The Playstation 4, Sony’s cutting edge slab of next-gen gaming, splashed onto the scene Friday, delighting the early adopter set and leaving the rest of us with a tough call to make.
I love a hardware launch as much as the next rabid early adopter, but when it comes to an investment with this kind of heft, observing the console wars from a safe distance before casting a vote with your credit card is invariably the wisest choice of all. You've read the tech specs and heard the hype. Now here's the case for buying the PS4.
PS4: A Next Generation Role-Reversal
If this was an election, Sony and Microsoft would be bonafide flip-floppers. Rather than toeing the party line of their forebears, the company’s respective consoles have essentially switched places this generation.
Last time around, the PlayStation 3 was considerably pricier, but included a Blu-Ray player—then, a meaningful bid to make it the more broadly “entertainment-friendly” console. The Xbox 360, with its lower price tag and robust online multiplayer support, grew (arguably) into that cohort’s hardcore gaming console.
Now, the tide has turned. Microsoft wants us to pump TV onto the Xbox One through HDMI pass-through and get our Zumba on in front of the non-optional Kinect 3D motion sensor. But what to make of the PlayStation 4?
Early PS4 Advantages: Price And Graphics
Price. Price is the big one. At $399, the PS4 is $100 less than the Xbox one—and that’s a huge difference. If you’ll primarily fire up your shiny new gaming machine for you know, gaming, the price differential is a major point in Sony's favor.
That $100 premium funds the Xbox One’s bundled Kinect, but for the not-so-casual gamer disinterested in motion-based gameplay or integrated motion/voice controls, well, meh. That means no shouting Fus Roh Dah at your TV—but it’s a price many gamers will likely be willing to not pay.
When it comes to the core gaming experience, the PS4 and Xbox One should offer an almost imperceptibly well-matched experience. This generation of console hardware is the first built on familiar PC-esque hardware, which makes direct hardware comparisons less of an apples to oranges experience. While both the PS4 and Xbox One run off an AMD x86 CPU core, the PS4’s graphics processor gives it a potential performance advantage, at least on paper.
The PS4’s GPU boasts 18 compute units to the Xbox One’s 12. The Xbox One has a clock speed advantage (853Mhz over 800MHz), but when it comes down to it, the PS4 will have more hardware oomph behind its graphics processing, which should result in faster rendering. If what we’ve seen so far is any indication, this console generation will require some serious graphical heavy lifting.
In another strike against the Xbox One’s gaming power, the Xbox One reportedly reserves around 10% of its GPU for the Kinect and other operating system operations. What (f any) qualitative gameplay difference these minor mismatches will yield will only become clear over time, but it looks as though the PS4 is planning to follow in the PS3’s footsteps as the superior console if you want your graphics pushed to the bleeding edge.
Other PS4 Advantages
Sony is launching the PS4 with a small grab bag of freebies, including a free 30 days of PlayStation Plus, the social layer required for online multiplayer play. After the deal wears off, PS Plus will set you back $9.99/month or $49.99/year. Comparatively, a year of Xbox Live Gold—Microsoft’s flavor of PS Plus—sets you back $59.99 a year.
In an effort to push gamers toward its less popular services, Sony will hand out a month of free access to Music Unlimited, Sony’s requisite on-demand streaming music contender. PS4 buyers will also score $10 free to Sony’s PlayStation Store—a drop in the bucket compared to the digital receipts you’ll likely pile up over the years, but hey, it’s something.
What About The Games?
That's all well and good, but as any gamer knows, an exclusive title can sink anyone's battleship. We'd be remiss to not consider games, so here goes.
The PlayStation 4 launches with sci-fi shooter Killzone: Shadow Fall, colorful platformer Knack and Resogun, a bright retro-ish shooter. Notably, Xbox-side, there's the vaguely historical action slasher Ryse: Son of Rome, the needs-no-introduction Forza Motorsport 5 and Dead Rising 3, for any fan of mass zombie murder with household objects.
Big-name titles might be stacked in the Xbox One's favor—exclusives Titanfall and Halo 5 will make plenty of gamers' decision a no-brainer—but if you're not a rabid fan of any notable exclusives, these differences will level out as the consoles fill out their respective games rosters with shared titles. This list is by no means comprehensive, so if you want a deep dive comparison, we'd suggest peering into the respective coming games lineups for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.
Lacking Microsoft’s aggressive suite of support for casual living room fun (have fun, damn it, all of you!), this generation's PlayStation becomes the de facto gamer’s console. Still, if you’ve got the early adopter itch, pause and consider what the PS4’s got going for it (which is plenty, depending on your needs). And remember: At launch both consoles will have a comparatively bare bones catalogue of games and a host of kinks to work out software-side.
Images via Sony