I’m afraid I can’t take credit for that title – it was all over the Internet well before I got around to writing this piece. But it’s true – Microsoft has pulled a full reversal of pretty much all of their most hated policies regarding the Xbox One. Gone is the requirement to check in once every 24 hours. Gone is the fee for playing used games. Gone is the region locking, which would’ve meant that the Witcher 3 devs couldn’t even play their own game in their home country of Poland.
So everything is fine now, right? The Xbox One is just another console now, not really that different from the PS4, right?
So here’s five reasons why I think the Playstation 4 will still come out on top:
#1 – Price
Simple maths, really. The PS4 can be found online for somewhere around £100 cheaper than the XBone. It’s actually launching significantly cheaper than the PS3 did at launch, even without adjusting for inflation. Presumably, Sony are going to be making a loss on these initial sales, but it’s probably worth it to be able to significantly undercut the rather daft-sounding £429 that the Xbox One will cost.
And let’s not forget the reason for that price, which is the mandatory inclusion of…
#2 – Kinect
No, this hasn’t gone away. The powerful 3D imaging camera, so sensitive it can read your heartbeat and with powerful enough facial recognition to automatically log you in to your Xbox Live profile without a button being pressed is still included in the box. In fact, the Xbox One won’t work without it. Thing is, even ignoring all the conspiracy theories – your Xbox counting the amount of people in the room to see if you’re putting on a ‘public performance’ of a DVD or whatever – Kinect is still, basically, pretty shit. In its current iteration, it’s only really any good for dancing games. Everything else has been terrible, unresponsive minigames that get in the way of actual gameplay. If Kinect is required, then Microsoft may well start requiring developers to include more of that sort of nonsense, simply to justify the expense. I don’t know about you, but I really don’t want to be waggling my arms around in Halo 5 trying desperately to pick up an assault rifle.
#3 – Specs
Without getting too bogged down technical details, the two consoles are pretty close running. For example, both use AMD processors, running at 1.6ghz. They’re both running 8GB of RAM, too, but the XBone uses DDR3, whereas the PS4 uses GDDR5 – put simply, they both have the same amount of memory, but the PS4’s is faster. There’s also a suggestion that the PS4 may have the edge in graphical power. I’m sure there won’t be too much in it to begin with – ported titles will probably end up looking roughly the same, for convenience’s sake – but this difference might end up meaning the PS4 can be pushed harder a few years into this generation. More in depth articles on the technical specs can be found with a brief bit of googling, for the technically minded.
#4 – Indies
Sony have a pretty good history with indies already on the PS3, the gorgeous looking Journey being the first indie game that I’ve genuinely considered buying a £200~ console in order to play. They even dedicated a whole section of their E3 conference to all the new indies they’re courting for their new machine, including Octodad and Don’t Starve. Crucially, they’re allowing indies to self-publish onto the Playstation store. Microsoft, meanwhile, require indie devs to find themselves a publisher. Which essentially means that they wouldn’t be indies anymore. MS have promised to support the indie scene, but the only really interesting indie game on show at their conference was Below, from the guys who made Superbrothers: Sword and Sworcery. They also made the stunning move of announcing… Minecraft! Yes, finally, your Xbox console will be able to play the same version of Minecraft that your mother’s laptop could three years ago. Now that really is progress.
#5 – It’s too late
The thing is, the damage has already been done. People already hate the Xbox One, and are excited about jumping ship. Hell, some of my friends, even hardcore Xbox fans, have already swapped their 360s for PS3s, in anticipation of the changeover. For some reason, people are really keen to see Microsoft fail. Maybe it’s because people feel they should be punished for their sheer arrogance in assuming they’d be allowed to get away with such an obviously anti-consumer console.
So, do I think that the Xbox brand is done for? No. Not anymore. I think what MS has done will be enough to convince some people to stick around. Honestly, I hope they do, because if Sony just win outright with no real competition, there’s no incentive for them to continue to improve. Even for me, this move has sort of changed my stance on the Xbox One from a “Never in a million years” purchase to “Maybe I’ll grab one second hand in four or five years time, just to catch up on exclusives.”
But this year? At that price? You must be joking.