Well E3 has been and gone now, and after the start of the year including the announcements of 2 next-gen consoles to be released simultaneously near the festive end of the year. What does this all mean for the average consumer?
Apart from the obvious, which is enhanced graphics, reworked user interfaces/controllers and more powerful technology, there really isn’t much between the two systems when you look at the main systems (CPU + GPU) specs on paper.
The only main differences being for consumers is the type of memory used. Microsoft preferring to use DDR3 RAM as opposed to GDDR5 RAM used by Sony. This just means as shown above that system memory bandwidth is increased with the use of GDDR RAM in the system, as well as a more advanced GPU for utilising it all. Also with both systems being x86 CPU based means shorter development schedules for either console, and bridging the gap between the graphical differences between PC and console. It could also bring us closer to the point on multi-format online gameplay in the long term i.e. PC, PS and Xbox players all playing together online, then again it could be a dream that never becomes reality!
Both systems pack a punch for becoming an all-in-one entertainment system for the home. Especially with Microsoft incorporating a 3-in-1 interface (Xbox system for gaming, Windows system for apps, social media & networks, etc, and the final system to seamlessly join both with ease, with the advanced Kinect 2.0 system for voice and hand gesture controls, meaning it has to be connected for the system to work at all), the system does look great from footage so far showing the transitions from game to film to app being fluid. But the Xbox Dashboard looks like just an updated version of what’s currently available on the Xbox 360. Also the Kinect 2.0 peripheral that’s bundle with the Xbox One looks to a vast improvement on the original device, with multi device controls being built into this one. Want your TV on and Xbox on, just say ‘Xbox on’, and it’ll switch your tv on, amp for your speakers on as well whilst it boots itself up. More of a reason to become a couch potato then!
Microsoft’s plans don’t just stop there though, with the inclusion Smartglass tech being bundled into the console as well, it wants you to work with everything that’s technology in your house, I have my doubts about the technology as it’s becoming more like George Orwell’s 1984 albeit Kinect is watching you instead of the infamous Big Brother. This could lead to some mishaps with the likes of Skype, etc to be caught doing something you shouldn’t with the system preffering to be connected 24/7 even when powered off. The only benefit of that being game patches, videos can all be downloaded in the background whilst you watch/play. But Microsoft want you to focus on your TV with it now become a TV planner/recorder for live TV personalised to your viewing as opposed to streaming as seen on current gen platforms. Ideal since it does indeed look like vcr/dv-recorder.
Sony have gone for a more social network procedure than before with the PS3, with the Dual Shock 4’s Share button becoming the social side of the system, with your PSN friends list being conprised of your real world friends, that can watch as you stream your live gaming for all to see, take and share your pictures and video and even jump in real time as well for co-operative action or take over completely if your stuck on a game and utilising the latest gen of smartphones/tablets for real time chat system as well as usingthe updated PS Eye camera! Again the PS4 is connected 24/7 allowing background downloading of games/patches/video to occur as well whilst you play.
The redeveloped XMB (Cross Media Browser) looks better than the PS3’s, but not a lot of info has been said of what the final version will look and work like. Again this system and services are said to be personalised to you and your content. Streaming services for films & TV will be included again on the system, but slightly more advanced than what we currently have on offer on the PS3. Sony isn’t offering the PS Eye bundled with the PS4 on release either, meaning if you want it you’ll need to buy it for roughly £45. Whether or not the Dual Shock 4 will work as a PS Move style controller isn’t clear cut, but given the details released so far it’s safe to assume that it will.
Both systems seem to be focused on cloud technology to be used, whether for uploading/downloading games and saved games, game patches, video footage, pictures, etc. Sony have a trump card up their sleeve for this, with the inclusion of the Gaikai technology for creating the fastest gaming network possible for it’s users. The cloud won’t be launched in time for release dates, but will be rolled out as of 2014, meaning your automatic download of games & video whilst you play or watch won’t be happening immediately until after the New Year. Gaikai are hoping to use this system for allowing the entire Playstation back catalogue to be accessed through the cloud, which may mean PS1 & PS2 titles to begin with, but PS3 games will make it onto the system eventually. Something that Microsoft haven’t stated is if their cloud technology will eventually offer the same, at the moment it looks like if you want to play Xbox & Xbox 360 games, use your Xbox 360 seems to be the comment for now. Despite neither offering backwards compatability with it’s predecessors, the Gaikai technology looks to be the best offer for that to happen in time, sadly it’ll be exclusive to Sony as they bought the company last year. Microsoft’s answer was to use your Xbox 360, shame as they are missing out what their current gamers would like, and alienating new gamers who may have not experienced some of the Xbox back catalogue.
Both are pay-to-play for immersing yourself into online multiplayer, which to be fair isn’t that much of a hassle. Both company’s have stated that if you currently subscribe to their services (Playstation Plus & Xbox Live Gold), that it’ll carry over to the new system. Good news if you have the PS Plus service as you should have access to their Instant Game Collection, which is an ever revolving line up of best selling to retro game titles that are yours to own for free as long as you maintain the susbscription. PS Plus has been running for over 2 years now and the back catalogue of games is vast as well as exclusive access to game Beta trials for upcoming titles, something that Microsoft has only announced now, by offering 2 free games a month to current subscribers, that are yours to keep forever. Both roughly cost the same, but in my opinion is PS Plus offers the better value for money, as it’s too little too late for Microsoft to start offering a similar service.
Now we get to Microsoft’s big blunder in the eyes of gamers everywhere, theoriginal announcement that to play games the system would have to login into your Xbox Live profile once every 24 hours, and the used game market restrictions (basically the game was only usable on your system and no-one else’s system and specific Xbox One used game retailers). Sony have used that time at E3 to announce no such restrictions will be put in place on the PS4 meaning you can play games all the time without having to log in online, and allowed to sell your games to anyone, trade them in for the newest titles or keep them forever. As well as posting up a video showcasing this point across during E3 as a sly dig. Over a week later and Microsoft have put up an announcement stating that the previous restrictions that had been announced had now been scrapped due to Sony’s announcements. This can be found here
The last thing to cover is the support of 4K resolutions (IMAX resolution), both systems have announced support of this but whether or not games will be designed with 4K in mind, as no physical disc based technology at current can store the amount of storage needed for this (roughly 200-300gb estimate for now), is still to be confirmed. However the technology is still very early stages, with supported TV sets costing roughly around the £20K mark for in the home. It’s still a long way off gaming wise, but still something to think about for the future. 4K will be supported on video for now with downloads estimated to be around 100gb for these files and is the only 4K support Sony has announced to date. Sony and LG are the two companys trying to develop the technology for the home, so it might be a possibility for a future firmware update to allow 4K support for games on the PS4, like we saw on PS3 for 3D Blu-Ray support a couple of years ago. Microsoft have announced they will support 4K on games from the word go with the Xbox One, my thoughts are that once the technology is more affordable for the home, only then will we see the benefits of greater resolution textures on your screen. For now though 1080p seems to the peak of technology for gaming.
Thanks for reading, I hope this clears up the tech speak behind both consoles and informs your judgement as to which console you choose. I know which console I’ll be purchasing, until then just keep on gaming folks, as you’re the important ones that will benefit from the better experiences these consoles will make!