Next-gen consoles push tech boundaries


Even though people are more thrifty with their purchases nowadays, that hasn’t stopped them from buying electronic devices such as tablets and gaming machines. With the next generation of video game consoles, though, it’s still a hard sell for consumers to buy a Playstation 4 or an Xbox One since neither is backward compatible, meaning they won’t work with your old PS3 or 360 games. The companies are currently trying to sell these devices to the public and convince them that their hardware is better.

So far, Sony and Microsoft have had a difficult experience in selling their new consoles, with a few critics believing that they’re not a huge leap forward and that certain features seem downright detrimental to gamers and the consumer.

In fact, the backlash against the Xbox One’s required Internet connection (which would’ve required a daily Internet login to play your game) and used game policy (you could only loan your game to one other person unless they paid a fee) was so severe, Microsoft backtracked and took out the controversial features.

Still, the arms race of features and specifications is on. In the years since the release of the Xbox 360, consoles have changed from gaming machines into full-fledged entertainment hubs.

 

Looking at the two consoles objectively, there are not many technical difference between the PS4 and the Xbox One. Both feature eight-core x86 processors, a 500GB hard drive, a Blu-ray drive, 4K-compatible HDMI outputs, 8 GB rams and minimal matte black cases. Considering that the graphics of the current generation are already at a hyper-realistic level (just look at Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us or the upcoming Grand Theft Auto V), developers will have to create innovative virtual experiences to make the most of the technical upgrade.

The PS4 and the Xbox One will be more integrated with the Internet than ever before. Both consoles will use cloud processing, which will allow you to stream games directly to your console. Sony claims that you’ll be able to stream PS4 titles directly from the cloud server without even installing the game. It should be noted that the Xbox One was going to have this feature, but due to the fallout of getting rid of the always-online requirement, the console will require the game disc or the digital version to be installed.

This reliance on cloud processing does, however, raise a red flag. Though Sony has expressed confidence in its online servers, there’s no way to tell if it can handle hundreds of thousands of simultaneous streams on a consistent basis. The last thing the company needs is a SimCity-esque disaster, in which gamers couldn’t access their games for days due to server overload.

One benefit of cloud processing is that both consoles will allow you to record your gameplay automatically to share with the world, using the  PS4’s new DualShock 4 controller, which has a dedicated “share” button to upload your video online. The Xbox One will feature the program Twitch, which will allow you to edit your gameplay video on the spot.

While both will have an assortment of entertainment features and apps, Microsoft is setting the X1 up as the definitive entertainment center for your entire living room. Along with the app store, the console will have a feature called Snap mode that will allow you to multitask. For example, you could be playing Assassin’s Creed IV and Skype-ing with a friend simultaneously or playing Madden NFL while watching the Trojans on the ESPN app.

It’ll even have an extra HDMI port for users to connect to your TV DVR receiver, so your console will not only function as an extra receiver for your home, but it’ll also manage your channels and recorded shows and fully integrate with the Kinect 2.0.

You will, however, need to have an Xbox Live Gold account to be able to use these features. On the other hand, the PS4 won’t require a Plus subscription to use services like Netflix or Hulu Plus, but you will need one to play online multiplayer, which is a change from the PS3 where you didn’t need one.

The Kinect 2.0, which is more accommodating for smaller rooms (so you’ll be able to use it comfortably in your cramped dormitory), will no longer be required but it is meant to make the most of the Xbox One since its entire OS is built around it. They have greatly expanded its capabilities, though, with facial recognition and a 1080p HD camera (with Skype integration) for greater precision.

Its initial requirement is the reason that the Xbox One will be selling for $499 at launch compared to the PS4, which will sell for $399. Sony was actually planning to have its own motion-capture camera but removed it from the launch bundle to gain a competitive pricing edge against Microsoft.

These consoles aren’t just for video games anymore; both Microsoft and Sony are setting these machines up not to compete with Nintendo but with Apple and cable companies. The Xbox One and Playstation 4 are setting themselves up to be your storage hub, television provider and gaming machine all at once. Both consoles can even turn your phone or tablet into a secondary controller, much like the AirPlay feature on the Apple TV.

So if you decide to wait it out, get a reservation or try to fight the crowds on release day, you’re not just buying a gaming machine, but the future of entertainment. Of course, it’s up to the companies and developers to make the most of that potential.

Follow Robert Calcagno on Twitter @rcalcagno3
  • Jonathan Miller

    “Sony was actually planning to have its own motion-capture camera but removed it from the launch bundle to gain a competitive pricing edge against Microsoft.”
    This statement is only a false rumor. Sony has already stated that this is not true. They wanted this camera to be optional because it’s not for everyone. What they presented after Microsoft’s E3 was already planned well before the presentation.
    This author needs to get his information straight and not submit his opinions as facts.