War of the Buttons

Almost two months after the European release of the next generation of consoles, Michael O’Sullivan looks at who is winning the war so far

The console war was re-ignited before Christmas with the almost simultaneous launch of Microsoft’s Xbox One and Sony’s PS4. Initial indications had both consoles performing almost exactly the same, though by the new year it was apparent that the PS4 had the edge in terms of sales.

For non-gamers, this event must have appeared somewhat bizarre. Massive queues formed the world over as people scrambled to throw large sums of money at tech manufacturers just to have the latest new gadget. However, the latest generation of consoles are much more than simple gadgets, especially in the case of the Xbox.

These new consoles are billed as multimedia powerhouses, with internet, TV and app capabilities built in to the systems to give a complete and immersive multimedia experience. At least that’s what the blurb from both companies stated. The reality is, however, that most people will buy a console for the games that console allows them to play and the rest is simply a bonus.

The validity of Microsoft’s push into complete multimedia packages is coming under question as a result. As many people already have smart TVs, tablets, and laptops, the need for an all-purpose system seems slightly redundant. There is also the slightly uncomfortable fact that the Kinect attachment is always on.

This, coupled with the Xbox’s need for an internet connection in order to function correctly has left some critics distressed as they assume the camera can be hacked and as a result, they may become the victims of living room voyeurism from afar.

How many people will actually spend time hacking into Xbox systems to watch people scream furiously at their television while hammering at plastic buttons like their lives depend on it remains to be seen, though this would surely start a new trend of internet prank videos to keep the seething masses entertained for three days or so.

The problem with the console war is the lack of console exclusive games on the market at the moment. It is almost impossible to say which console is better when both have almost the exact same game roster and no version exclusives to increase their selling power. Until this fact changes, and it’s soon going to, it is almost impossible to say which console is going to win outright in the long term.

The release of Titanfall, one of the years most hotly anticipated first-person shooters (FPS), may finally give an indication as to who may be winning the console war. Sony has no massive FPS release to compete with Microsoft here, instead opting for the release of RPG sequel Infamous: Second Son around the same time.

The popularity of the FPS in general would suggest that Titanfall is quite simply going to bring in money faster than it can be printed, which will most likely dwarf Infamous’ profit margins by comparison.

There are other factors at work, however. Sony’s willingness to allow indie game developers free reign to create and sell content through the Playstation Network has given them a serious edge over Microsoft in the indie game market. Microsoft have been notably much stiffer and far less accommodating of the growing indie scene, turning many people off their product as they feel the company is far too focused on media rather than gaming itself.

The console war will continue to rage on for another year or two yet, as only time will tell which console comes out on top as more version exclusive games appear and new features like Sony’s Playstation Now come online. Though it may seem at present that Sony is winning the battle, they are far from winning the war.

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