It’s tough to come up more than a couple reasons why anyone should buy an Xbox One instead of a PlayStation 4 right now. Sure, the Xbox One is a great system with great exclusives (with more coming soon) and a great media hub. But what began as a console with next-gen potential now seems stuck playing catch-up, while Sony continues to make its product more impressive, appealing and just plain awesome.
A Brief History
A little over a year ago, I said that Sony had just beaten Microsoft in the next-gen console wars. That was five months before either console launched. It was clear that Sony was hungry to re-capture the glory of its PlayStation 2 days, and wanted to knock Microsoft off the video game throne it (and the Xbox 360) held. Priced at $100 less than the Xbox One – with none of the used game and always-on baggage that most gamers (but not me!) feared – the PlayStation 4 was sure to be a massive hit.
Eight days later, Microsoft changed course, and (essentially) turned the Xbox One into a more expensive PlayStation 4 with a fancy camera add-on. Microsoft again pulled an about-face several months later, after the PlayStation 4 outsold the Xbox One month after month. Microsoft abandoned the system’s defining feature (the Kinect camera) and dropped the price of the console by $100. It was a great move for customers (and for Microsoft, which saw massive sales increases), but it was also very reactionary.
This Week’s Game-Changer: Share Play
On Tuesday, Sony unveiled a new program called Share Play that got me more excited than anything else I’ve heard about since either console was unveiled. Share Play lets anyone with a PlayStation 4 (and PlayStation Plus) remotely play games with their friends even if they don’t own the game. That’s incredible. It’s the ultimate in long-distance “couch co-op.” I can play a game of Madden with friends halfway across the country, even if one of us hasn’t bought it. I can pop into my friend’s Spelunky game so we can get incredibly stressed out together, just like we were in the same room!
But it sounds familiar. Where have I heard it before…? Oh, right! It was supposed to be an Xbox One launch feature, but it was scrapped after the internet freaked out about Microsoft’s always-on restrictions. Microsoft nixed it without ever giving it a chance or trying to come up with a way to build it into its new vision for the Xbox One. Sony took the idea, ran with it, and is delivering it this fall.
What’s the Difference?
It all comes down to presentation. Microsoft scared gamers with too much future, too soon. I was ready for a true next-gen experience, but most of the general public wasn’t. Sony, on the other hand, presented a solid product with a few new features, then has rolled out solid updates slowly and surely – with no downsides. You don’t need to be always online to play with your friends. If you’re online, and they’re online, you play. It’s as simple as that.
Sure, the Xbox One has EA Access, which has tons of potential. But so little information has been shared about that program – even though it’s available now! – that it’s hard to say whether or not it’s a good value. Sony certainly didn’t think it was a good value; that’s why it’s not available on PS4.
The bottom line is that the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 are both amazing consoles with plenty of great features and games. If you’re willing to spend $399 on a video game console, both will make you happy and reward you with hours and hours of entertainment. But if you want a true next-gen experience – or if you start to compare one to the other – there’s really not a decision to be made. Sony’s PlayStation 4 offers far superior value and a more polished and focused product, with a brighter future.
Let’s see how Microsoft reacts now.