In the old days, video games were a simple deal. You drove to an arcade, cashed in $10 for a roll of quarters, and plunked your coins into an Asteroids or Space Invaders machine until your hands were paralyzed. I told my kids about this and they laughed. Who would ever drive five miles to play a video game?
The next evolution: home console games. Nintendo, Sega, Intellivision, Playstation, Xbox and Wii all took the gaming experience to new heights. Games became incredibly intense, connected and expensive. A trillion-dollar worldwide industry was born.
Then came the invasion of the tablets and smartphones. Everything changed. Simple, free-to-play games like Angry Birds, Candy Crush and Temple Run became all the rage. Suddenly you didn’t need to drive to the arcade or shell out $400 for a home console system. You could give yourself carpal tunnel syndrome right on your phone, for free, at any time!
Then 2013 happened. Grand Theft Auto 5 did $800 million in sales on its first day, only to be topped by Call of Duty, which did over $1 billion. Even bigger: both Sony and Microsoft have recently released all-new console units—the Playstation 4 and Xbox One.
All of a sudden, console games are cool again. And my kids are begging to own one.
I’m always reluctant to review products that I don’t own. So let’s be clear: whatever I write here is based on dubious online leaks, third-hand rumors and other stories. As long as we understand these rules, here’s my uninformed, semi-literate breakdown of the new consoles.
The first thing you need to know is that game consoles run much deeper than Donkey Kong. They are high-tech, connected cable boxes that let you download and play a host of super-immersive, frighteningly realistic video games. Even better: users are connected inside a closed network. There are millions of other weirdos out there and you can play against them live, 24/7.
Most major game titles are available on both platforms. PS4 had 16 at launch, Xbox had 23. Each will have some exclusive games so ask about that before buying.
Both systems also enable you to watch digital TV channels. Sony and Microsoft are expanding their efforts to create original programming on their own. Whichever system you buy will feel a little like Netflix, Amazon and Hulu. You’ll be able to access those channels and many others right from the console. Xbox has ESPN and more original content, so advantage Microsoft.
Both systems come with their own “joysticks,” sophisticated game controller devices that let you shoot, jump, swing, dance, sing and more. But the big deal here is the Kinect, an interactive camera and sensor that watches you and delivers more immersive game play. Advantage Microsoft.
Xbox One will retail for $499. PS4 will set you back $399. Advantage Sony. Note: there will probably be discounts if you already own a system and upgrade to the new one. Keep that in mind as you consider your purchase.
The truth is, these game systems are very similar in functionality and content. So what are the wow factors that truly set them apart?
For Xbox, it’s all about voice commands; you can search for movies, play a game, connect with fellow nerds and more—all by using your voice instead of pounding on a remote. There have been reported glitches with the command system, but if you like talking to computers, this baby is for you. PS 4 doesn’t have a ton of technological bells and whistles; it offers improved performance, Blu-Ray capabilities, access to Sony music streaming and enhanced networking with friends.
If you’re strictly a gamer, Xbox One is pretty hard to beat. If you want your console to also feed movies, TV shows, and social networking, then Playstation is the better option.
Either way, the real winner of this Game of Thrones is you!