Sony’s PlayStation 3 and Microsoft’s Xbox 360 gaming consoles have been fighting for the attention of South African gamers for nearly six years, but as these machines approach the end of their lifespan the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One have already reignited the battle for local hearts, minds and wallets in 2013.
Which console has the edge and which makes sense for the South African market? We weigh up Sony and Microsoft’s next generation consoles.
The most immediate difference between the consoles is the price, with the PlayStation 4 announced to be $399 and the Xbox One set at $499. No local price point has been announced for either device yet, but expect to pay between R5500 and R7000 as console prices are very rarely directly comparable to those of the US. The dramatic price disparity is being put down to the inclusion of Microsoft’s controller-free gaming device, the Kinect, which will be important to the company’s strategy of marketing the Xbox One as an entertainment hub and not ‘just’ a gaming console.
Gamers mostly care about the kinds of unique experiences they’ll get on either console, and while Sony and Microsoft will both offer exclusive titles available only on PlayStation 4 or Xbox One across racing, action and role-playing genres, it is Sony that will potentially deliver more PS4-only experiences over time with many more wholly-owned game development studios than Microsoft creating exclusive titles.
Making the PlayStation 4 an even more enticing prospect is Sony’s focus on providing a great range of smaller, independently developed games as refreshing counterpoints to huge R700 blockbuster titles, and while Microsoft intends to release similar games on Xbox One the company’s strategy for doing so is still unclear. Added to the fact that Sony has begun to actively encourage the development of free-to-play online games means PS4 owners will enjoy more ways to play at launch compared to Xbox One.
Sony and Microsoft’s online subscription strategies will be key tools in their respective marketing efforts as well, and the continuation of the consumer-minded PlayStation Plus service on PlayStation 4 will not only allow you to play games online against friends, but you’re also guaranteed free and discounted games at launch and in the future. Microsoft’s Xbox LIVE service for Xbox One will allow online play, too, but promises of free and reduced content are low on the ground.
PlayStation 4 and Xbox One both offer additional online services, like watching movies and TV shows, streaming videos of your games to share with your friends, higher quality multiplayer gaming and the chance to purchase and download full games on the same day as their retail release, but South Africa’s internet infrastructure is currently poorly equipped to handle such high bandwidth features so Sony and Microsoft will need to focus on other areas to attract local gamers.
One feature neither console can boast is backwards compatibility, that is, the ability to play PlayStation 3 games on PlayStation 4, or Xbox 360 games on Xbox One, which means you won’t be able to trade in your older consoles for the next-gen editions if you want to continue to enjoy your current library of games. The list of exciting games due out across PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 this year and next, however, will make it easier to wait to invest in the next generation, but playing through more expansive worlds, grander adventures and more detailed visuals offered by PS4 and Xbox One will be very tempting.
South African consumers eager to experience next generation gaming will also need to keep in mind that the Xbox One is confirmed to only become available in the country in 2014, while PlayStation 4 is expected to officially launch in South Africa at the end of 2013, albeit in limited quantities.
Considering that the very best games that Sony and Microsoft have to offer will really only release in 2014 and beyond, it will be early adopters who first make the leap to next-gen, but because the first round of price cuts for either console could only materialise up to two years after their respective launches, hardcore and more casual gamers alike will find it difficult to resist their appeal for very long.