One of my close friends was recently in the market for a next gen gaming console and asked my advice, since I have both a PS4 and an Xbox One he asked for my advice. I thought about it and decided to advise him to get the One and, since that system gets beat up a lot among hardcore gamers, decided to post my thoughts about why I gave that piece of advice, even while acknowledging that the PS4 is a better gaming machine. Here are some facts about my friend: Late 20s; Married without kids but considering; busy professional; plays between 2 and 4 new story based games a year with some evergreen stuff (Sports games, fighters) sprinkled in.
- The Xbox One is designed as more than just a gaming box. It is designed to be integrated into an entertainment system, to provide an enhanced TV viewing experience and a huge variety of media aps. While this promise is not quite met by the One so far I trust Microsoft, based on the 360, will get it there. PS4 will have a ton of apps as well, but it's less emphasized in the UI and less integrated into the system. Based on the PS3 it will always seem like a neat trick that the gaming console can do rather than a core function. Plus voice control is cool. The suspend and snap functions are cool. The UI will only get better. PS4 seems less interested. The one big downside for XBONE here is the lack of a remote play option like PS4/VITA and Wii U but my friend doesn't want to play games while his wife watches something on TV. He wants her to be able to voice control Netflix and easily Skype her parents a few states away while sitting on the couch. The XBONE is a gaming machine that adds value for stuff they do more in a way that the competitors are not.
- My friend doesn't really notice things like resolution and frame rate. He only got an HD TV a few years ago and only had a Wii from the last generation. He does want some stuff that looks cool, but his eyes glaze over when you say 60 FPS or 1080p. He can barely notice the difference when you point it out. Even frame rates below 30 FPS don't really bother him unless they drop too far. Having the slightly inferior version of every game is something that just won't bother him.
- He only plays a few games a year and they tend to be pretty mainstream. He might sample something like Octodad or Don't Starve but ultimately they are too weird and difficult to capture his interest. He also doesn't need a huge number of games because he just won't play that much. This also makes PS+ much less of a value.
- His wife is what I would consider an ultra-casual gamer. She will play relatively simple stuff like puzzle games or party games like Dance Central. Microsoft seems to be targeting people like her with games like Peggle 2 and with the Kinect, which can be used for Just Dance/Dance Central type stuff. You can buy the camera for the PS4 as an accessory but if previous gens are any indication it will split the base and not get much development attention.
- The XBONE is not as good a gaming machine as the Ps4 but it is a better jack of all trades, and for people for whom gaming is a minor part of their entertainment lives, it seems to have more to offer and more promise. It'll have a (probably) decent version of the big games, some big Microsoft exclusives, and let him play stuff online with his friends who have an XBONE.
I, frankly, think that my friend and his wife are the ultimate target Microsoft has in mind with the XBONE. Gaming as just one function of a multi-media device has worked fantastically for the iPhone and the iPad, and while the XBONE is competing in this space with smart TVs and Apple TV and the next generation of cable boxes, it is arguably the highest end product in the space right now, and the only one that doubles as a credible, if not cutting edge, gaming system. The 360 was almost there but was stymied by its hardware and the decisions Microsoft made in designing it as gaming first. Game companies have ignored the casual market because of the low attach rate (the Wii problem) but if Microsoft can sell other media like video and music (and I'm sure eventually even other products like food delivery and other consumer goods) through its unified eco system it doesn't need a massive attach rate.
Anyway, I thought I'd share some thoughts on why the Xbox One might make sense for people closer to the fringe than the core of gaming.