Xbox One vs. PS4: The Ultimate Buyer’s Guide
Both Sony and Microsoft seem to want to steer their consoles toward being everything machines and not just game machines. The first step on that path, it seems, is to put TV, movies and all other forms of entertainment at your hands through their consoles. Expect to see even more content in the next generation than was available on Playstation 3 and Xbox 360.
Television and Film
PlayStation 4 will support apps for Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Instant, Redbox Instant, YouTube, Crackle, Vudu, Epix, Crunchyroll, and more. Sport-specific content can be attained through MLB.TV and NHL GameCenter. A PlayStation Plus subscription is not required for these apps.
Xbox One will support apps for Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, HBO GO, Redbox Instant, Vevo, Crackle, The CW, and more. For sports, you get ESPN and NFL content along, with MLB.TV and NHL GameCenter, though that will require an Xbox Live Gold subscription. The console also supports live TV passthrough via HDMI, allowing users to take advantage of instant switching, voice control and app-snapping when watching TV.
[Update: Microsoft, speaking at PAX Prime 2013, confirmed that HDMI pass through and TV Guide cable features will not require a XBox Live Gold subscription.]
Second Screen and Mobile Compatibility
Both consoles will have second-screen companion apps for mobile devices. Microsoft’s SmartGlass initiative will take care of mobile apps for the Xbox One, while the forthcoming PlayStation App will handle the PlayStation 4. We’ve seen examples of how SmartGlass will work, but not much is known about the PlayStation App at this point. The Playstation 4 does, however, support Remote Play with the PlayStation Vita, allowing users to play Playstation 4 games by streaming them to the handheld, and it also supports with cross-platform party chat. Xbox One will sport Microsoft’s Skype service, allowing for video and voice chat using the console’s bundled Kinect 2.0 sensor.
While “the cloud” colloquially refers to things on the Internet, the term does have specific implications towards infrastructure. Here’s how Sony and Microsoft plan to take advantage of their virtual scaling solutions.
Sony and Gaikai
Back in July 2012, Sony acquired Gaikai, a company that was trying to make its way in the cloud-based game-streaming space. Since then, Sony has integrated Gaikai’s technology into the PlayStation 4, so now you can stream and play games without having to download them, which is optimal for demos. This could also enable some form of backwards compatibility, as noted (but not confirmed) by Sony President of Worldwide Studios Shuhei Yoshida.
Microsoft and Cloud Computing
For Microsoft, the plan was originally to offload some games’ latency-insensitive calculations onto the cloud, for features such as for fog and lighting. This would free up the console’s internal hardware to handle more immediate tasks, such as animations and collisions, generally making games perform better and capable of pushing the Xbox One technology further. Though Microsoft changed its 24-hour online connectivity requirement for the Xbox One and no longer requires it to connect to the Internet, its cloud plans are still in effect, but now more as a possibility for games, instead of a guaranteed option for developers. With 300,000 servers, Microsoft was aiming for the combined power of four offline Xbox Ones on a single online Xbox One.
Sony has stated similar goals for the PlayStation 4, though in more discrete terms. On the idea of farming out hardware power to the cloud, Lead Architect Mark Cerny said, “Matchmaking is done in the cloud and it works very well. If we think about things that don’t work well, trying to boost the quality of the graphics, that won’t work well in the cloud.”
For the Xbox One, player profiles will automatically be saved to the cloud, which will include game saves and media content with unlimited storage capacity. This, in particular, enables auto-resume for pausing and picking up a game on another console.
The same goes for the PlayStation 4, except it’s still unknown if cloud storage will be unlimited or if it can be used as a save destination or just a backup.
Used Games, Shared Games, and Old Games
It’s weird to think that backwards compatibility wasn’t even a thing until the past few console cycles, and that controversy surrounded used and shared games only insomuch that most garage sales don’t usually have permits. Now both have been thrust directly into the limelight.
Used and Sharing Games
In a matter of 22 seconds, Yoshida and Adam Boyes, Sony’s head of publisher and developer Relations, show how the PlayStation 4 handles used and shared games. If it’s a physical copy, you just hand the disc over to someone else and you’re done. The video of the process the pair created lampooned Microsoft’s original Xbox One policy, which required even physical copies of games to be wholly installed on the console, and which tied every game to a particular player profile, limiting the ability to share and resell games.
Microsoft has since changed that policy, and physical copies of games on the Xbox One can also be shared and sold just as they can on Xbox 360. The disc, though, is required to be in the system even if it’s wholly installed to the drive. Meanwhile, expect a heavier focus on downloadable titles for both systems.
The PlayStation 4 will not support PlayStation 3 games, but with the integration of the cloud-based video game streaming service Gaikai, it is a possibility that we’ll get emulated versions of our old games streamed to us.
The Xbox One, on the other hand, will not be backwards compatible at all. It also will not natively support older generation software from the Xbox and Xbox 360, but it also lacks any cloud-based solution.
Video Capture and Streaming
If the rising attendance at VidCon and the fact that the most subscribed channel on YouTube is gaming-related didn’t tip you off, video streaming is a big deal. It’s such a big deal, in fact, that both consoles have integrated it into their system architectures.
Capturing on the PlayStation 4
With the press of the dedicated Share button, you can snap a screenshot or put together a video clip from the last 15 minutes of your current play session. The clip can the be uploaded straight to PSN profiles or social media sites such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. Sony has not revealed details about resolution or frame rate for captured videos. PS Plus is not required.
Streaming on the PlayStation 4
At Gamescom 2013, Sony also announced it had added Twitch to its streaming partners (previously, Ustream was its only partner). Through the same Share button, you can stream your play session live and commentate over it with your headset. Viewers can tune in on through web browsers, consoles, or whatever other devices support Twitch and Ustream. Streaming also allows other players to remotely take over a play session, meaning you can allow a friend to help you through a difficult portion of a game, for example. None of Sony’s video-streaming (or capture) features require a PlayStation Plus subscription.
Capturing on the Xbox One
The Xbox One will allow players to use its Upload Studio app to peruse and edit gameplay clips from the last five minutes of a current play session, recorded at 720p at 30 frames per second. With the Kinect, you’ll be able to record voiceover for your videos and initiate the recording using voice commands. You can pick a skin to use as a “thematic wrapping” for videos, and institute other post-production effects, but it’s unclear if video will upload to anywhere other than Microsoft’s servers.
Streaming on the Xbox One
Also with a voice command, you can stream live gameplay on Twitch. The interface uses the side of the screen to shows things like number of viewers and the channel chat. You can also use the Kinect to stream audio commentary over gameplay. Recording and streaming will both require an Xbox Live Gold membership.