Xbox One vs PS4 – A Few Thoughts

Just in case you’re living in a cave, the first day of E3 2013 was yesterday. Microsoft, EA, Ubisoft and Sony all talked about upcoming games. But everyone was really looking at Microsoft and Sony to see what the next generation of gaming consoles was going to look like.

PlayStation 4Microsoft has had an uphill battle as of late due to some decisions they’ve made regarding content licensing. They’ve taken heat for it and everyone was very curious how Sony would respond in their press conference in the evening. With a once-per-24 hour check on the Xbox One, gamers wanted to know how Sony would respond. Sony knew it too, so they were very clear on stating that disc based games could be traded, sold and loaned to friends, and would have no online checks. (This remains to be seen if publisher add their own licensing schemes as they have done in the past).

The announcement was met by a loud applause from the audience and the internets blew up stating that PS4 had “won” and that gamers were heard. I was one of those people, quickly stating that “that was what gamers wanted.” But then I thought about it more…

Xbox OneMicrosoft has worked hard at building an environment for the gamer. Xbox Live blows the existing PS3 online experience out of the water. Want to play with friends? They’re on Xbox, because it’s the place that supports an amazing online gaming experience. They make it easy and despite only a few hiccups over the years, is online when you want it. Sony’s network has had some issues along the way.

But the real difference here is much harder to see. My wife reminded me of the shift in mediums, something we’ve talked about here before. More and more content is being offered in a non-physical media style, and we like it. Look at where we are with music, TV books, and movies. People stream or download as a prefered way of accessing content. To be honest, I would much rather download anything digital than go buy it on a physical medium in a store. Google Play All Access is the best service I’ve used in recent years. I absolutely love it.  And with either Netflix or Amazon Prime there’s a wealth of shows just a click away.

And I believe that is where Microsoft is coming with the new system. 24 hour license checks are actually very generous when it comes to a digital distribution system like this. With a gaming library stored in the cloud, the ability to access your diskless game library as you need it really is the way of the future. Convenience has a has a price though. If you don’t want digital access to your games library, then (some) of the PS4 titles will fit the bill. If you want access and convenience it’s going to be nearly impossible to beat Microsoft’s approach. Microsoft has promised 300,000 servers online to make this digital access as smooth as possible.

Xbox One will release at $499 while the PS4 will release at $399. The major difference here is the PS4 doesn’t have the camera bundled and costs another $59 while the Xbox One comes with the Kinect 2.0 system. In reality, the costs of the systems are really quite close. It’s going to come down to convenience. Do you like having access to your games from any Xbox One? Or do you want to be able to sell your used (disc based) game on eBay?

The console race is far from over. I’m waiting to see how Microsoft handles the “Family Library” feature down the road. This is one of the features, and future thinking, that still has me very interested in where Microsoft is driving this bus. Sony made its move last night. The ball is back in Microsoft’s court for now.

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