As with many console launches in the past, this year I've come away with more questions than answers. I'm usually a Sony fangirl, but for the next generation of game consoles, I'm still undecided between the Xbox One and the PS4 (PC gaming isn't a realistic option in our two gamer set up, and Nintendo doesn't offer the games I personally prefer to play).
In many ways, both systems are pretty similar.
Both consoles offer:
* 500GB HDD (the PS4 HDD is swappable, the XB1 HDD can only be upgraded with MS proprietary HDD's - however, the XB1 can use USB drives for additional storage of games. Sony has not confirmed USB drive compatibility and neither has confirmed if games can be played directly from USB detachable drives. With Sony, games currently can't be stored anywhere but on the console HDD and can't be transferred to a detachable drive).
* Game DVR (recording gameplay) - Sony via Ustream, and Microsoft via Twitch
* BluRay/DVD players
* Netflix and various TV apps
* Cloud storage and cloud services such as gamesave backup, cloud storage of digital games deleted from the HDD, automatic updates, etc.
* motion control games (though Kinect is integrated into the system and the PSEye will be sold separately)
* second screen gaming via smartphones/tablets
* HDMI output only (no output options for older TV units on either console)
* Party chat... both systems will have party chat, though this is likely restricted to those paying the monthly fee of PSPlus or Gold (and hopefully Sony has resolved the voicechat issues that plagued the PS3 system!)
In other ways, both consoles differ...
PS3 will be $399.00 and the Xbox One will be $499.00 at launch
The Xbox One requires an internet connection at least once every 24 hours to function. The PS3 can work offline, but the reality is that most games have an online component that may require online connectivity and new games often require a current OS update or even a patch in order to function properly. While the system doesn't require a check in once every 24 hours, the reality for me is that this is a fairly negligible requirement because it's rare for me to be without access to an internet connection and much of my gaming is online anyway. This is a personal decision though, and obviously doesn't speak to those that might have less reliable internet access.
Gold, silver and PSPlus:
With both consoles, it's pay if you want to play online. Microsoft has not yet clarified if Silver accounts will still exist for offline single player games, but the required "internet check in" could well simply be the same as accessing your XBL friend's list or buying content from the store... both work just fine without paying a monthly Gold fee. Single player, offline games (an endangered species) may be playable on both systems without the need for a monthly fee, and on the PS4, apps such as netflix will continue to be available without a monthly fee (access to most apps is pay walled behind Gold on the Xbox). Microsoft and Sony have both confirmed that multiple user ID's can work from a console that has Gold or PSPlus... but neither have clarified how online access works with multiple consoles. Essentially, do my husband and I both have to pay a monthly fee to play online games together... and if so, will either MS or Sony offer a family deal of some sort on the cost.
The Xbox One has the following options: You can lend a digital game once to anyone who has been on your friend's list for 30 days. Sony has not confirmed any information regarding the sharing of digital games. I like the concept of being able to trade or loan my digital games and the idea of trading my game code with a friend who lives thousands of miles away for their game code... and each of us getting a free new game to play (either a loan or a permanent trade) - it's a win for me. Currently a digital game can be shared on two activated PS3 consoles, but again this has not been confirmed for the PS4. Microsoft has mentioned something about "family" access to purchased games... and from what I've read, Microsoft is saying that you can have a "family" of 10 people (who don't actually need to be related) who can share your purchased digital games, with the caveat that only one person can be playing that game at a time. Still.. this "10 person family" could mean a lot of game lending and lots of free games! (Provided I can find some friends who share my gaming tastes and want to be in my family and have me as part of theirs!). Sony hasn't clarified any game sharing strategies aside from the usual retail disc - hand it to a friend - which isn't viable for me because none of my local friends play video games. So far, both are saying that they allow sharing of digital and retail games between various accounts on the SAME console (for achievement/trophies, gamesaves, etc), but I'm personally much more interested in how games will work in a multi-console family environment. Currently on the PS3 I can buy a digital game and activate it on both my husband's console and my console, under the 2 PS3 restriction, but we can both play the game concurrently from our own consoles. Neither Sony nor Microsoft has clarified if this type of concurrent family sharing will be possible on their next generation consoles, and frankly it reduced the cost of a full price, new release game to half price if my husband and I both want to play the game online together (which is the only reason I bought Borderlands in it's digital format). So many questions... so much clarification that still needs to come out.
Both Sony and Microsoft have confirmed that there will be no fees for trading in a used game, but both have left this up to the publisher who could merely modify their online pass format to require an access code for each time the game is installed. I see the used game issue as being pretty much the same for both Microsoft and Sony, excepting that Microsoft allows for full install of retail games to the HDD so the game has to be deactivated, when the retail copy is sold or traded. Sony doesn't have the full HDD installation and their form of DRM is that the disc has to be in the tray to verify game ownership. Again, to me, this is pretty much a draw. The MS system is a little more complex, but the full digital install also allows for things like the "family sharing between 10 friends" thing and digital loans, whereas Sony's system for retail games is more reliant on trading the game in, or physically getting it to a friend. Overall, for me personally, and not having many local gaming friends, the digital deactivation seems a small price to pay for the convenience of trading/sharing digital games with far away friends. However, what hasn't been said is how much control publishers will have over this digital trading policy... there is no mention if publishers can require a fee to be paid, even if Microsoft doesn't. Once again, I'm left with more questions than answers.
I've always been a bit of a Sony fangirl, but overall I'm still waiting to make a decision regarding my next gen console. My husband will soon be retired and gaming will be a big part of our lives. He tried retirement last year and we had many happy afternoons and evening playing MAG online together. He got bored and decided to return to the workforce for a few more years to further build up our retirement finances and because he found a job he really loves. Most days. I now play my single player games and most evenings we still play MAG together. My decision on next gen gaming will depend on what offers the best value for us... a two gamer household where I am a heavy gamer that plays a variety of games and my husband pretty much only plays online shooter games but likes to play them together (though I'm hoping I can convince him to try more single player games once he retires!). Apparently some type of monthly fee will have to be paid if we want to play online together... but it's a matter of seeing which console will offer the best value in terms of monthly fees, and also in terms of the ability to share games. I'm simply unwilling to totally write off the Xbox One at this point and instead I'll play wait and see to find out more information about what Sony and MS will offer. Much of the information out there is confusing, and this is just a quick blog to put my confusion and thoughts to paper. Hopefully, over the coming months we'll find out more information in order to make an educated decision about which console is best for each individual... because really, that's what gaming is all about... personal comfort with your console of choice and getting back to simply playing games and having fun!