Xbox One vs PS4 - The best next-gen console for you?
Posted on 27 Mar 2014 at 11:50, by Seth Barton
Updated with the latest games, price changes and promised system updates
The Xbox One and PS4 next-gen consoles have been duking it out since late last year. We've got our full breakdowns of each device online, head over to our Xbox One review and PS4 review for all the nitty-gritty.
However, if you want a rundown of the differences between the two consoles then you're in the right place. Here we're going to put the two consoles head-to-head over the most important issues, so you can work out which next-gen console is best for you, and whether you should buy now or wait for later in the year.
Now, it can be a lot to take in if you're fresh to the "which is best" debate, so we've split the decision into several main categories – have a browse through to find the ones most pertinent to you, or just skip to the end for a summary.
XBOX ONE VS PS4 - PRICE
Initially the Xbox One console cost £80 more than Sony's hardware - £349 for PS4 vs £429 for Xbox One – a difference largely accounted for by Microsoft bundling its motion-capturing Kinect controller with every console.
However, a price cut in late February has now dropped the cost of Microsoft's hardware down to a slightly more reasonable £399. The £30 cut is of course welcome, but there's more to it than that.
Microsoft has always felt a little uncomfortable with the price difference, so it initially bundled a free digital copy of FIFA 14 with every Xbox One. That offer ended, though packs with FIFA 14 re-emerged for around £20 more than the basic console.
Now Microsoft is bundling what looks to be this year's must-have shooter Titanfall with the console – for more details on that game read our Titanfall review. Again it's a limited edition pack, but for now you can pre-order the console with a digital download of the game included for a very reasonable £399. That effectively brings the console down to a price of around £355.
The PS4 remains at its original £349 price. Most of the stock currently available online comes bundled with at least one game for £389. That's not a problem, after all you've got to pay something on it, but it might irk those who want to download all their games or who are only planning to play smaller download titles for now. For further details on bundles, see stock and availability below.
The next big question is whether the price is likely to drop in the near future, and that is really anyone's guess, but here's ours. We thought Microsoft would hold fire until later in the year, but it has risked angering early adopters by dropping the price now to make the most of the Titanfall launch (even semi-exclusives are few and far between at present, so it makes sense).
Neither company will be keen to enter a price war this early in the console lifespan, you can't put the price back up easily once you've dropped it. So by making a small drop and bundling a game Microsoft retains a respectable RRP while still driving up sales. So those wanting an Xbox One should keep this in mind and time their purchase with such deals.
Further, larger, price drops look tough for Microsoft while it's still bundling the Kinect with the console. Abandoning it would mark a huge shift in strategy and look a little desperate, something that's hardly going to give buyers a sense of security in their new purchase.
Sony on the other hand has the early lead in sales and so is under no pressure to drop the price on the PS4. We can't see a price drop on the console, or a completely free bundled game, happening this year. You may well see some fighting between retailers, bundling an older, launch game with the console come Christmas, but only if there's plentiful stock to meet demand – again, that seems unlikely.
BEST FOR YOU? – If you're keen on Titanfall (and who isn't) then the Xbox One is for now roughly the same price as the PS4, so price isn't a factor for the time being
XBOX ONE VS PS4 - GAMES
You can talk hardware, controllers and operating systems all day, but it's the games that really matter on a console. Previous console generations have often been defined by their big exclusive franchises, such as Halo, Mario and Uncharted. If you really wanted to play a certain game, you had to but the console that had it.
However, this time we're not sure that exclusives will be as critical in the battle between the Xbox One and the PS4. Both consoles use very similar hardware, as we'll discuss later, and the ever-increasing costs of games development mean that Sony and Microsoft will have to splash huge amounts of cash to compete with titles that will be released across multiple formats.
At present most of our most-wanted games are coming to both formats: Watch_Dogs, Destiny, Tom Clancy's The Division, The Witcher 3, Assassin's Creed 5, Elder Scrolls Online and Metal Gear Solid 5: Phantom Pain. Some of these titles are coming to both new and old consoles, but they all look a lot better on the latest hardware.
To date, the most next-gen title on either console is probably Battlefield 4 , with its 64 player battles matching those on the PC for scale. If you're looking for single-player thrills then Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag and the 'Definitive Edition' of Tomb Raider are both great picks.
To date the graphics hardware in the PS4, more on which later, has proved superior. Multi-platform games have largely looked sharper or run smoother on Sony's hardware.
There are some exclusive titles out there, and Titanfall on Xbox One is undoubtedly the biggest. The EA-published game is exclusive to Microsoft formats, with Windows PC and Xbox 360 version also available (or coming very soon). The game is undoubtedly excellent, though without a single-player mode it's not for everyone, and though it's very slick it doesn't do anything technically that feels truly next-gen. You can read our full thoughts in our Titanfall review.
The exclusivity deal between Microsoft and EA was signed well before the launch of the next-gen consoles, when the Xbox 360 was the consoles of choice for first-person shooters. It's probably a deal that EA now regrets, with the PS4 proving more popular to date, losing the company many sales. We very much doubt that Titanfall 2 will be exclusive therefore, but after years of working to tight schedules and on endless sequels with Call of Duty, it's hard to predict when the developers at Respawn will do a sequel. Publisher EA has talked of a three-shooter rotation between Battlefield, Titanfall and Star Wars Battlefront. And that's a rotation we'd happily take buy into.
The biggest PS4 exclusive to date is Infamous: Second Son. This is a solid single-player game mixing some brilliant particle effects with some great brawling action. It certainly looks next-gen but the gameplay isn't really much beyond that which you'd expect from an older console. It's a must-bu for PS4 owners, but it's not enough of a reason to buy a PS4. Read our full thoughts in our Infamous: Second Son review.
Coming soon after that will be The Order 1886. We haven't been given a chance to play this for ourselves yet but it looks pretty impressive. It's a single-player only story-driven, third-person actions adventure in a steampunk Victorian London. Head over to http://theorder1886.eu.playstation.com for more details.
BEST FOR YOU? – It's still early days, Titanfall has been a big hit on Xbox One, but we still think that multi-format games will dominate this console generation, and PS4 has the edge in head-to-head comparisons
XBOX ONE VS PS4 - STOCK AND AVAILABILITY
The initial stock shortages of both consoles was mercifully short, but it's still hard to buy both consoles on a whim. Xbox One is now widely available, but with the upcoming release of must-have title Titanfall we're expecting it to be in short supply soon.
Stock of the PS4 is fluctuating badly. Some days you can pick up a console with only a few days for delivery, while at the time of writing Amazon isn't delivering any standalone consoles until late March. Buying a console in a pack with a game is easier, and you have to have something to play on it, but you might not be able to find the game you want bundled.
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