Today, Microsoft finally outed their new console, and contrary to every rumor out there, it goes by the name Xbox One. Since Sony revealed the Playstation 4, there has been a large buzz both with their system, and what Microsoft would bring to transfer the hype. Well, today they outed the first official info, and we can finally start talking about what’s to come without throwing the name ‘Xbox 720’ around, which, lets be honest, we all thought was dumb and unrealistic. What I see, at this point, is a clear split and a generation to determine where the future of video games will be going, and I’ll get to that, but let’s break it down in pieces.
The initial buzz that came from Sony’s event was centered around the sheer power of the components jammed in, and some of the share features that sounded almost too good to be true. Sony announced they were packing in an 8-core AMD CPU, a “next-generation” AMD GPU, and 8 GB of DDR5 RAM (among other things) into a box that they did not show. They also stated that they would have a local HDD, for those worried about a straight cloud storage console. Microsoft, however, came at things slightly differently. They burst out of the gate showing their console, which has a similar 8-core CPU, 8 GB of DDR3 RAM, and were quick to point out their 500 GB HDD and, finally, Blu-Ray. Now, I’m largely ignorant in all of this technical information, but it seems Sony has an ever so slight edge here on account of the RAM and possibly the GPU. The architecture in each machine is key to its utilization of the power, but either way, the most powerful system is not necessarily the best.
Another large focus of both conferences was a new controller. While Sony stuck with their traditional design in spirit, they essentially jammed the sixaxis, the move, and a touch pad into one universal controller. Without having my hands on it, it looks like a Sony controller. The added ‘share’ button, however, seems to either add to players experiences, or be another spike for those dreading the social network aspects of everything. With the ability to instantly upload a video clip with this button, the uses for it seem pretty grand. Microsoft also altered their last gen controller a tad, and chose not to go the touch screen or touch pad route. The overall number and usage of buttons seems largely unchanged at this point, but it’s appearance looks akin to a MadCatz product, but it is likely to get freshened up a bit.
The additional features of each console start to separate the field even more. Sony made the social aspects a large part of their presentation, with sharing and some lofty promises of playing a friends game from miles away. The Playstation 4 also officially introduces its fans to charging a controller and downloading while the system is off, but adds the ability to play games while they’re downloading, much like many Blizzard games and the like. Used games are safe here, and backwards compatibility is thrown out again. The Xbox One comes in running three operating systems, standard with(and unable to run without) a beefed up kinect, some form of used game system, whether good or bad, and lofty cloud computing promises. Also, falling in between the rumors, the Xbox One will not require always-on internet, but it will need a connection in some form. Specifics on that connection, and the used game restriction, are vague or conflicting at this point. Following suite with Sony, though, Microsoft also ditches backwards compatibility. At this point they are just promises, but Microsoft says their new flagship system will get more powerful through cloud computing. It’s this information that makes the console sound both revolutionary and restrictive. You can’t have cloud computing if your internet is shotty, slow or disconnected.
The rest of the respective conferences differ greatly. Sony chose to focus largely on their games, noting general developer friendly attitudes and indie support. They came out and showed a number of exclusives from Killzone to Infamous to a new series in Drive Club. Also, showing multiplatform games such as Destiny and Watch Dogs on their system first certainly didn’t hurt. Microsoft decided to go largely the opposite route. While it wasn’t devoid of games (Quantum Break seems to be worth some attention and Forza 5 looks gorgeous) the conference focused mainly on the systems TV, Skype and general multimedia capabilities. They want the Xbox One to be the everything of your living room, not just a game console.
The next-gen war is just heating up, and already it is the most interesting one yet. Microsoft is clearly more focused on the family and casual gamer aspect, while I’m sure the core will have a reason or two to go that route. Sony seems very focused and driven towards a games first experience. It is the very first day of the true beginning of the console war, a war that shouldn’t ever have been started in the first place, but it is clear that this is going to be a good one, if not the best, and maybe the last. E3 is upon us on June 11th, and it can’t come soon enough for those hungry for more fuel for the fire.