How PlayStation 4 will conquer the next Xbox
It's no secret: the next-generation is upon us. Sony teased the PlayStation 4 earlier this year on February 20, and Microsoft is taking center-stage this upcoming Tuesday, on May 21, to unveil their next-generation console, dubbed the Durango, Xbox 720, or most recently, Xbox Infinity. The hype, as analysts have noted, has subsided, but will quickly peak on June 11-13 when the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) is held in Los Angeles. There, Sony and Microsoft will compete against one another as millions of eager gamers begin contemplating where to invest their hard-earned money over the next several years. The vast array of hardware and software improvements, launch titles, and social features will be laid out on the table as the two tech giants (and Nintendo) seek to win over gamers' hearts for another few years.
Not too long ago, we were in much the same place we are now, eagerly awaiting the launch of the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, the harbingers of astounding visuals and capabilities unrivaled in previous consoles. But even the strongest, most loyal PlayStation fan cannot deny the mess that was the PS3's launch. The console was launched on November 11, 2006, nearly a year after Microsoft released the 360 on November 22, 2005. By the time the PS3 released, the 360 already achieved considerable success with launch titles Call of Duty 2, Perfect Dark Zero, Quake 4 and Need for Speed: Most Wanted to name a few. Even more troublesome for Sony was the release of Epic Game's massive hit, Gears of War, which released exclusively for the 360 alongside the PS3's launch. It was that exclusivity that Microsoft aimed for, and achieved on a number of occasions. The "Only on Xbox 360" branding appeared on many video game cases, serving as an omnipresent reminder to gamers everywhere that the 360 was something special, something exclusive. This has been evident throughout the entirety of the consoles existence, most notably with Halo, but also in a number of different forms: Irrational Games' BioShock released initially for the 360 and didn't reach the PS3 until over a year later, and Microsoft has prided itself in its agreement with Activision ensuring Xbox gamers get all Call of Duty downloadable content at least a month before other platforms receive it. We need not mention Bethesda's, albeit accidental, problems with PS3 DLC with The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.
Further hindering the launch of the PS3 was its price point. When it launched at the end of '06, the price tag was a hefty $599 for the most highly publicized 60GB model, a price far too high for the average consumer's taste. The Xbox 360 launched at a considerably cheaper $399, and while the console's hard drive was only 20GB large, only a handful of consumers saw the additional 40 GB as worth $199. Moreover, the 360's earlier launch allowed consumers to become more comfortable with shelling out hundreds of dollars on a console long before they felt comfortable spending so much on a PS3. The picture is even more grim when comparing the base models of each console: The Xbox 360 Core, which came without a hard drive at all, was priced at $299; the 20GB PlayStation 3 model was priced at $499, still one-hundred dollars more expensive than the high-end 360.
At launch, the PlayStation 3 was in trouble. While it launched with a number of great titles, including Resistance: Fall of Man, Marvel: Ultimate Alliance and Call of Duty 3, there was still a clear problem of price and exclusivity. It was questionable, especially at the time, whether any quality of games would be able to give the PS3 a fighting chance. It was evident that Sony had a difficult console war ahead, from which they were unlikely to emerge victorious.
Fast-forward to today.
While the Xbox still has Halo and Forza Motorsports on its belt, it seems as though the Xbox Infinity has very few noteworthy franchises in its inheritance. This starkly contrasts with the PS3, which continues to hold and has added Killzone, God of War, Ratchet and Clank, Gran Turismo, MotorStorm, Sly Cooper, and Uncharted to its exclusive library. Sony may have lost exclusivity of Konami's Metal Gear Solid franchise, but it has gained The Last of Us (which is rumored to become a series in the future), and the 360 is experiencing an even more troubling landscape: Epic Games has put a curtain on its Gears of War franchise after the release of Gears of War: Judgement and has expressed interest in going towards multi-platform releases, Saint's Row has become a multi-platform, and Halo creator and former developer Bungie is embracing the next-generation mutli-platform style with its Destiny. The Xbox 360, which started the generation wonderfully ahead, has started to decay, and the effects of this decline will most negatively affect the release of the next Xbox. The PlayStation 3, inversely, started on a poor note but has created a number of outstanding franchises over the years, all while maintaining some of its greatest hits from the PS2-era. This gives the PlayStation 4 greater potential and, because of its new advantage in inter-generational exclusivity, a stronger fandom. The PlayStation 4 is the Xbox 360 of the next-generation.
This shift is most acknowledged in the sales of the PlayStation 3, which were reported to have exceeded those of the Xbox 360 in January of this year. Seven years ago, the PS3's ability to compete, let alone triumph, seemed unlikely. The 360's advantage of a year, which granted it automatic success for much of the generation, eventually failed the console, and it's an advantage Microsoft won't be so luck to have again in the future: Sony is leading the pack in announcing its next-generation console, and is set for a holiday 2013 launch. Unless Microsoft plans on wrapping up its E3 presentation by selling its new console, the tech giant will have to accept a side-by-side release. What would have happened if the PS3 and 360 released simultaneously? The PS3's sales, continuously approaching and exceeding those of the Xbox 360, seem to suggest the answer.
Another of the major aspects of the upcoming generation, which would not have been taken so seriously seven years ago, is social inter-connectivity. The Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 each released with modest social features, not considering how pivotal a game's ability to connect players would eventually become. Microsoft, unfortunately for PlayStation gamers, recognized the changing landscape, and Xbox Live was quickly linked with Facebook, Netflix, and Twitter. It would take Sony considerably longer to link its PlayStation Network to Facebook and Netflix, and it never became linked with Twitter. Sony has clearly learned from its mistakes, and understands the new importance of connecting players in a variety of ways. Sony has reportedly focused twice as much time on the social aspect of its next console than Microsoft has. The new 'share' feature, allowing players to let others know what they're playing and experiencing with the click of a physical button found on the controller, will undoubtedly become widely used for its convenience and serve as the standard for video game social networks.
Of course, it is impossible to make these claims without considering the upcoming Xbox unveil this upcoming Tuesday. Microsoft has done many things right over the years, and so it is unclear how the company plans to deal with its problems of exclusivity and to continue being a viable social hub. Great ideas will certainly be shared, awesome features unveiled, some of which may outdo or outperform those of the PlayStation 4. But it is nevertheless clear that Sony's next-generation console will release later this year with a much brighter future than its predecessor, with greater potential and confidence; a much more well-prepared, worthy opponent to what Microsoft has to offer.
To discuss the PlayStation 4 and next Xbox, visit our community forums.
Steven Chaffin, Jr. is an American staff writer for PlayStation Universe. For more content like this, you can follow Steven @steven_chaffin, or friend him on Facebook. You can also e-mail him for any news-related inquiries at email@example.com. You can also get access to all PlayStation Universe reporting @PSUdotcom.