I'm not exactly sure why I'm writing this. I think maybe it has something to do with me being a lifelong gamer and seeing how poorly the gaming press has been handling and treating the xbox one in every regard.
The answers to so many questions are right in front of gamers and the press, yet no one seems to be taking any initiative to dig a little. I think Microsoft has done a very poor job at getting the information out there, but if you look close enough, it's there. I think the gaming press has gotten too used to waiting for press releases and official word instead of doing a little snooping.
I've got both the Xbox One and the PS4 ordered for launch day and I am excited about both. They will both have great games. When I think about the one I am more excited for, my mind drifts towards the xbox one. Saying this to anyone seems to get either a mocking response or ridicule. Why is that? In my mind, the Xbox one has more features and more new things to be excited about. I can't be the only one who is rationally thinking about the pros and cons of these consoles.
I don't doubt that the PS4 will probably end up having more raw horsepower, that already seems to be the case. That is definitely something it has going for it. The problems arise when I start to think about everything else.
Let's start with online gaming. Xbox Live is simply better than PSN. There is no question about the two services in terms of quality of service. True, PSN is a great value in terms of Plus, but let's talk about the actual online infrastructure. Sony has had seven long years to bring PSN up to par with xbox live in terms of functionality. They haven't. There is no cross game chat, there is no party chat, the messaging system could not be more unintuitive and the way trophy syncing works is broken and archaic. Everyone is in such a rush to throw themselves at the PS4 without any proof that PSN will be a better service. Sony has said that they are building it all over from the ground up, but don't you think a little skepticism is warranted from a company that has not proven they know how to make a solid online infrastructure? I really hope that PSN is better for the PS4 and it has to be in comparison to the PS3, but let's not automatically assume that it will be amazing on launch day. That fear does not exist for the Xbox One, it has a solid foundation already and it can only get better. Sony has a lot of catching up to do.
How about the controllers? This is another place where Microsoft can add new features and technologies while Sony is trying to play catch up. It's great that they have improved the terrible analogs and triggers for the dual shock 4. That's fantastic, but then they went and added a touch area which will be of use to very few developers. No one wants to remove their hands from their natural positioning to use a touch area that will never allow for precision. It simply won't be used by many developers. They added a headphone slot to the controller again playing catch up to Microsoft. What exactly has Microsoft done to improve their new controller while Sony has basically tried to emulate the features on the current 360 controller? People complain that the port on the controller has changed. That's not ideal, but Microsoft has said that there will be an adapter to make older headsets work. Big deal right? Actually it is. The new xbox one controller allows for surround sound directly through the controller. This means that no extra hardware is needed. If you check the product details for the official turtle beach headsets for the xbox one, they mention that they are regular headsets that come with an adapter for the xbox one. This means that with that adapter, you can plug in any regular pair of headphones through the adapter and get surround sound from the xbox one controller itself. No one is talking about this amazing feature. No more need for a separate decoder, nothing. You simply get the adapter, any headset or headphones that you already own and you have wireless surround sound that is built into the console. The PS4 does not have that feature.
What about the new triggers that rumble? That seems insignificant until you realize that every developer can make use of that feature immediately. Previews about the trigger demos have said that it feels great and can add tons of immersion from driving, shooting and anything else. It's completely new and has the potential to push games even further. How about all the when you feel a heartbeat in a game and the controller vibrates? Now that feeling can be felt directly in your finger as you are about to act in a game.
Sony pretty much killed off the PlayStation eye and now that light bar on the controller is useless unless you buy the accessory separately. It's another wasted opportunity that developers will not take advantage of because many people won't have it.
Anyone who plays on both PS3 and Xbox knows that the audio quality through bluetooth is terrible compared to xbox live chat quality. The xbox one controller will now allow for even better audio chat because of a higher bandwidth connection to the console. The PS4 still uses bluetooth and despite adding that little headset, the audio quality gap will increase even further because the underlying technology for the dual shock 4 is still bluetooth. The one thing I'm really hoping for in the PS4 is an A2DP profile for stereo Bluetooth. That would be amazing and I really hope it is there.
Smart glass is something that has been around for about year, maybe a little more. It's an app that allows you to see who is online, read and send messages and do other basic things. It's not great, but it is fine for what is does. That foundation is already there. The new smart glass app will interface with the xbox one directly and be built for the system because it is built into the xbox one from the start. The integration is already there. If I was wagering on the new xbox smart glass app and interface or the upcoming PlayStation app for the PS4, I would put my money on a second generation software from Microsoft. There is no question and this comes directly back to the conversation about user interface and online infrastructure. Sony has never proved that they are good at those things. Why would this new console suddenly be any different?
TV TV TV. This was something Microsoft took a lot of heat for. I may be in the minority but I still have a cable box at home. I don't watch that much TV, but I like watching it. I even have a logitech harmony remote to control all my devices in the living room. It's easy and I love having one remote. The only thing I really hate is using the cable box. The interface is slow, unintuitive, and just a pain to use. This is a big if, but if Microsoft manages to make the Xbox One work how they showed it at the unveil event, that is incredible. If I can simply say “Xbox On, watch TV” and then verbally call out channels and never have to touch the remote again. I would use that every single time I watch TV. Why wouldn't I? That would be incredible. Again, I might be in the minority, but I think if they make that work easily and consistently, it would be an incredible feature that people would absolutely use every day or whenever they turned on the TV.
How about storage space? Both consoles come with 500gb hard drives. That may seem like a lot, but I'm sure they will get filled up quickly. What do you do then? Sony makes it so easy for anyone to replace their hard drives. Right? Wrong. Not to take anything from Sony for doing this, but it was much better last generation against the poor support offered by Microsoft. You could only use 32gb flash drives. That was terrible and you had to buy those ridiculously overpriced proprietary 360 drives. That was terrible. This time around, the Xbox One allows you to plug in any USB 3.0 hard drive and go. The problem with replacing a hard drive is that you are essentially losing the amount of storage you had on the drive that is being replaced. Couple that with having to back it up and transfer back. It's a mess and not easy in relative terms. Maybe that isn't who the feature is there for, but that isn't the point. USB 3.0 is extremely quick and right now you can go to any online store like amazon or newegg and check prices for 1 TB 2.5 inch laptop drives that go in the PS4 versus 1 TB USB 3.0 external hard drives that you could use for the Xbox One. They are roughly in the same price range and roughly the same speed. An edge going to SATA 6.0Gbps drives compared to the max of 5.0Gbps offered by USB 3.0 right now. As a consumer, what is easier? Should I open up the console, back up the old drive, insert the new drive and then lose the 500gb that came built in? Or should I just plug a cable into the Xbox One and have the 500gb I started with and that 1TB that I just installed by plugging in a cable? 2.5 inch drives right now max out at 1TB, but external USB 3.0 drives are available in any size you want. You want a 2TB expansion for your Xbox One? You got it, just plug in a drive. You want a 2TB expansion for your PS4? Sorry, 2.5 inch drives don't come in that capacity.
Finally let's talk about the games. Launch games usually arent great unless you are the old Nintendo. This time around almost everything will be multiplatform aside from a few exclusives. I enjoy driving games and I'm betting that Forza will be a much better game than drive club. I also enjoy shooters and definitely want to check out Killzone. I think those are the two big ones. I want to play dead rising three, but have zero interest in Knack. Knack screams launch title and doesn't look interesting at all. Then comes Titanfall in the spring. It looks amazing and won all those E3 awards from the games press. I guess that means something. I hope it turns out well, but that game simply isn't coming to the PS4. Not at launch. I have no doubt that the PS4 will have incredible exclusives. I just don't see any coming in the first year that were ready to be shown except infamous which looks incredible and I can't wait. What exactly have they announced? Their E3 press conference was almost all mutliplatform titles aside from that barrage of indies games. The next Naughty Dog game won't be here for at least a year. Same goes for all their big franchises. Microsoft at least has Ryse (which looks amazing, but looks like it plays terribly) and quantum break. Microsoft has simply shown more exclusives coming in the first year that are ready to be shown. Sony can promise all they want, but it doesn't mean anything unless you have gameplay. I doubt The Order will ship before next holiday. Sony has a terrible habit of announcing games that are nowhere near ready. The last guardian and final fantasy 14 are just two examples.
The biggest question for me at this point is how multiplatform games will play on both consoles. Last time the 360 enjoyed simpler development and the 360 versions of the vast majority of games ran much better than the PS3 versions. This time the platforms are very similar and with the edge that Sony has, they might run better on the PS4. The question is how much better. Will third parties take the time to make them significantly better? Probably not because they have to develop for the weaker console. The PS4 versions might just get a boost by being a platform that is more like a PC and that might be tangible when it comes to performance. Only time will tell and I doubt there will be much difference in titles for the first year. If both versions of online games run extremely well, but slightly better on the ps4, I will get he xbox one version simply because Live is proven to be a better online service. Maybe Sony will catch up and PSN will work great. I hope that is the case. I don't want to feel the difference when I switch from live to PSN like I do today.
With all that said, it is easy for me to rationalize why I'm more excited about the xbox one. The controller, possible kinect functionality that changes the way I interact with my cable box, direct surround sound through the controller, the advantages of the xbox live platform over PSN and the ability to use larger and more practical external storage space. I'm definitely excited about seeing what the raw power of the PS4 will be able to do, but that power won't be harnessed for at least a year. For right now and for the coming year, there is really no debate. I am definitely more excited about the Xbox One.
Let me add one little disclaimer. If I could only afford to buy a single console and that $100 made a real difference, I would most likely go with the PS4. This is coming from someone that loves games, not platforms. I'm fortunate enough to be able to have both and from a place where the prices don't affect my decisions. This is simple the feeling I have after comparing what each machine can do with hardware and software.