As 2014 begins, gamers find themselves once again on the nascent edge of a new console generation. Into the competition, throwing a devastating one-two punch, wades Microsoft’s Xbox One. The previous generation of consoles, including Nintendo’s Wii, Sony’s PS3 and Microsoft’s Xbox 360, have enjoyed a length of popularity uncommon in comparison with previous iterations; well on ten years at this point. The Xbox One, with its vast array of included features, might surpass even that stretch of longevity.
For the average gamer of average means, the decision about which console to purchase is a significant one. Initially, people think in terms of advantages and disadvantages; pros and cons verses expense. In this regard, Microsoft has taken significant steps to combat some of the negative pre-release rumors which accompanied the Xbox One’s roll-out; addressing gamer’s concerns directly as well as touting the superior technological merits of their console. Therein lies the devastating one-two punch. Microsoft hopes will it be enough to compete with Sony’s sales advantage, since the PS4 racked up an impressive 1.2 million more units sold, in 2013.
Much of the gamer concern surrounding the Xbox One’s release had to do with Microsoft’s stance regarding DRM, or digital rights management. Essentially, as gaming and all media move into the digital-only cloud future, new issues arise regarding ownership of games and their requisite DLC, or down-loadable content. Whereas before, a gamer could resell his copy of Halo 4 at a used-game retailer, a digital game which exists only in the ether, obviously has no such resale potential.
At present, physical on-disc games are still being produced for all consoles, but increasingly this will become an obsolete format. Regarding the resellability – or even tradeability – of Xbox One games: There was some question whether Microsofts’s stated stance on DRM as of 2013’s E3 convention, nixed any ability to do either, after all. This led to a heated uproar among gamers, with many decrying Microsoft’s decision as one of outright avarice. Many previous Xbox 360 owners were heard to angrily swear that they would purchase PS4s, just because of these policies, alone.
In an unprecedented display of fan-service, Microsoft reversed some of the DRM decisions which had caused so much furor. This led to a vocal – if somewhat paranoid – fan contingent protesting that the whole debacle had been carefully orchestrated; a deliberate stunt to generate free publicity, since so many media outlets covered the controversy. Whether Microsoft was this canny, or cynical, is unknown. It is widely agreed that their reversing these restrictive DRM stances was the right move, even if only considered from a sales perspective. The first blow of Microsoft’s Xbox One with the one-two punch has been landed, albeit defensively.
With the post-E3 release of the console, attention began to focus on the superior technical specs of the Xbox One, a conversation Microsoft was much more eager to engage in. As the new console cost a hundred dollars more than its Sony competitor, there was some pressure to justify this increased cost. It quickly became apparent that the bulk of price difference was due the Xbox One’s in-box inclusion of a Kinect motion-capture camera, with every console. Sony’s PS4 equivalent remained a “sold separately” peripheral, allowing Sony to keep initial costs down. Considering the lukewarm reception the previous generation’s Kinect feature received – owing largely to its notoriously unresponsive controls and largely unimpressive library of games – it remains to be seen whether the Xbox One’s Kinect feature will fare much better.
Similar to past comparisons of the Xbox 360 and PS3, consensus among gamers seems to be that the PS4 is more of a pure-gaming console, with the Xbox One being the multimedia powerhouse. Interestingly, both systems have their exclusive titles, such as the blockbuster Halo franchise for Microsoft and Sony’s epic God of War series. Stalwarts for either game may make their purchase decision solely on these unique games. However, the Xbox One boasts other attributes as well.
Xbox Live, Microsoft’s online-gaming service, laid the blueprint for next-gen online gaming. It is still the service to beat, with a much more robust interface than its competitors. The Xbox One features a Snap app, which allows for two features, such as TV and streaming, to be employed side-by-side on the system. The ability to record and replay video of games as they are played is also included in the console. Once again Sony’s equivalent is a sold-separately peripheral, not yet available as of this writing. Microsoft proudly trumpets their exclusive NFL licensing agreement too, boasting of it with a shiny lenticular NFL label on every box. As before, Sony has no such license.
The combined power of these features and exclusives in the Xbox One forms the potent one-two punch, with which Microsoft hopes will topple the competition. One thing remains certain: Gamers have benefited from this rivalry of titans which pits Microsoft against Sony, while the games themselves remain the true test of any console’s worth.
By Hamilton Tolson
Think you have what it takes to write for the Guardian Liberty Voice? Click here to find out.