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What You Need to Know About the Playstation 4 & Xbox One aka How Microsoft Wants to Change the Way You Watch TV

UPDATE: Microsoft heard the criticism and have massively altered their digital rights management policies for the XBox One (GeeksofDoom).

Sony and Microsoft each have new video game consoles coming out later this year, the Playstation 4 and Xbox One respectively.  You might have heard/read about the PR shit-storm that has been Microsoft’s experience with the latter due to its rumored alarmingly restrictive new features.  After the press conferences from Sony and Microsoft at this week’s E3 Conference it would appear as if Sony fans can rejoice whereas Microsoft fans have had all of their worst fears confirmed.  However, is Microsoft merely suffering the slings and arrows of outraged gamers who feel abandoned by Microsoft’s strategy of targeting a wider audience by offering an entirely new method of consuming and viewing games, film, and television?

But why are we even talking about this?  We are not a video game website, having to date only ever published one article on the topic.  Well, video game consoles ceased being strictly about video games the moment that Sony built in then-very-new DVD player capability into its Playstation 2, a move considered instrumental in launching the device.  Since then, video game consoles attempt to mimic the movie-viewing experience with increasingly cinematic games (e.g., Sony’s Uncharted trilogy has annoying game mechanics you ignore due to its freakishly engaging narrative) and have adapted to the ways in which we consume media by supporting video streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime.  So, the new consoles will not just provide the next generation in gaming but also attempt to be on the front end of how we watch what we watch.

So, the following is everything you need to know about the Playstation 4 and Xbox One:

The Playstation 4

playstation4console
If “blah” is the word that comes to mind for you wait until you see the Xbox One.

Launch Price: $399

Release Date: Holidays 2013 (no specific month or date yet)

Is the Controller Different?: Just a little.  The start and select buttons have been replaced by a central Home button, the controller is a little wider due to a little view screen which has been placed above the Home button, and there is now a speaker built-in to the controller.

Will The Graphics Be Better than The Xbox One’s?: Maybe a little bit, but not so much that you’d notice.

Hard Drive: 500 GB (as with the current PS3, you can replace the hard drive with one with more memory if you want)

Will It Be Able to Play PS3 Games?: No; Sony purchased a cloud-based streaming serviced named Gaikai which it will be re-launching in 2014 for the purpose of allowing PS4 users the option to stream PS3 games.  Not clear  if this will be a Netflix-like monthly fee or if you will be required to purchase titles individually.

Does It Require an Internet Connection?: No.

Blu-Ray Capability: Yes.

Will I Be Able to Rent Games, Buy Used Games, Share Games with Family/Friends?:  Yes; no restrictions.  Well, no restrictions from first-party games from a Sony-owned publisher.  Third-party publishers will be free to adopt their own policies.

Will The System Be Region Free?: Yes.

Will I Even Need to Buy Games on Disc Anymore?: Probably not. Games will be available to download through the Playstation Store, and if you sign up for a Playstation Plus membership you will receive one free game download (not just older games either; actual new games) a month.

What About Streaming Video Services?: Just like the PS3, Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Plus will be available.

What About the Motion Sensors?: The Playstation Eye camera will sell separately for $60.

What Makes It Better Than the Xbox One?: The lack of restrictions and a focus upon the core gaming experience, with enhanced social media integration.  Plus, even after buying the separate Playstation Eye camera for motion sensor-enhanced gaming the price would still be $40 lower than the new Xbox.

Misc.: Will come with an HDMI cable, which you used to have buy separately (meaning you had to pay more to see your HD device in HD).  Bad news, though?  It appears as if to engage in online multiplayer for PS4 titles you will need to be a Playstation Plus subscriber, which currently goes for $50 a year.  Multiplayer on the PS3 requires no such membership and is free although Microsoft has required a membership for that kind of thing for a while now.

Xbox One

Xbox-One-635
No, designers, stop.  You’ve clearly made this thing far too aesthetically appealing.  Every time you look at it you just see….more box, I guess.

Launch Price: $499

Release Date: November 2013 (others have reported 11/30 as the specific date, but from what I can tell the only thing official is November 2013)

Is the Controller Different?: No; it’s basically the same with the addition of vibration in the triggers.

Will The Graphics Be Better than Playstation 4’s?: Actually, it’ll be a little worse, but not so much that you’d notice.

Hard Drive: 500 GB

Will It Be Able to Play Xbox 360 Games?: No.

Does It Require an Internet Connection?: Yes; for the system to function properly it will need to connect to the internet once every 24 hours. [Wait, they changed their mind.  You will be able to play disc-based games on the One just as you currently do on the 360].

Blu-Ray Capability: Yes.

Will I Be Able to Rent Games, Buy Used Games, Share Games with Family/Friends?:  Rent games?  Get used to downloading demos because renting ain’t happening anymore.  Sell/Buy used games?  Microsoft vaguely says its up to the publisher of the individual game.  There could be some sort of nominal fee attached to trading in old games, and even more likely is a very low number of times a game can be traded in/sold on the used game market (if the publisher allows it at all).  Some will have a one-time registration code making re-sale completely impossible. Sharing with family, up to 10 people, will be fine, although you will likely have to de-activate the game on your Xbox before they activate/play on their Xbox.  You can share/trade games with individuals, but they will need to be on your friends list for 30 days before you do so and the game in question will likely only be share/tradeable the one time. [Wait, they changed their mind.  Everything will transpire exactly as it currently does on the 360].

Will The System Be Region Free?: No.

Will I Even Need to Buy Games on Disc Anymore?: Probably not. Games will be available to download through your Xbox Live account.

What About Streaming Video Services?: Just like the Xbox 360, Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Plus will be available.

What About the Motion Sensors?: The Kinect 2.0 will come with the system.  It will be able to read your heart-rate and facial expressions, although Microsoft swears that such information won’t leave your Xbox system.  The Kinect will defaut to always be on even when not being used, but you will be able to pause it if that creeps you out.

What Makes It Better Than the Playstation 4?: Ambition. Rather than simply replacing your Xbox 360, the Xbox One aims to replace your entire entertainment system and limit the need for a remote control.  You will connect your cable/satellite box directly to the Xbox One which will then pass the signal to the television via an HDMI out-port.  You will then be able to use vocal commands recognized by the Kinect to navigate channels, being taken to ESPN when asking “What’s on ESPN?” for example.  You can also turn the Xbox One off and on through simple vocal commands.  There will also be the capability to use the Kinect to Skype with friends.

Sony and Microsoft have been talking about their consoles being all-in-one entertainment systems for years now.  The difference is that Sony is still talking the talk while remembering that at heart the system is supposed to deliver the best gaming experience possible whereas Microsoft is walking the walk in devising a Kinect-enhanced method by which all you need do is connect a cable box to the Xbox and it becomes the hub through which all entertainment flows.  The difference between the two is probably best exemplified in Sony asking you to still bend down and press a button to turn on the PS4 whereas Microsoft, who may get most of their ideas by reverse-engineering cool things they see in futuristic science-fiction films, wants you to walk into a room and simply say “Xbox On.”  Also, if you want to switch from game to television there is no need to scroll through your inputs with your television remote; just say “Watch TV” and via the Kinect the Xbox will switch you over.

multiple_tv_channels
We got to the Back to the Future 2 multiple tv channels at once thing years ago, but how about Michael J. Fox navigating the TV with mere vocal commands? Hello Xbox One.

However, the innovation comes with a cost, and not just the literal higher $ amount.   Pretty much all of the Xbox One’s restrictions on purchase/rent/sharing of disc-based games are outright hostile to gamers (they seem to just really, really want customers to buy all games digitally direct from Xbox Live thus cutting out the retailer), and in the effort to maximize profit by squashing the used game market and limiting the possibility of pirated games they have seemingly alienated their core audience.  Plus, while it is cool to sci-fi movie style simply command your TV with your voice it is also potentially creepy (and raises privacy concerns at a time when that’s kind of a hot topic) that the Kinect might be always-on.  It will consistently monitor you and make entertainment-based recommendations based upon your gaming/viewing habits.

hal-2
The day you walk in and say “Xbox On” only to hear a Hal 9000 voice answer back, “I’m sorry, Dave, I can’t do that,” you run the hell out of that room, you hear me! Don’t even stop to wonder why it called you Dave.

Oh, and by the way, Nintendo has a new system out already.  It’s called the Nintendo Wii U.  You know – the one that nobody you know bought.

For a rundown of the actual games which have been announced for the new systems, look here for the Xbox One games and here for the Playstation 4 games (and more about the PS4 games here).  Pretty much all of the games look amazing.

What do you think?  Are you as intrigued by/creeped out by the Kinect 2.0 as me?  Don’t care about any of this because the last game you played was Angry Birds Star Wars on your tablet/phones?  Are you a Microsoft fan tempted to jump ship to Sony?  Are are you just jonesing for some vintage Intellevision action?    Let us know in the comments.

2 comments

    1. It is rumored that there will be a Red Dead sequel, but if there is it will be on the Ps4 and Xbox One. That one is not exclusive to Sony. Their exclusives are games like Infamous, Uncharted, Kill zone, God of War, and Little Bug Planet. Plus, they are really big into indie games which are only available as downloads through the PlayStation Store. Microsoft’s big exclusives are Halo, Fable, Alan Wake, and others. Surprisingly, it looks like both Sony and Microsoft are going to try and launch new franchises with the new consoles rather although Halo, Infamous, and Kill zone sequels on the way. There is an awesome new game for both consoles called Thief that looks crazy good. However, no other westerns like Red Dead to speak of yet.

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