This round will focus on both online services and their ever-changing policies.
To read the first round, which focused on the specs and pricing, go here.
Playstation Network and Xbox Live
At the beginning of the current generation, Xbox Live was by far the superior online service. But as the years went on, the PSN started to catch up (stumbling for a while due to PSN-gate of 2011), and started closing the gap with the addition of Playstation Plus, a paid service that offers multiple free games a month, auto-syncing, and cloud storage. But as of right now, Xbox Live still has the edge due to more stable servers, cross-game chat, ESPN, and other exclusive apps such as HBO GO.
The next generation will look to bring multiple changes in both online services. Xbox One’s mission is to make an all-in-one entertainment device, and they are heading in the right direction. Now you can hook up your cable box/satellite box directly to your console so everything will be on one system. Netflix, Hulu, and other apps will seamlessly integrate as well, and you can even make your own custom channel. And this is all being added to XBL for the same price as it is now. XBL is even overhauling their multiplayer with an improved matchmaking system called Smart Match. Some have criticized Microsoft for going in the more entertainment-oriented direction, feeling that they are focusing less on games as a result. In the next and final round, you will see this is simply not the case.
As for the PSN side, their network is also improving, albeit less ambitiously. Amid all the ruckus of DRM policies at E3 (more on that later), Sony quietly stated that the PS4 will require a PS Plus subscription to play games online. I didn’t expect them to keep that aspect free forever, but it should be noted that with a paid service, a rise in quality should be in order to justify charging money for a previously free service. Their previous advantages for PS Plus are now included with Xbox Live, such as monthly free games (although XBL only has two a month versus Plus’ Instant Game Collection which has about 10) and cloud storage. At least Sony is finally adding cross-game chat.
XBL and PSN have both added an exciting new feature to their consoles: a DVR that records your gameplay. Both systems have a DVR that is always recording your recent gameplay, so if you do something amazing (or even if you don’t) you can instantly share it through social media, but developers can also decide to disable certain videos and images to avoid possible spoilers. The only issue is if either company decides to monetize the uploaded videos, a la Nintendo. But this is still a huge step forward for gaming because it makes it feel even more like a community.
Now that the dust has settled after E3 and Microsoft’s policy reversals, both systems are evenly matched as far as DRM is concerned. Xbox One will join the PS4 by not restricting used games, and their is no mandatory daily online check-in for the XBox One (except connecting to download the patch to allow these changes). The important lesson to take out of that whole situation is that if we the consumers are loud enough, and back it up with our wallets, we can make change occur. This was a victory for gamers, but we shouldn’t still be angry with Microsoft for wanting to increase their bottom line. They are ultimately a company, and companies have one job: to make money. If anything, it shows that they listen to their customers and were willing to swallow their pride and do the right thing.
A mistake made by both companies is that they are not backwards-compatible. Obviously, they want to continue support for their current consoles for the next few years, but it just isn’t consumer-friendly.
This one was close, but due to their advanced online services:
Round 2 goes to Xbox One
By Josh Baumbach