Now that both Sony and Microsoft have made their big reveals, it’s time to fanboy up and pick your sides! Sony beat Microsoft out of the gun by a couple months, but was the early reveal worth it? We’ll take a look strictly at the facts revealed in the conference, or perhaps what wasn’t revealed in the conference, and decide who did a better job making their announcement. Systems are bigger, stronger, and faster, accessories have been redesigned and improved, and games have been announced. But what does this information even mean and where should you put your money? Robert “RedgoateeRob” Nielsen and I will break down the conferences and give you the details you need to know, then deliver the final verdict on who was victorious.
The Game Consoles: Tony’s Take
Obviously both companies came out to announce their brand new systems. Each boast significantly more power, exceptional graphics, and state of the art technology to accompany it. The Xbox One looks amazing. Its shape has been streamlined and it has a bit of a retro throwback with its two-tone color scheme and very boxy, minimalistic design. The redesigned Kinect fits perfectly with the style of the new system, and the controller has been ever-so-slightly tweaked to match up as well.
As for the PlayStation 4, well… the controller looks… similar. It has also been streamlined, with the addition of a touchpad, it sports a more futuristic look, but that’s about all of the information we have. This raises the question, why would you have a conference about a console, and not actually bring your console? It was no surprise to anyone that it was coming, so Sony would have been much better off had they come prepared with something to show.
Winner: Xbox One
The Game Consoles: Rob’s Take
Sony caught some heat for not showing off their actual box during the conference; in fact, some gamers might have felt like showing off the controller alone was nothing more than a tease. But looking at it from Sony’s perspective, you get a sense that they might be thinking in terms of the long game rather than an instant payoff. This isn’t Sony’s first rodeo; back during the PlayStation One era they faced off with Nintendo and Sega, who are by no means pushovers, and I can’t help but think Sony wouldn’t still be standing if they didn’t have a firm grasp of how to build anticipation for their next product. Showing off the Dualshock 4 alone allowed gamers to get a sense of the physicality of the new console, while still allowing Sony to have an ace-in-the-hole for E3: the console itself. Plus, holding off on a reveal of the console allowed Sony to get a picture of what Microsoft had up their sleeve before they show off their own box. Overall, even if not having the console in the spotlight might have frustrated a few fans, I think it was a smart play in the long run.
But what of Microsoft? Despite their claims of looking forward to the future, the design of the Xbox One seems to indicate a focus toward the criticisms of the past. Just as the Xbox 360, with it’s clean, concave surfaces, seemed designed to quiet gamers’ criticism of the size of the original Xbox, the large rectangular footprint of the Xbox One seems intentionally designed to quell gamers’ fears of the heating issues related to the design of the 360. Though it seems almost certain that Microsoft will install plenty of cooling under the Xbox One’s huge hood, it doesn’t change the fact that the boxy design of the system is most reminiscent of the Philips CDI- probably not what Microsoft wants gamers thinking of when they look at their new console.
Winner: Playstation 4
The Peripherals: Tony’s Take
Since the days of “Duck Hunt”, peripherals have been an integral part of any successful console. They’ve come a long way from the plastic guns and even the more recent pretend instruments. Now, consoles have the ability to see you, hear you, and actually track your body’s movements. Then, of course, there’s the controller – the most important asset, and the most important asset to get right. The majority of the time you’re gaming, you’re going to have the controller in your hand, so it needs to be comfortable.
Sony’s big reveal for its conference was the controller. That was actually all they had to show for the system. It looks very much like its PS3 counterpart, with a few minor upgrades. The touchpad will definitely give it a unique spin, and the idea of adding the PlayStation Move tracking light to it complements the six-axis design its predecessor had. They also briefly mentioned the PlayStation Move will be making a return, but didn’t go into any details as to how or if any improvements were to be made.
Microsoft’s controller has also been just slightly tweaked, and we’ll take their word on it that it really is more ergonomic. Their shining star, however, wasn’t the controller, but rather the upgraded Kinect. It’s become so much more accurate, and is directly integrated into the Xbox One’s design. Perhaps the most exciting part is the technology behind it and the vast improvements made there. Now, the Kinect instantly recognizes you, signs you in, and brings up your personalized home screen. Not only that, but it can all be done simply by saying “Xbox On” – the one thing that gamers had asked for out of the Kinect since its arrival. The usefulness of these voice commands goes leaps and bounds beyond anything motion, which anyone who has ever watched Netflix with friends knows to be true. There’s always that person who wants needs to take a bathroom break in the middle of the group movie, so being able to simply say “Xbox Pause” is a breath of fresh air, compared to digging around in the dark for a controller, waiting for it to power back on and connect before finally pressing the pause button.
Winner: Xbox One
The Peripherals: Rob’s Take
If there’s one impression the conferences left, it’s that user interaction with these consoles will be very different than their interaction with the 360 and PS3. From voice commands to motion tracking to facial recognition, Microsoft and Sony are discovering how to let gamers interface with their platform of choice in ways that would have seemed like science fiction even just a decade ago. It’s difficult to imagine how these systems will be implemented across software titles, and it’s even more difficult to assume with any certainty that their implementation will serve to enhance the software on the systems represented rather than get in the way of gameplay. Gamers have been getting burned by supposed innovations in control that proved intrusive and unwieldy for decades, even back to the days of the Power Glove and the Rolling Rocker. Though it’s certain that the Kinect and the EyeToy will be better integrated into their respective consoles than those old control gimmicks were, they still could end up being showpieces that shovelware games are designed to promote rather than simple control methods that serve to enhance quality games. At this point, it’s simply too soon to know.
Winner: Too early to call.
Multimedia: Tony’s Take
When it first came onto the scene, the PlayStation 3 boasted the ability to be the heart of your home entertainment center. The Xbox 360, on the other hand, was primarily a game system. As the Xbox 360 developed over its lifespan, it changed into your all-in-one entertainment box, paving the way for the Xbox One. The PlayStation 3, however, focused primarily on games and everything related.
The PlayStation 4 will have all of the same multimedia capabilities as its predecessor, and adds in a very large social component which focuses on sharing content. The controller has a “share” button on it, allowing you to instantly stream gameplay or easily create clips. Beyond that, Sony didn’t really even touch on the movies or music throughout their conference.
On the contrary, Microsoft spent almost all of their time gloating about the new capabilities the Xbox One will have. It will now be a Blu-Ray Player, Roku Box, Cable Box, and Game Console all rolled into one. The ability to quickly switch between every source is nice… but is it really necessary? Quite honestly, the inclusion of “live TV” really left everyone scratching their heads. Fortunately, the multimedia component didn’t stop there. The updated ESPN app has had a major overhaul, fully integrating fantasy sports directly into the broadcasts. As your players score points, you’ll receive pop-up notifications which will allow you to instantly jump to the leaderboards and check out how your team is doing. Fantasy sports have exploded in popularity, and this will definitely be something couch-athletes will take advantage of.
There was also the exhilarating announcement of the Halo TV series. Gamers have been begging for a Halo movie for years, and their appetite was teased with a surprisingly good web series, “Forward Unto Dawn”, which showed the possibilities and potential success of an actual TV series. Microsoft has backed it full force, and put up enough of a budget to have legendary director Steven Spielberg directing. There’s hardly anything that could go wrong here.
Winner: Xbox One
Multimedia: Rob’s Take
Fantasy football, cable tv, and ESPN; Microsoft seems to have an eye toward a very particular customer. The question becomes less one of utility and more one of appeal; if you dig fantasy football and the thought of controlling what shows you watch via your game console, Microsoft has you covered. Will the average gamer be interested in these services? Will the ability to watch ‘live TV’ when you already have a TV that plays TV live compel gamers to pick up the new Xbox? These things remain to be seen.
Of course, the announcement of a new, Xbox-exclusive, Halo TV series directed by film industry legend Steven Spielberg was the highlight of Microsoft’s TV plans, and the new series will undoubtedly be welcomed by Halo fans with open arms. It might have been nice to have seen something of the upcoming series, though, even if it were just a scrolling shot of some storyboard sequences. During the presentation, both AMC’s “Breaking Bad” and HBO’s “Game of Thrones” were mentioned as benchmarks for the sort of quality the Halo TV show project is aiming to match; if it can live up to a fraction of the quality standards set by those programs, it will be a powerful force in Microsoft’s next-generation arsenal of reasons to pick up an Xbox One.
Sony, for its part, showed off a share button on the Dualshock 4 to allow gamers to upload footage of their gameplay to ‘social networks’. The advertising benefits to Sony here are obvious, but it’s unclear whether all gamers will be interested in sharing footage of themselves, and it’s easy to see how the plan could backfire if a flood of mostly unremarkable amateur gameplay videos uploaded to social networks starts to annoy friends and family members browsing their newsfeeds for pictures of smiling grandchildren and cantankerous felines.
Winner: Steven Spielberg (and, by association, Xbox One).
Games: Tony’s Take
Despite not having an actual game console to show, Sony at least displayed the understanding of what a “game console” is. They spent roughly half their conference showcasing upcoming titles for their system. Most of the titles were expected, such as upcoming sequels “Killzone Shadowfall” and inFamous Second Son”; however, there were a couple of surprise titles as well. While “Driveclub” isn’t the most original of ideas, it looks like a solid title and you can tell the developers put a lot of heart into it. “The Witness”, the new title from the creators of “Brave”, looks interesting and extremely promising. The part everyone was waiting for, although they didn’t know it was the update, was the look at “Watchdogs”. This brand new IP thrilled gamers with its surprise announcement at E3 last year because it managed to blindside all of us, despite the fact that leaks are almost expected in this day and age.
Microsoft seemed to forget their roots with their conference, leaving many to question if the Xbox One was a game system that can do other things, or a multimedia box that can also play games. While a few developers did showcase their new engines, EA Sports brushed over 4 titles with very little detail. There was a new trailer for “Call of Duty: Ghosts” which also sports a new engine and is being redesigned from the ground up, but to no surprise, it was also leaked early in the year which made the reveal a lot less exciting, not to mention this whole “timed exclusive” thing is just getting annoying – it’s bad for the industry. The only glimmer of hope was Phil Spencer who promised 15 exclusive titles within the launch year, eight of which will be brand new franchises! Those numbers are astounding, and very promising, however there’s no idea what they may be, or if they’ll even be any good. We can only hope so.
Winner: Hands down, PlayStation 4
Games: Rob’s Take
Of course, since the early days of home game consoles, only one factor determines the winner of a particular console generation: which console has the best games? Sony showed off a flood of software in their press conference, from new iterations of first-party titles Infamous and Killzone, to Capcom’s dungeon-crawler Deep Down, to a version of Bungie’s new RPG shooter Destiny, and finally to the reveal of a seemingly-exclusive console version of Blizzard’s Diablo 3. In a classy nod to their current customers, Sony also announced that both Destiny and Diablo 3 would be available for the Playstation 3 as well as the upcoming Playstation 4.
Xbox seemed, by comparison, to not have a great deal to offer. They showed off a new entry in the venerable Call of Duty franchise, and promised 15 more games would be revealed at their E3 conference, but one wonders what they expected gamers to discuss in the interim. Considering the confirmation that “Call of Duty: Ghosts” will not be exclusive to the Xbox One but will also be appearing on consoles by Sony and Nintendo as well as on PC, Microsoft’s decision to showcase the title at their conference instead of a first-party exclusive game seems even more odd. Even a handful of titles for original IP’s announced in the abstract would have fueled fan speculation regarding their nature and could have built buzz for Microsoft to ride into their E3 press conference. As it stands, though, Xbox fans will just have to live with their curiosity regarding the nature of those 15 unannounced titles until E3 rolls around.
Winner: Playstation 4
Tony’s Wrap-Up Verdict:
It was a very close vote, and honestly, it’s not because both were so mind-blowing, but rather disappointing. Sony forgot to bring their console, and Microsoft forgot to bring their games. If you were to put them together, they would have had one solid conference. Unfortunately, this potential super-console doesn’t exist, and we’re left with two incomplete experiences. This was probably done to save content for E3 which is just around the corner, but nonetheless, it was still a little underwhelming. With a vote of 4-3-1, the Xbox One just barely edges out the competition and takes the crown. There’s still a lot to be learned about these consoles, and things could change. For the time being, the future is looking a little bleak for gamers. It might be the time to just hold on to what you’ve got and experience it to the fullest – that is, if you’re not ready for the always online, anti-used game, jack of all trades video game consoles we seem to be getting.
Also, be sure to check out RedgoateeRob’s rant on everything that wasn’t touched on during the conferences! It’s up now!
Anthony Ortale writes news and reviews on behalf of usedview.com. He does so much gaming in his spare time, it’s practically a full time job! If you like what you read here, please subscribe to his articles! You can also follow Tony on Twitter, or become a fan on Facebook! If you ever have any questions, comments, or concerns, feel free to email Tony any time at firstname.lastname@example.org, he’d love to hear from you!