It’s hard to believe that both the PS4 and Xbox One are celebrating their third birthdays this month. Back when the systems were about to launch, we discussed the advantages of choosing the PS4 vs. choosing the Xbox One. Since both consoles are fairly similar, it’s safe to say that most people prefer one or the other.
— Aaron Greenberg (@aarongreenberg) October 14, 2016
Since late 2013 when these systems launched, the PS4 has been the leader in units sold pretty consistently with a few exceptions. For the past three months (September being the third), however, Xbox has been on top. Let’s discuss why this is happening and what we might see going forward into the blockbuster holiday season.
The Timing of Console Revisions
The biggest cause of Xbox’s rise in popularity is certainly the new Xbox One S. Prior to this year’s E3 conference, we knew that Sony and Microsoft were each working on two new iterations of their systems. Each announced a “revised” system and an “upgraded” system, and the timing of these is what propelled Microsoft to the front recently.
Microsoft’s Xbox One S (our review), released in August, is a better system than the original Xbox One (our review). The biggest changes are in the video department, as it features 4K video output for streaming services and Ultra HD Blu-ray support for physical media. The system is also 40% smaller and a lot sleeker than the original model.
Sony’s comparable product released in September, the PS4 Slim, isn’t nearly as exciting. The Slim is essentially just an updated PS4 model for people who didn’t buy a PlayStation 4 earlier. It doesn’t feature support for 4K video, lacks an Ultra HD Blu-ray player, and simply serves as the new baseline PS4. Microsoft, on the other hand, is still selling both models of the Xbox One.
It’s not all bad for the PS4, though. Neither system outputs games in 4K, both have HDR support, and both have had minor tweaks on their controllers. However, for folks who didn’t own either system and wanted to get the best console for their money, the Xbox One S was that option for the past several months.
So, the timing of the revised consoles explains the Xbox’s popularity, but don’t forget about the upcoming more powerful iterations. The PS4 Pro, arriving on November 10, brings 4K support for media and games, along with increased specs under the hood. Xbox’s equivalent, Project Scorpio, isn’t set to arrive until the end of 2017.
This means that early PS4 adopters who want the most powerful console experience are likely waiting to buy a PS4 Pro. Meanwhile, the Xbox One S is good enough for those who don’t want to wait for Project Scorpio, or who want a 4K video player. The split timing of the two console revamps has surely had an impact, and will be something to watch as the PS4 Pro launches.
The question of which game has the better exclusive games is often subjective. If you love Japanese RPGs, you’ll have plenty to play on the PS Vita, while a shooter fan would consider the system a waste of money. Likewise, the PS4 and Xbox One both offer some solid games you can’t get on the other system.
The two highest-profile Xbox-exclusive games released recently are Forza Horizon 3 and Gears of War 4. As these both fell into the three-month window of Microsoft’s dominance, it’s a fair bet that a lot of people bought an Xbox for one of these titles. Conversely, the big PS4 exclusives of this year, like Uncharted 4, released closer to the first half of the year.
Heading into the holiday season, this shouldn’t have as much of an impact. Nearly all the big blockbuster games, like Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, Battlefield 1 (our tips), Watch Dogs 2, and Titanfall 2 are cross-platform. Thus, gamers shouldn’t flock to either platform based on games alone.
PlayStation Plus vs. Xbox Live
Last generation, discussing the consoles’ premium online services was a lot different. Since the PS3 didn’t require you to pay to access multiplayer, PlayStation Plus didn’t feel like a requirement. Now, pretty much everyone has to pony up for PS Plus or Xbox Live.
The main features of the two services are similar — the ability to play online, free games each month, and cloud storage for saves. However, it’s no secret that the selection of PS Plus games has been pretty lousy for the past few months. Aside from the Resident Evil remaster in October, PlayStation’s games have been littered with mediocre indie titles and games from five or more years ago.
Additionally, the PSN has had more connectivity trouble than Xbox Live. From hacks taking down the network to security breaches, it’s understandable that some gamers would be wary about joining Sony’s network. Xbox Live presents itself as the premium option.
The free games for November are fairly decent on both sides, so we’ll see if one continues to outshine the other in the coming months.
Could This Change Soon?
The biggest shakeup coming to Microsoft’s streak is PlayStation VR. Released in October, PS VR is available to anyone with a PS4, and is significantly cheaper than PC-based VR systems like Oculus. Microsoft hasn’t announced anything like this for the Xbox, so gamers looking to get a taste of VR will have to stick with PlayStation.
With the PS4 Pro on the horizon, it’s anyone’s guess whether the trend of Microsoft staying on top will continue. Will the Xbox One S be enough to keep cutting-edge gamers away from the PS4 Pro? Only time will tell.
We want your input on the console sales! Do you own an Xbox or a PlayStation? Did you spring for an Xbox One S, or are you interested in buying a PS4 Pro? Leave your preferences and predictions down below to continue the discussion!
Image Credits: winui/Shutterstock