PlayStation Meeting confirms Microsoft has the Upper Hand
With Microsoft having already released the Xbox One S and teasing Project Scorpio, all eyes were on PlayStation this morning as they unveiled their take on the next iteration of console gaming. Whilst there were some good things to come out of the PlayStation meeting, the overarching feeling that I was left with was that when it comes to the future of gaming, Microsoft now firmly has the upper hand.
Perhaps the biggest indictment on the PlayStation Meeting was that arguably the best announcement was not the consoles but the fact that all PS4’s, including the 40 million units already in lounge rooms, will be getting HDR capabilities via a firmware upgrade. Sure we are getting a new slim version of the PS4 and sure the Neo is coming, rebranded as the PS4 Pro, but both consoles have managed to miss the mark to an extent.
How did they manage to miss the mark I hear you say? Well, let’s do a couple of comparisons between the offerings of both Sony and Microsoft.
The Slim Consoles
When Microsoft announced the Xbox One S alongside confirmation of Project Scorpio, almost immediately talk turned to reasons not to buy the Xbox One S for anyone that already owned an Xbox One. Even now that the Xbox One S is released there is still only one solid reason to upgrade and that is for the 4K Blu-ray player. If you own a 4K TV then “upgrading to” or buying an Xbox One S makes it the cheapest 4K blu-ray player on the market, with the added benefit of being able to play games and also make use of the HDR gaming capabilities that the console offers.
Compare that to the new slim version of the PS4 and there is absolutely no reason at all for current PS4 owners to go out and buy the slim unit instead of what they already own. Aside from a lighter, smaller form factor there is nothing that the slim PS4 can do that the original PS4 can’t.
Keep in mind though that even though both the Xbox One S and PS4 support HDR gaming, it is completely irrelevant unless you own a TV that can support HDR which is only 4K TV’s. With that in mind your best bet is to either buy an Xbox One S or a PS4 Pro and if that’s the case I’d say go for the Xbox One S for one simple reason, the 4K Blu-ray player.
The more powerful consoles
OK, this one is a bit trickier given that Microsoft have revealed little about the true capabilities of Scorpio BUT even with the little information we know, it seems pretty definitive now that it will be superior to the PS4 Pro.
Comparing Microsoft’s console announcements at E3 to PlayStation’s announcement today it is very interesting to see how Social Media has reacted. Back at E3 the talk was on waiting for Scorpio rather than buying the Xbox One S.
Now, after the PlayStation Meeting the social media reaction seems to be about whether there is any reason at all to buy the PS4 Pro. The reason to get the PS4 Pro is, in a lot of ways, similar to the reasons to get an Xbox One S. If you have a 4K TV then getting the PS4 Pro makes sense to get the benefit of 4K gaming. With the extra processing power in the PS4 Pro it will also make 1080p games a lot more stable and smooth running at 60fps but given that the PS4 does pretty well running 1080p 60fps, that alone is no reason to get the PS4 Pro. What almost defies belief though is the fact the the PS4 Pro will not come with a 4K blu-ray player built in.
Eurogamer have released the specs of the PS4 Pro and it reveals there is no UHD Blu-ray drive. How Sony could support 4K gaming but leave out the 4K blu-ray player just doesn’t make sense. My guess is it was to keep the price point down but even then I find that hard to believe when the Xbox One S can support 4K blu-ray and is cheaper than the PS4 Pro.
At this point, Microsoft must be rubbing their hands together. Xbox One S is much more comparable to the PS4 Pro (and XB1S is cheaper), meaning that Project Scorpio has a massive advantage over their long time rival. Project Scorpio will support 4K HDR gaming (like the PS4 Pro) but with a GPU that easily outperforms that of the PS4 Pro. The buzz word was 6 teraflops of performance out of Scorpio’s GPU, looking at the specs of PS4 Pro, Sony’s console has 4.2 teraflops of GPU performance so Scorpio has the upper hand in that battle. A follow on point to that is that 4K gaming at 60fps is going to run a lot smoother on Scorpio than on PS4 Pro. Throw in the fact that Scorpio is bound to have a 4K blu-ray player built in and it is already a much more compelling purchase than PS4 Pro.
Both Scorpio and PS4 Pro will support VR but again, Scorpio has the edge since it will be capable of supporting the much more higher spec Oculus Rift, compared to the PS VR. In fact there is a valid argument here that the only reason the PS4 Pro exists is to provide the better experience for PSVR.
What we don’t know, though, is how much Scorpio is going to cost. For us in NZ it’s likely to be around $1,000 compared to $650 for PS4 Pro but given the performance advantages and better media capabilities, Scorpio still looks like the more worthy purchase.
Sony has had the edge over Microsoft in this current console generation but with the console updates from both companies coming to fruition it is clear that Microsoft now has the forward thinking to put an end to Sony’s dominance.
Microsoft were smart not to overplay their hand with Scorpio at E3. By not revealing many details it has no doubt caused Sony to speculate on the capabilities of Microsoft’s beast. I can’t help but feel like Sony have rushed the PS4 Pro and have just thrown it out to market to get the drop on Microsoft but haven’t put enough thought into the console to actually make it worthwhile buying.
Only time will tell if Sony do manage to maintain their dominance but the early signs are definitely pointing to all the cards being held by Microsoft.