Source: USA TODAY
“PlayStation 4 or Xbox One?”
That question is being asked a lot as Sony and Microsoft have both launched their first new home video game console systems in seven and eight years, respectively.
For some video game enthusiasts, the answer is easy. But for others, not so much.
WHAT’S AT STAKE?
Both companies want bragging rights – and revenue share – in the latest round of the console wars. Spending on dedicated video game consoles and games in the U.S. is expected to increase from $11.3 billion last year to $13.2 billion in 2014 and, DFC Intelligence estimates, more than $14 billion in 2015.
So far, Nintendo is off to a slow start with its Wii U system. The Wii U launched a year ago and has sold only 3 million units in the U.S. Still, new games such as Super Mario 3D World should make it a popular holiday choice. And Nintendo has dropped the price on a deluxe set to $299 with New Super Mario Bros U and New Super Luigi U included.
Meanwhile, Sony says it sold more than 1 million PS4s on Nov. 15, the system’s debut date. Microsoft announced that its global sales hit the 1 million mark around midday when it launched a week later. “So they were probably pretty comparable,” says Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter.
Installed base: Tie
WELCOME TO THE MACHINES
Sony and Microsoft each have created PC-like gaming powerhouses that can deliver ten times the quality of the graphics on previous systems. And the controllers for the PlayStation and Xbox got makeovers for the better.
Each also has other features that make the new systems worthy centerpieces of the living room. For starters, both play Blu-ray Discs and DVDs; the Xbox One also plays music CDs.
Sony touts that the PlayStation 3 was the device most used to watch Netflix. The PS4 also lets you stream the most popular video apps such as Netflix, just as the Xbox One does. The Xbox One does have exclusive apps from ESPN and the NFL.
But Microsoft’s entertainment strategy with Xbox One goes deeper – which could be a turn-on or detractor. The system’s interactive guide can integrate all your offerings — TV, games, apps — in one menu if you connect your pay TV settop box to Xbox One with an HDMI cable.
Using the next generation Kinect sensor, included with each Xbox One, you can control most on-screen choices such as “Watch ESPN” with your voice. And you can set up the system to turn on your TV, settop box, audio/video receiver and Xbox One with the “Xbox On” command.
But Microsoft’s broadcast TV integration won’t necessarily be a slam dunk. Many TV lovers have new, expensive settop boxes with multi-tuner DVRs that lose some functionality when connected to Xbox One.
System: A slight nod to Microsoft
IT’S THE GAMES, STUPID
These are game systems, so it’s worth looking at which system has the best games at launch and in the pipeline.
Most would say that Microsoft’s exclusive Dead Rising 3, created with Capcom, and the beautiful Forza Motorsport 5 racing game gives the Xbox One the edge. But there are many fans of Sony-owned studio Guerrilla Games, which developed the PS4 launch title Killzone Shadow Fall. Retro-shooter Resogun and Knack, a family-friendly platform game are solid releases, too.
But the most popular games for the new systems, at least at the outset, are ones that have already been released for older systems: Call of Duty: Ghosts is the most sought-after game on both new systems, according to a new Nielsen survey. Also on the list: Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag, Battlefield 4 and Madden NFL 25. These games do look better on the new systems, but not that much if a consumer wants to wait out the initial buying frenzy.
And certain exclusive games in the works could encourage gamer loyalty to that system. Perhaps the biggest exclusive is Respawn Entertainment’s first-person sci-fi multiplayer combat game Titanfall, due March 11 for the Xbox One (and Windows PCs). And Microsoft’s own 343 Industries is developing Halo 5 for the Xbox One. And a live-action Halo TV series, executive produced by Steven Spielberg, is in development for Xbox One, too.
As for the PS4, inFamous: Second Son is scheduled for a March 21 release. Another Sony-owned studio, Naughty Dog (The Last of Us), has announced that a new Uncharted game is in the works, too.
Games: A draw
THE FINAL ANSWER
So which box prevails? That depends on who is asking.
If you’ve always played an Xbox or a PlayStation, you are less likely to jump ship.
The biggest factor to woo you from one side to the other, right now, is the Xbox One’s media center feature. Hate the idea? Go PS4. Love the concept? Go Xbox One.
Luckily, early adopters can rest assured that — despite reports of a few faulty units of both systems — Microsoft and Sony have built in enough technology that both systems are “a real bargain,” says Richard Doherty of The Envisioneering Group.
Both are designed for networked games and can send video to the Ultra HD 4K televisions just hitting the market. That means, Doherty says, “You are getting a few good years of future-proofing under your belt as you buy now.”
Copyright © 2013 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.