the event taken up by Microsoft explaining how the Xbox One will revolutionise the TV-space and new Call of Duty and FIFA games.
Even in raw power, the PS4 wins out against the Xbox One
While I'm sure it will somehow revolutionise TV, I don't really care. I've been gaming for quite some time now, and in this generation with the PS3 and the Xbox 360, I've had my shot at both consoles with all possible scenarios – pros and cons, exclusives and bad ports – and what I can take away from the reveal of the new consoles so far is that the PlayStation 4 is just plain better. But it isn't just hardware. Most of my opinion has been formed because of the philosophies. If a layman was looking at the Xbox One unveiling, they would think that more than a console, the Xbox One is a media centre. This is because Microsoft has delegated gaming to be a tertiary feature instead of being the reason for the console's existence.
Microsoft has gone on record to state that gaming is still important to the company, and that we’ll be seeing the gaming side of the console at the upcoming E3. This message can be taken in two ways. The first way – the way Microsoft would wish we’d see this – is, “Wow! Gaming is so important for the Xbox One that Microsoft will need a whole new event to show it off!” How it came off, however, is that gaming is the last thing on Microsoft’s mind. Usually, when a company unveils a new product, its key feature is always talked about first, and with the Xbox One, we saw TV being the centre of attention from Microsoft’s execs.
Microsoft chose to show off the Xbox One's TV capabilities instead of games
It’s not just the hardware and TV stuff that’s making the Xbox One seem less appealing to gamers. If you look deeper, the more obvious thing would put you off the console. The fact that Microsoft itself seems to be unsure about what form of DRM it wants to employ to curb the sales of used games is one such example. Another is how the company is treating indie developers with its policies. Basically, Microsoft has recently revealed that self-publishing isn’t possible on the console’s online marketplace, and if indie developers want one of their games on the console, they will have to partner up with either Microsoft Studios or some other company that has been approved of by the company.
Even if you look at how the company is treating its potential customers, not many good things come to light. First up are the various accounts of how the company plans to employ its anti-used-game-sales-DRM. One such plan was to have a game disc be hard-locked to an Xbox Live account when it is inserted into an Xbox, and any subsequent accounts asking for installations being required to pay. Another plan was to have a periodic authentication check for the game, just to make sure you didn’t steal it. Because of these ideas, Microsoft’s “guilty before proven innocent” ideals feel disconcerting and highly anti-consumer.
Microsoft's policies towards indie developers and its reluctance about the kind of DRM it will employ is an indication of something
So far, Sony has been doing a great job in the PR department towards both developers and gamers, and because of this, I’d be more likely to side with it in the upcoming generation.
Though, in the end, with all said and done, this might just be blind idealism in me coming up, especially because of how gamers have been nickel-and-dimed by game developers and publishers so often that we’ve started appreciating any display of kindness or even fairness anyone shows us. The way things are going right now, if I only had to buy one of the two consoles, I'd go with the PS4, and that's because I don't want “one box to rule them all” in my living room. I actually want to play some games, made by both big developers and small indie teams. It also helps that Sony hasn't started treating me like a criminal for wanting to play on its console just yet.