The next generation of video games consoles can be considered to be very much current by now, with both Sony Corporation (NYSE:SNE) (TYO:6758)’s Playstation 4 and Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT)’s Xbox One having been available for a couple of months. Both machines are now attempting to settle into the marketplace and attract a solid, long-term following, with Microsoft hoping that Sony’s early lead in sales won’t snowball and translate into a significant advantage as this generation develops.
There has been a great deal written already about whether or not Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) has adopted the correct approach and emphasis on the Xbox One, with the general consensus being that they have scored numerous PR own goals and to some extent alienated their core market. Of course, the Xbox 360 was so successful that Microsoft was certain to do pretty well with the Xbox One no matter how many clangers they dropped, and Xbox Live has been widely acknowledged to be a superb service which is superior to its Playstation Network competitor.
But Sony Corporation (NYSE:SNE) (TYO:6758) has a clear head-start in this generation. Aside from what has been perceived to be an inappropriate attitude from the corporation to key gamer issues such as pre-owned games, it has also been alleged that the Xbox One is a technically inferior machine to the PS4, being less powerful and geared as much towards being a television viewing device as a gaming console. This perception just got worse for Microsoft this week.
Xbox One: resolution and frame rate issues
Already early titles for the two next generation consoles have been shown to be displayed in superior resolution on the PS4. This negated any advantage that the Xbox One could have gained from the fact that the launch titles for the Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) machine were probably superior. Microsoft and Xbox aficionados stated that too much had been made out of these embryonic aberrations and that the Xbox One would show itself to be a much more solid performer, the equal of the PS4, as the generation developed.
Well, the last seven days has seen the emergence of two more stories that will be seen as alarming for Microsoft. The first is that Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition released today on both PS4 and Xbox One, will run at a superior frame rate on the Sony machine. While the PS4 release runs at 60 frames per second, the Xbox One release has been reported to be capable of only half the frame rate, running at 30fps. And when Eurogamer definitively tested the two console’s versions against one another, in concurrence with these reports they found that the PS4 version consistently came out on top. Additionally, VideoGamer has found that the cutscenes on the Xbox One version are rendered in an inferior resolution to the PS4.
This has now essentially been confirmed by the very fact that Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) has issued an official statement on the matter, claiming that the difference between the two versions is very minimal. This seems more like a damage limitation exercise, as acknowledging that there is a difference is by its very nature conceding that the Sony game is superior. If it was the other way round, Microsoft would either ignore the issue completely, or emphasize the fact that their machine was performing better.
Problems with next gen titles
To confound the issue, early reports indicate that one of the most anticipated games of 2014 may also be relatively sub-standard on the Xbox One. Watch Dogs is seen as one of the true true next gen titles on either console, and will be one of the biggest games of 2014 without doubt. So the reports emanating from industry insiders that this game will be rendered in 1080p on the Playstation 4, while the Xbox One version will run at 720p is not exactly timely as far as Microsoft are concerned.
Of course, pro-Microsoft publications, the company and even the developer have insisted that there is virtually no difference between the two. But the whole issue certainly doesn’t bode well for the future of the Xbox One. This is particularly true as we have hitherto-seen little but ports of last generation titles on either machine thus far. The first true next generation titles are really considered to be the aforementioned Watch Dogs and game such as Driveclub, which will be a PS4 exclusive. If the Xbox One is struggling to match the PS4’s performance this early in the generation, this really suggests that it is going to run into serious problems as games get more complex and involved.
Furthermore, the ubiquity of Kinect, as largely predicted by the gaming community, is causing its fair share of problems as well. Leaving aside the privacy issues related to it, the less powerful GPU contained within the Xbox One is struggling to run the Kinect system and the most demanding games. Already there are industry murmurings that Microsoft may enable gamers to switch off Kinect, or possibly even release an Xbox without one.
Overall, Sony Corporation (NYSE:SNE) (TYO:6758) appears to have made all the right moves with the PS4, while Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) are encountering numerous problems. The company may consider this worthwhile in order to have a stake in the battle for the living-room, but the next twelve months will tell us whether their core audience is willing to stick with them, or opt for the more powerful gaming machine.