It's been one year since the launch of Microsoft's Xbox One and Sony's PlayStation 4, and the competition to dominate the latest console generation has been heated. With Microsoft fumbling out of the gate, thanks to a lackluster announcement, and Sony hitting all the right notes, how do the two consoles compare a year later? Let's take a look.
Perhaps more than any other category of comparison, price is proving to be a major factor in the battle between Xbox and PlayStation, one that is seeing some dramatic shifts as we speak. The Xbox One originally launched a year ago for the price of $500, making an already unpopular console even more unpopular among early adopters. The PlayStation 4, on the other hand, only cost $400. Both consoles are comparable in power, so why the price difference? The extra $100 came from Microsoft insisting on bundling every Xbox One with the Kinect camera, a peripheral most gamers found unimportant, despite Microsoft's claims otherwise.
The company would eventually come around, announcing in June a new $400 Xbox One that came without the Kinect. In an effort to close the gap between the two consoles, Microsoft has also temporarily slashed the price of both the $500 and $400 Xbox One models by $50 for the holidays and is offering a number different bundles (like the Assassin's Creed bundle featured above) to attract gamers looking to upgrade. Sony has yet to adjust the PlayStation 4's price -- which still sitting strong at $400, but will also be bundling consoles with games like Grand Theft Auto V and Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham as both systems move into the holiday sales rush.
For both systems, exclusive games have been few and far between. Exclusive launch titles on Xbox One like Ryse: Son of Rome and Crimson Dragon failed to impress, though others like Dead Rising 3 and Forza 5 were well received by critics. On PlayStation 4, games like Killzone: Shadows Fall and Knack proved to be adequate, but didn't deliver a must-have experience. Both consoles lacked a system seller.
For the most part, neither system has a killer exclusive as of now. The PS4-only Infamous: Second Son released March 21, followed by Driveclub in September and Little Big Planet 3 in November. Sony is making up for the lack of bigger titles by courting a number of PS4 exclusive indie games like No Man's Sky. Xbox One is only now getting exclusives in the form of Sunset Overdrive, Halo: The Master Chief Collection and Forza Horizon 2, with Master Chief Collection in particular looking to hold Xbox fans over until Halo 5's release next year. Sony fans have Uncharted 4 and The Order: 1886 to look forward to in 2015.
The vast majority of games during the launch of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One were available on each console, and that proves to be the case today. Big name franchises like Call of Duty, Destiny and Assassin's Creed can be found on each platform.
More now than ever before, both Sony and Microsoft are working on ways to create exclusivity where none exist by securing "exclusive" DLC and features. In Sony's case, they've partnered with Activision and Bungie to create portions of Destiny which are "timed exclusives" for PS4. This content isn't available on Xbox One and won't be for another year, and the game's upcoming expansion will also feature an exclusive Strike mission for PlayStation owners.
Microsoft is countering by bringing all Call of Duty related DLC first to Xbox One players, though the timing is not nearly as long as Destiny's PS4 content exclusivity. Microsoft also announced the sequel to 2010's Tomb Raider reboot, called Rise of the Tomb Raider, would be a timed exclusive for Xbox One in 2015.
Xbox Live has long been held as the gold standard for online multiplayer and services on console, but Sony began to give Microsoft a run for its money with the introduction of PlayStation Plus. The paid service functions much like an Xbox Live gold subscription, but comes with the added perk of a batch of free games every month, something Xbox didn't do. That changed this year when Microsoft announced the "Games With Gold" program, which offers free games for the Xbox 360 and One each month for having an Xbox Live Gold subscription. A welcome idea in theory, Sony continues to offer up better games with their service compared to the majority of Xbox's free offerings. Both services also feature subscriber exclusive demos and game discounts.
While both machines are comparable in power, PlayStation 4 continues to come out ahead when it comes to resolution and (occasionally) frame rate. Many games that run at 1080p on PS4 clock in at 720p or 900p on Xbox. The makeup of the PS4 allows for slightly faster graphics rendering and more powerful system compared to Xbox One, but Microsoft is looking to close the gap after making the Kinect optional. Now that developers can use power that, at one time, would have been dedicated to the Kinect and instead use it to improve performance on Xbox One, expect the two machines to become even closer in performance in the months and years to come.
Sony blew out of the gate with the launch of the PlayStation 4. It's outsold the Xbox One for 10 months running, including the month that saw the introduction of the cheaper, Kinect-less Xbox One. More than 13.5 million PS4's have been shipped to retailers, compared to Xbox One's 10 million.
But that might be changing with the Xbox's temporary $50 price drop. According to Microsoft, Xbox One sales have tripled this month compared to Oct., and for the first time the console is outselling the PS4. Can Microsoft keep up the pace and close the large gap created by the PS4, which is on its way to become the second fastest selling gaming console behind the Wii?
Only time will tell, but despite the media and fans constantly fueling the flames of the console wars, a gamer looking to upgrade can't go wrong with either console. This holiday season features some exciting console bundles and great discounts for players looking to make the next-gen jump. Where will these two consoles be in another year? Nobody knows for certain, but this console generation is shaping up to be one for the record books.
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