The debate about whether to buy an Xbox One versus PlayStation 4 rages on, gaining speed with every new tidbit of info released as we approach November. Microsoft has now confirmed its release date (November 22), while Sony’s continuing to hype their revamped console UI and other features like remote play on the Vita. There’s no way, realistically, that this debate is going to die down anytime in the next two-and-a-half months.
With all the discussion (and more than a little bit of shouting), it can be tough for people who are still waiting to place a pre-order to decide which console they want to go with. Posing the question recently on Twitter brought up concerns about frame rate, then Hundred Dollar Divide, and other issues that really got me thinking: are we talking about the right stuff when it comes to evaluating which console is right for someone?
Here’s my personal take on the most pertinent questions console video game fans should ask themselves before taking out that loan and investing in a next-gen console.
Do you have about $600 to spend?
The price points of the PS4 and Xbox One have been incredibly fertile ground for debate, ribbing, and downright trolling. Sony made the difference the highlight of their E3 presentation, but all that hype is hiding the real sticker shock people are going to have to grapple with at launch and for some time after.
Here’s the other stuff a typical console buyer will likely spend money on when they get their new box:
- A game (at least one) – $60
- Another controller – $60
- Xbox Live / PS+ subscription – $50-$60
- Insurance – $40-50 (estimated)
That’s right, I included insurance on that list. Places like GameStop offer insurance at around 10 percent of the base price to cover replacements if things go really pear-shaped with your new console, and considering we all remember the great Red Ring of Death issue anyone who doesn’t spend money on that at launch is asking for trouble. These consoles are stress-tested and put through their paces by designers, but all bets are off the moment they hit consumer’s hands.
Adding that up, you get an extra $200-$230 added onto the price of your console, bringing the totals around $600 for the PS4 and $700 for the Xbox One. And let’s not forget the PS4 camera, which is another $50 if you want to enjoy Sony’s pack-in PlayRoom and later camera-enabled titles.
At that level of spending, it can be argued (and Microsoft did, just this week) that the $100 difference between the consoles isn’t really that big of a difference when you’re actually counting out the bills.
Do I want / Do I have a PS Vita?
I called Sony’s PS4 reveal “the most expensive PS Vita sales pitch ever”, and I still stand by that. Remote Play is another big component in Sony’s overall pitch for their console to be the center of your gaming life. This is intended to be a box which plays games, plays them well, and shares that experience with other gamers, and now you don’t have to be tied to your TV to get that experience.
Sony’s recent price drop on the Vita also makes a compelling case for PS4 buyers with extra scratch to consider picking one up sooner rather than later, either at launch or possibly for the holidays. If you already have a Vita, and like playing it, the added value of getting the PS4 just makes that decision a no-brainer.
It’s also a significant feature Microsoft can’t counter, at least at the moment. Their Smart Glass app and interactivity lets you do some interesting things with games, but not actually take the thing off your screen and play it elsewhere. Of course, it’s all dependent on which games have Remote Play enabled, which Sony said at Gamescom would be “virtually all of them.” Microsoft’s only gadget they can point to is the Kinect, which costs less (the $100 baked-in cost to the console vs. the $200 Vita price) but is still questionable in terms of what additional gameplay value it can add until more gamers get their hands on the improved Kinect.
In front of it. Around it. You know what I mean.
Will my cable provider support Xbox One’s TV features?
This is where Microsoft’s plan to stretch the console out to all the other forms of entertainment might run into its biggest hurdles. Gamers were upset Microsoft spent too much time focusing on TV rather than games during the Xbox One reveal, but not nearly as upset as those who bought the sales pitch, pre-ordered the console, and will take it home on launch day only to discover their cable provider isn’t playing ball with Xbox.
This is a particularly big sticking point in the South, where the biggest (and in most cases, only) cable provider Cox Communications hasn’t announced any plans to work with Microsoft. Questions raised by customers get a reply that they don’t discuss anything until contracts are finalized, which raises the question if they’re even interested in letting Microsoft step in between their cable boxes and consumers at all.
The Xbox One is designed to act as a stand-in between the cable box and the TV, which lets people use the Kinect to run its functions like channel surfing or recording. Other special Xbox TV features such as live and interactive NFL programming will work through apps, but require a cable subscription much like existing services such as HBO Go. While that means the NFL features should work for any sports fans with the right cable subscription (yay sports), the other features might not work if your cable provider doesn’t want to play ball with Microsoft (boo everyone else). Not having the details clearly spelled out creates confusion, which has been the one thing Xbox has been really good about creating so far.
Ultimately, though, it doesn’t matter for a lot of people who’ve already cut their cables because of access to apps like Netflix and Hulu, and that access isn’t changing on Xbox One. So if you’re a cable subscriber and really excited about those features, call your provider, ask questions, and if they’re ambivalent tell them you really want it. Maybe they’ll listen.
What games do I really want to play in 2014?
Let’s face it: there’s not going to be enough of the next-gen games we really want at launch, or even out by year’s end. Even then, many of those games are also coming out for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, weakening the argument that those games are the reason to buy a next-gen console. Here’s the breakdown of big, AAA launch titles which are unique, and I mean really unique, to each console:
- Killzone Shadow Fall
- The PlayRoom (pack-in, camera sold separately)
- Dead Rising 3
- Fighter Within
- Forza Motorsport 5
- Killer Instinct
- Ryse: Son of Rome
Looks pretty sparse, doesn’t it? All those sports games like Madden NFL 25 and NBA Live 14 are all available on other consoles. Both consoles also have the next-gen game Watch_Dogs, while Assassin’s Creed 4 is also available for both and previous-gen as well. Forza and DriveClub are also arguably just two different kinds of driving game flavors to anyone who isn’t a hardcore driving game fan (feel free to take that observation to task in the comments).
The really big games getting the strongest hype, like Titanfall, The Order 1886, inFamous: Second Son, The Division, and Destiny aren’t coming out until sometime next year. For several of those titles that could also mean late next year, which is a long time to wait with a shiny new console for that one exclusive title which looked killer at Gamescom or PAX. In the case of Destiny, some are also still going to be released on previous-gen hardware.
What that does is narrow down the list of console-exclusive, next-gen games players really have to sit down and think about before they buy an Xbox One or PlayStation 4. Will you have enough to buy one at launch, and the other next year? Are one or two exclusive titles really worth putting out that much money? Which will give you the most value for your gaming dollar?
So, those are my questions. What are yours? Post them in the comments and keep the debate going, we’ve still got a ways to go before November.