Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Different approach, same goal. Xbox One and PS4.

In case you didn't know somehow, Microsoft has finally lifted the lid on it's latest 'console', the Xbox One. Let's start by saying how much of a stupid name that is. Going from Xbox 360 to Xbox One just seems illogical and will cause confusion because people refer to the original Xbox as Xbox 1.

The Xbox One with the Kinect camera, which is mandatory to even function the damn thing.
Now, it was expected that Microsoft would take the 'own the living room' stance, which is focusing on media functionality as well as games. The problem with that is that you may end up focusing too much on things which no one cares about, or has limited availability. Guess what? Yep, many of the features Microsoft will be putting out will only be available to the US, at least initially. Things such as the Live TV, where you can see a TV guide or cable box, will only be able to be used in the US at launch. Also, something which wasn't mentioned was the fact that an HDMI supported receiver is needed to even use the functionality. Kind of shoots the Xbox One's mantra down doesn't it?

Most of the reveal conference was about TV, with the announcement of a Halo TV show with input from Steven Spielberg and a deal with the NFL, which I can't imagine will be huge deal outside of North America. Kinect was also a big focus and is coming with every system sold. With all the gesture and voice commands you can pull off, if the thing recognises them that is, then you will be able to control the Xbox One without pressing a single button. I guess Microsoft think that pressing buttons is hard.

Microsoft showcasing the Xbox One's interface, which looks very similar  to the one currently found on the Xbox 360.

Speaking of buttons, Microsoft did show the new controller which looks to be a cross between the original Xbox controller and the one including with the 360. It now has a rechargeable battery included and has 40 different features and changes. It can also be seen in the picture above.

There were games shown, but no live gameplay demos which is a bit odd. EA came on stage to announce a new game engine called Ignite and then proceed to show us footage of Madden, FIFA, NHL and UFC which I'm guessing very little was gameplay footage, if any at all. Also shown was Forza Motorsport 5, said to be representative of gameplay footage but I'm not so sure. Forza 5 is confirmed to be a launch title. Another game shown was Quantum Break, which is a new IP developed by Max Payne and Alan Wake creators Remedy. It was a teaser and more will be shown at E3 for sure.

Also unveiled was Call of Duty: Ghosts, which looks like Call of Duty. They talked about how the new consoles can bring the series forward but it looks eerily similar to what has come before. Activision did a comparison to Modern Warfare 3 and there are improvements but you have to remember that this game is coming out on the 360 and PS3 too so it won't be a massive improvement. It looks to be using the same old game engine too, which was first used with Quake 3 many moons ago.

To me, this looks like Microsoft trying to do something which is unnecessary since a lot of these features are novelties at best and don't improve the current products out there. Also, it's apparent that Microsoft are after an increasingly outdated vision, a vision where everyone and everything is surrounded by one large TV. Many households have multiple TVs, not to mention phones and tablets which can access the internet. It all seems a bit redundant.

Contrast this to the PS4 announcement, which didn't show a console but did show Sony's approach, games. It also showed that Sony has learned from the mistakes that it made with the PS3, with using much simpler architecture, the same as the Xbox One it should be pointed out, 8GB of GDDR 5 RAM, the Xbox One also has 8GB of RAM but it is the much slower GDDR 3 type.

It's clear Sony have focused on making the PS4 a games console, first and foremost. That might not seem much but when it's the gaming enthusiasts that are the first to buy your system this is important. Of course, Sony will have non-gaming features such as movie and TV streaming since the PS3 is the most used platform for Netflix and Blu-ray obviously. They sent out this message with live gameplay demos of new IPs Knack and DriveClub, a new Killzone in the form of Shadow Fall, inFamous Second Son. Third parties were represented with Watch_Dogs from Ubisoft, Destiny from Halo creators Bungie and a tech demo called Deep Down from Capcom, as well as appearances from Epic Games, Square Enix and Blizzard.

Killzone: Shadow Fall gameplay screenshot

No doubt both will show new games at E3 but it's the long game here. The 360 will have been out for around 8 years when the Xbox One launches and the PS3 will have been out for 7 years at the PS4 launch, or there about. It seems odd that Microsoft are focusing on something that is seemingly becoming less and less integral to how we consume media, whereas Sony is fulling embracing the multiplatform way of modern technology by bringing PlayStation to mobile devices through streaming by Gaikai, the company Sony acquired last year. At least, that's the vision. I mean, who wants to browse the internet in the corner of your TV screen when watching a movie? Microsoft thinks you do, while paying for Xbox Live Gold too no less, when you have a phone or tablet or even fridge (I'm not joking by the way) which connects to the internet already.

If all else fails, use this scientific graph to determine which is best. ;)