Xbox One Vs PS4: has the battle turned around?
Has Microsoft managed to turn the tide with the changes to the Xbox One, or is Sony still in the driving seat?
As one of the biggest fallouts in gaming history, the Xbox One's debut to the world could have gone better, no one could deny that. The launch of the console was marred by vague specifications and features, little in the way of gaming news and an unwelcome (by many) focus on TV and non-gaming abilities. E3 then arrived, and the whole thing exploded in a calamity of questionable policies and customer hate. It wasn't good.
A short time later, Microsoft boldly decided to embrace the feedback, and one of the industry's biggest turnarounds was set in motion. The policies on used games were relaxed, online connectivity was no longer an issue and the system will now work without Kinect. These changes effectively righted all the wrongs people had with the console, and for those not too pleased with the focus on multimedia over games, even that has been addressed with strong game showings at both E3 and Gamescom.
The Xbox One is now a much more attractive system to the consumer, and even the price difference between it and the PS4 has been addressed. European gamers will now get a totally free digital copy of FIFA 14 with the unit, and there's even the possibility of further free games being offered in different bundles. This all contributes to one thing – the Xbox One is closing ground on the PlayStation 4. In fact, it could be argued that Sony is actually now on the flip side.
Sonys Andrew House's ill-received comments at Gamescom about Microsoft's policy changes aside, the PlayStation 4 became the champion of gamers because of the polar opposite approach the unit took to the original Xbox One specification. It offered everything the Xbox One didn't, and won the hearts and minds of potential customers. Now it has no such advantage, and it's all about the actual strengths and features of the consoles.
Now that the Xbox One no longer has these short comings, and owning a PS4 isn't as clearly advantageous, have people forgotten the initial furore? In part, yes, I'd argue.
In truth, it was always going to happen. Today's major bugbear is usually nothing more than tomorrow's forgotten niggle, and even without the policy reversal the Xbox One would have eventually started to sell more and more as big name exclusives emerged. FIFA 14's bundling alone would have caused many to forgive and forget. Now that we've got the best of both worlds, thanks to Microsoft doing the right thing, which should be applauded and not continually criticised (as Sony's Mr House did), there's little to separate the competition. Yes, the PS4 is supposedly the more powerful unit, but the actual results of this added power are yet to be seen.
Customer consciousness has definitely been altered, and although I doubt the Xbox One's changes will persuade those now solidly invested in the PS4, those who were unsure, or possibly leaning towards the PS4 may now think again. In fact, UK retailer, Game, recently announced it's no longer accepting pre-orders for the Xbox One Day One Edition, as that version of the unit has sold out. Game has also stated that pre-orders for the standard edition cannot be guaranteed for launch. Clearly, plenty of people are interested.
Good Game, Good Game
One thing that can always separate the units is the launch line up and other upcoming exclusives, and it's here where the Xbox has also won back many of the critics. Excluding third party titles which will arrive on both machines, the Xbox One arguably has the stronger line up of the two. Microsoft's line up includes big hitters like Dead Rising 3, Forza 5, Ryse: Son of Rome, Titanfall, Project Spark, Quantum Break and, of course, Halo 5. Then there's the FIFA 14 deal, the importance of which simply can't be understated.
The PS4, on the other hand, has titles such as The Order: 1886, Drive Club, Killzone: Shadowfall, Infamous: Second Son and Knack. It has some exclusives like a special GTA V bundle and extra content for Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, but the Xbox does seem to have the edge in exclusives at the moment, but as always, this is as subjective as you can get.
That said, this judgement is also based on current, confirmed exclusives, and this could change at any time when new announcements come, but at this time, Microsoft is certainly eyeing up that driving seat once more.
Still, Microsoft's exclusives have petered off a little in the later years of the Xbox 360, and once strong showings have weakened with time, such as the once loud and proud Gears Of War which has been tarnished in the eyes of many by the mediocre Gears Of War: Judgement. The PS3, however, enjoyed a growth in strong exclusives, including such titles as Uncharted and The Last Of Us. If this trend continues, Sony could capitalise, and if both consoles truly are equal technically, exclusives will be key.
With all of the policy changes and a strong line up of games for both machines, it's now a much more level playing field, and as long as the general focus shifts from what Microsoft did wrong to what its doing now, the next generation could be a true breeding ground of excellence with two powerful consoles that can match each other pound for pound. After all, industry legend and programming savant, John Carmack, has publicly stated how similar both systems are, and so we should no longer see inferior PS3 ports of titles, and instead such versions will highlight the strengths of each machine.
This only further emphasises the importance of exclusives and that of the online services. In the past, Xbox Live has always been the clear winner due to a stronger infrastructure and more robust servers. Now that the PS4's PSN is subscription-based, this may well change, and it could become just as functional as Microsoft's online service. Add to this the indie-friendly nature of both consoles, and even the indie market has become more balanced, and we may see less in the way of exclusives here too. The playing field has, potentially, never been so level.
So, there's no doubting that Microsoft has gone all-out to rescue the Xbox One, and the numerous changes, big name titles and bundles have certainly made for a much more interesting duel between the two next gen units. There's still some way to go, but both machines now look set for a strong launch. Feel free to leave your comments on the state of play below...