This year's Electronic Entertainment Expo was eventful, indeed. After months of hype, we finally got a look at both Microsoft and Sony's next-gen console offerings, and an idea of what each system is capable of. Unfortunately, we were also hit full force with Microsoft's terrible marketing tactics, poor design choices and general lack of insight regarding gaming - all of which Sony was all too happy to capitalize on. In just a few short days, it appeared as though Microsoft handed the next-gen throne to Sony on a silver platter.
Or did they? Even in the face of Microsoft's blundering approach to E3, the Xbox One still has many proponents. There are still people out there who aren't terribly excited for the PS4. Stranger still, many are as-yet undecided on their choice; still on the fence as to what console is the best choice.
Of course, most people aren't even talking about the Wii U, even though it's arguably just as much of a contender as the other consoles.
In short, what I'm trying to say is that neither of the three organizations - Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo- are out of the running yet. This could still be anyone's game; every console has strengths and weaknesses. In the interest of helping everyone make informed purchasing decisions, I'm going to lay out a comprehensive comparison of what each system has to offer. From there, it should be a simple matter for you to decide what system suits you best.
For many, Nintendo is like an old, dear friend. Most people who count themselves as gamers today have the Japanese giant to thank for their introduction, whether through the Nintendo Wii or through one of its earlier offerings. Due to its tendency towards innovation, its high-quality first-party titles and its powerful legacy, Nintendo has behind it a fiercely devoted, immensely loyal legion of fans.
Sony hasn't always had such great PR, nor has it displayed such respect for its fans. There are many who still bitterly remember the PSN breach which resulted from Sony's mishandling of a situation involving a modded console (suing your customers is bad). Since those days, Sony has reinvented itself, making an effort to communicate with and listen to its fans.
Microsoft's loss at E3 was Sony's gain. To say people love the tech giant would be putting it lightly. Even so, it still has a tarnished, unfortunate history. For some, this may well be a deal-breaker.
Oh, Microsoft; what are we going to do with you?
As I've said before, Microsoft's baffling mishandle of the Xbox One hasn't exactly made it a fan favorite, nor has its insistence on forcing DRM on its players. Things aren't much better now that Microsoft has backpedaled either, given that its removed several of the console's more promising features as a result,
Allowing Don Mattrick to be the public face of the Xbox One was probably a mistake, as well.
In short, in terms of approval, Microsoft is dead last.
First up, let's talk about the controller design.We're not going to deal with the aesthetics of any of the three consoles mostly because it's a matter of taste. In my personal opinion, both the Xbox One and the PS4 look kind of ugly, anyway - the former doesn't look much different from the 360, and the latter resembles an eraser.
But I digress.
The most spectacular change here comes from Nintendo, which has introduced the tablet-like Wii U gamepad, in addition to utilizing both the Pro controller (essentially, an enhanced version of the classic controller) and the Wiimote. The most noteworthy element of the Wii U is definitely the Game-pad, which features a touchscreen interface that many have hailed as downright revolutionary.
It definitely has the most potential of any of the designs - even if that potential is currently untapped.
Although the basic design of the PS4's Dualshock 4 controller remains the same, Sony has implemented a number of very welcome tweaks, including extended handgrips and better thumbstick placement.As a result, the controller both feels better and plays better. The addition of a 'share' button and a built-in microphone are both nice touches, as well.
Another interesting feature is the light bar, which can be programmed by developers to change color based on in-game events. In addition, it can be synced to the PS4's camera and shift split-screen windows around based on its position (a feature shared by the Xbox One).
Oh, and it's also got curved triggers.
Microsoft's approach to the Xbox One controller's design appeared to be 'why tamper with a good thing?' As with Sony, the design of the controller keeps all the positive aspects of the previous generation while making an effort to remove its weaknesses. The new position of the Xbox button is incredibly welcome, and looks far less awkward, while the controller's size has been pared down and the D-pad has been improved.
The start and select buttons have been replaced, as well; View and Menu have taken their place.
Pricing and Specifications
Packing an AMD x86 8-core CPU, the console will be running 8 gigabytes of DDR3 RAM with a 500 GB hard drive (proprietary Microsoft technology, of course), the Xbox One is a fairly impressive gaming console. Networking-wise, it appears to have a slight edge over the PS4 (with Gigabit Ethernet); however, Sony's console ultimately wins out in terms of raw power. Microsoft's system also lacks Bluetooth support.
In terms of price, the Xbox One will be hitting retail at $499.99. This cost will include a console, a controller, and Kinect 2.0.
Speaking of Kinect 2.0, Microsoft has designed a downright astonishing device. Voyeuristic camera aside, this piece of hardware features face and voice recognition, is capable of detecting the force in a wide range of movements, and can even read heart rates. It's essentially the next generation of motion control, assuming everything works as intended.
The PS4 is definitely the most powerful system out of the three, owing to its GDDR5 RAM. It's also $100.00 cheaper than Microsoft's offering, and the ability to swap out the system's on-board hard drive for a third-party alternative is a definite selling point. The GPU is where Sony definitely wins out, with a processing architecture that has the potential to be significantly more powerful.
Of course, the question yet remains of whether or not the gap between the Xbox One and the PS4 will make much of a difference - Microsoft thinks it's 'meaningless.'
There's no question -the Wii U isn't anywhere near as powerful as its competitors, and uses component cables rather than HDMI. With only 2 GB of DDR3 RAM and a CPU that's relatively simple compared to the other two, it's by no means a powerhouse (even if it is considerably mightier than the Wii). Nintendo's rather odd decision to region lock its consoles might be problematic, as well, though the console's full backwards compatibility is most definitely welcome.
For those of you who are into that sort of thing, Microsoft is making a concerted effort to turn the Xbox One into a multimedia device. As some of you might recall, that was essentially the only topic they covered in their pre-E3 press conference.Microsoft effectively promised to change how we watch TV. It's got voice and gesture control. It's got built-in achievements. It's got recommendations and a program guide and picture-in-picture.
Microsoft has also signed agreements with a number of service providers and app designers, as well. In short, it's fashioned the Xbox One into an all-in-one multimedia device.
Me, I just use Netflix.
Sony focused significantly less on media streaming, and more on games While you'll still be able to stream video and music(Sony's got deals with Redbox, Neftlix, and Flixster at the moment), it's not the focus of the PS4's design. As such, the Xbox One has considerably more media features than the PS4. So does the Wii U, for that matter.
Nintendo's actually made a concerted effort in the TV-watching department with Nintendo TVii, which effectively turns the Wii U's gamepad into an interactive TV guide. From this guide, you can search for shows across all your apps and subscriptions, in addition to using the gamepad to post screencaps and share your thoughts through social media.
Although Don Mattrick has insisted that the Xbox One will 'absolutely' have a place for independent developers, thus far his claims seem to be all bluster and no substance. Microsoft has done very little in the past to support indie games, and for all intents and purposes, that doesn't seem to be changing with this coming generation.
"Microsoft made it painfully clear," explained indie developer Phil Fish in an interview with Polygon, "that they don't want my ilk on their platform. I can't even self-publish there. Whereas on PS4, I can. It's that simple. Microsoft won't let me develop for their console. But Sony will."
"Microsoft is making a console for itself. Not for gamers, not for developers. Just for its own greedy little Orwellian self." Fish added. "I'm not interested."
He's not alone in that.
Microsoft's recently-announced partnership with Unity is a step in the
right direction, but there's still a long way to go before the Xbox One
can be considered 'indie friendly.'
Sony has been making a concerted effort to work with and support independent developers. Indies and their games were touted on-stage at Sony's E3 conference, side-by-side with the PS4's AAA titles. In the Playstation Store, there's an independent games category, with indie games appearing next to titles released through publishers.
Nintendo, too, has taken all the steps it can to make the Wii U a great place for independent developers, up to and including approaching and assisting indies who may be interested in devleoping for its console. Its developer support programs have been described as "phenomenal." In short, it's neck-and-neck with Sony.
So Microsoft has backpedaled away from its controversial 24-hour authentication plans. That's good. Great, even. But the fact that, along with that DRM, it took away digital games sharing and cloud libraries is, quite frankly, disgusting. It says a lot about what Microsoft thinks of its customers, too: digital content isn't possible without poorly-implemented, draconian DRM procedures.
Plus, there's really no way to tell whether or not Microsoft will try to sneak authentication back in at a later date.
One of Sony's biggest focuses at E3 was the fact that the PS4 won't include 24-hour authentication, the fact that it won't block used games, and the fact that players can actually exert ownership over their content. Revolutionary, right?
Sony pretty much had us all at "used games." Unfortunately, it had to tarnish things by adding that publishers can, if they so choose, implement their own forms of DRM. Only first-party Sony titles will be DRM free.
Nintendo wins here, hands down. The Wii U does not, nor will it ever, include any sort of DRM. There's little else to say.
Cloud Gaming and Social Media
Sony's got some very, very impressive ideas on the way through Gaikai's cloud infrastructure. Planned features for the PS4's cloud offering include the ability to instantly play and stream a digitally-purchased game, backwards compatibility through cloud streaming, and digital games libraries. In the more immediate future, the console includes video streaming, remote play, and a strong social element.
The biggest promise Microsoft made concerning the cloud is that developers are going to be able to access Microsoft's servers to up the power of the console by up to three times. Unfortunately, with Microsoft's knee-jerk reaction to the backlash against the Xbox One's DRM, there's a good chance this feature might be tossed by the wayside.
On the social side, Microsoft is aping many of the features Sony promised, including content sharing, video streaming, and the ability to have a friend control your game through the Internet.
Nintendo's not really focused on cloud gaming, and while the console has a robust digital storefront, don't expect anything revolutionary in terms of digital libraries. It's not doing a great deal with social media, either - again, all of this seems secondary for the studio, which is more focused on games.
That isn't to say Nintendo's completely ignoring the social aspect of gaming - its recently launched Miiverse social network looks extremely promising.
There's actually a great deal of exciting content coming for the Xbox One, including Ryse: Son of Rome, Dead Rising 3: Killer Instinct and Kinect Sports Rivals. Upcoming titles include Below, Crimson Dragon, Titanfall, and Sunset Overdrive, with a new Halo game on the way, to boot.
Driveclub, Knack, and Killzone: Shadow Fall will all be launch exclusives on the PS4, along with Planetside 2. It's a fairly promising lineup, sure...but nowhere near as exciting as what's coming. Bungie's Destiny looks downright amazing, while The Order: 1866, Deep Down, and inFAMOUS: Second Son will round out Sony's exclusives quite nicely.
Nintendo's strength has always been in its rich collection of first party titles, and in this regard, the Wii U most definitely isn't disappointing. The new Smash Bros alone is enough reason for many - myself included - to purchase a console, while Mario Kart 8, Super Mario 3D World and Pikmin 3 also look promising.
There's no clear winner here. Which console you purchase is ultimately up to you. While everyone's leaning heavily towards Sony at the moment thanks to Microsoft's PR train-wreck, that goodwill will only stretch so far. Eventually, Sony might slip up, or Microsoft might smarten up. Plus, there's no discounting Nintendo here, either. Even though the Wii U uses what is for all intents and purposes last-gen hardware, the developer hasn't survived as long as it has by being an underdog.
Ultimately, we're just going to have to wait until launch day to see what happens, even though I'm sure most of us have our minds made up already.