Yes, it’s still fun to pick sides. Have you already made up your mind?
Remember, competition stirs innovation. Just because you already have a spiffy home-console that you love, doesn’t mean there’s nothing that could make it even better. The console wars are still a fascinating debate, reading between the lines and judging how different companies react to each other is a longstanding gamer tradition. Genesis does what Nintendon’t!
The rivalry between Xbox and PlayStation has been brewing since the original Xbox was released in 2001. At the time, lots of people sneered at Microsoft’s hulking black system, with a giant green medallion in the middle. Competing with Japanese manufacturers like Sony and Nintendo didn't seem possible. Over a decade and a half later, the Xbox is credited with all kinds of industry innovations. The Xbox laid the groundwork for the massive push to online gaming and digital distribution. Not to mention more subtle additions like achievements and the transition from memory cards to hard drives. It’s also worth noting that the popularity of the Xbox 360 led to a lot of traditionally PlayStation exclusive titles to go multiplatform. Games like Grand Theft Auto, Final Fantasy, and even Guitar Hero were originally considered PlayStation games in the days of PS2.
So, in 2017, how do the two current Microsoft and Sony systems stack up? Well, they have a lot more in common than ever before, but somehow that makes the differences even more pronounced. The devil is in the details, and the nitty gritty of PlayStation vs. Xbox is a fascinating thing to understand. Let’s get digging.
24 Pro Xbox One: Playing Xbox 360 games on an Xbox One is the greatest
Technology marches on, but not having backwards compatibility of any kind was a rough way to start the console generation. Don’t forget, the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 generation was an unusually long era. The generation started in 2005 with Xbox 360 and lasted until the Fall of 2013 when the PlayStation 4 released (we had collected a lot of games in that time). The move to support Xbox 360 games on Xbox One is a fantastic, consumer friendly endeavor. Not only does it preserve gaming history, letting new generations enjoy games like Portal and Red Dead Redemption, but it means the Xbox One suddenly has a massive library of games available. Granted not all Xbox 360 games work on Xbox One yet, but Microsoft has been swiftly adding more each month. Not just that, but a lot of Xbox 360 games run even better on the improved hardware of the Xbox One.
23 Pro PS4: Japanese Games are still more likely to show up on PlayStation
Sadly for Xbox fans, Japanese game publishers still favour their homegrown console. It’s one thing to lose out on Sony-funded projects like Street Fighter V, (after all, Microsoft is bankrolling Killer Instinct), but not getting HD ports of old JRPGs like Final Fantasy X or Kingdom Hearts II really stings. Then there are upcoming releases, like Persona 5, that look unbelievably good. It starts to add up. Moreover, it’s not like there are a mountain other options for gamers that want to play titles in the vein of Ni No Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdom or Tales of Berseria. Japanese culture has been such a positive force in gaming, it is a real shame that sometimes Xbox misses out. On the bright side, at least Xbox One got Final Fantasy XV.
22 Pro Xbox One: Getting a free Windows PC version included with your Xbox game is a dream come true
We always like to imagine a no-compromises gaming experience. It’s this magical idea: that you could pop in a game and play it wherever you want. Nintendo even went as far as building their entire system around this hypothetical situation. Well, Microsoft is betting that if you own a Xbox One or a gaming PC (or both), you might run into a scenario where it’s easier to play your game across more than one device. So why limit players? If you buy a first-party Microsoft game digitally, you get both an Xbox One and Windows PC copy. The best part? Third-party developers are starting to jump onboard. Suddenly you aren’t tethered to one box to enjoy your games — it’s nice.
21 Pro PS4: You can stream PlayStation games on a Mac (as well as PC!)
There’s no arguing it: MacBooks are still a hugely popular laptop. For obvious reasons, Microsoft hasn’t made a huge effort to support Xbox gamers on the Mac, which is kind of a bummer. Xbox head Phil Spencer did say that an Xbox app could come to OS X, but it’s “about development priorities.” Take that as you will. On the flip side, if you can’t play PlayStation 4 games in front of the tv, you can stream them to either a Mac or PC without much hassle. Sony’s Remote Play feature is an impressive one for slower games that don’t require a whole lot of precision. You won’t be completing Destiny raids or Dark Souls bosses, but it does give us more ways to stay connected to the games we love.
20 Pro Xbox One: The Kinect is secretly cooler than you think
The affair with the Kinect has always been a bit of hostile relationship. For consumers, the biggest problem with the Xbox One at launch was that it came bundled with a mandatory Kinect — making a steep purchase even more expensive. Microsoft took the Kinect out of the box fairly quickly and that was the right move for them at the time. The fascinating thing is that other software giants knew Microsoft was onto something. Siri, Alexa, Google Assistant… Big companies want you using voice control for everyday tasks and Microsoft’s Cortana is no exception. It’s the little things, like using the Kinect to pause a tv show or raise the volume on your TV. These are helpful little additions. Not to mention how much better dancing games are on the Xbox. Seriously, Dance Central Spotlight is the best dancing game ever made.
19 Pro PS4: PlayStation VR is not-so-secretly cooler than you think
Don’t knock it till you try it. The PlayStation VR, when it’s firing on all cylinders, is really, truly, amazing. We’re not convinced it’s the future of gaming —or that one day it is how we’ll play all games— but VR is definitely onto something special. It might sound like marketing spin, but looking into a mirror and seeing Batman --or physically ducking to hide behind a desk-- is impressive. Resident Evil 7 is proof that a whole game can be sustained in VR, now we just need a game built for it. Between the millions of PS4s out there and the relatively affordable cost of PSVR, Sony has the means to make virtual reality happen. More to the point, of all the ‘gimmicks’ to hit store shelves, VR is the most likely to succeed. The tech is too impressive for it not to find a market — someone will make VR viable.
18 Pro Xbox One: There is a huge selection of different Xbox One controllers
With names like Copper Shadow and Lunar White, Xbox One controllers are really brazen and stylish. What started as a small community of players spray painting the faceplates of their controllers has turned into a cool side-project for Microsoft. Since Microsoft already has the tools to build their own flashy controllers, the company gave the reigns to players as well. Xbox Design Lab lets you customize your own Xbox One controller with official components from Microsoft. Best of all, since Xbox One controllers are Bluetooth, you can use that personalized controller on a wide-range of devices. Then there’s the Xbox Elite controller, which costs a pretty penny but is for all intents and purposes the best gaming controller ever built.
17 Pro PS4: The PS4 controller is rechargeable
It’s a simple luxury, but there you have it. Not having to think about batteries is a significant bonus. It almost feels antiquated in 2017 to have to consider buying and properly disposing of batteries. Granted, you can buy a battery pack for Xbox controllers and simply replace it if they ever stop keeping their charge. Let’s be realistic, though: we’re going to totally mangle our PlayStation controllers (and need to replace them) before our batteries fail. It would be nice if PS4 controllers stayed charged a little longer or let you disable the battery-draining light bar. Still, better to have rechargeable batteries then suddenly realizing there aren’t anymore AA batteries in the house halfway through an online game of Rocket League.
16 Pro Xbox One: Cloud Saves are a Breeze on Xbox One
Make it fast. Make it magic. Microsoft's near instant cloud saves are unparalleled. It goes hand-in-hand with their Windows 10 cross-buy initiative. Stop playing a game on Xbox One, and it will instantly sync between all of your accounts. Your saves push out immediately. They don't wait for a designated period or make you wait while your account fetches data from the cloud. It sounds cliche, but it “just works.”
You also don’t need a subscription to use cloud saves on Xbox One. With PlayStation Plus, if your subscription lapses, you lose access to your remote save data. Obviously, that’s an upsetting prospect if an important save happens to be in the cloud at the end of your subscription. Luckily, Microsoft considers them an integral part of the package — if you’re gaming on Xbox, you have free storage in the cloud.
15 Pro PS4: PlayStation gives you more granular control over data
It’s baffling that this is something worth celebrating on a gaming console. Believe it or not, but only Sony (not Microsoft — the software giant) lets users get a clear picture of what is taking up space on their hard drives. Obviously, both machines give you some sense of how much space you have available, but only PlayStation surfaces that data in a clear list of applications. That’s a hugely practical feature! If you need to clear out space for a brand new game, it’s way easier to delete one massive install than a batch of smaller ones. On Xbox One you need to click each game and individually check how much space they are using — it’s a chore. It’s not a sexy feature, it’s a meat and potatoes one; something you would expect to have.
14 Pro Xbox One: Game Preview lets you play games in development on Xbox (early access)
It’s a new way of looking at game development: the community as an integral part of the process. Getting to watch a game develop over time and having a chance to play iterative builds can be remarkably fascinating. Sure, there have been a handful of PC games that never finish their development and end up robbing prospective players of their hard-earned money, but it’s not all bad. Having a hands-on publisher like Microsoft carefully picking what projects are allowed release in Game Preview makes us rest a little easier. Letting us play massive projects like ARK: Survival Evolved and Gigantic (to name a few) before they're released is a treat. It’s hard to argue with giving console gamers access to some of the popular projects on Windows PC — Sony should take note.
13 Pro PS4: There are more (good) indie games on PlayStation
Plain and simple: there are more meaningful indie games on PlayStation 4. That’s not to say that Xbox One doesn’t have a great library of indie titles —they do— but PS4 has way more. Transistor, Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, Bound, SOMA, the list goes on. These are utterly fantastic games and a huge part of the fabric of the industry today. It’s downright disappointing that gamers without a Windows PC or PS4 can’t play them. There are a few reasons this happens, for starters Sony is privately funding a lot of these games. Titles like Journey or The Unfinished Swan simply wouldn’t exist without Sony putting their money down. The other, maybe bigger issue, is that there are more PS4s sold-to-date, so smaller developers are fiscally forced to develop for PlayStation 4 first and foremost. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.
12 Pro Xbox One: The Xbox One is a bastion of apps
For Microsoft, this is the big picture. The company wants your Xbox to be a beacon for you to connect with a whole world of content through the Xbox — not just games. There’s no doubt Sony would love to be the same thing, but Sony doesn’t have an entire ecosystem of products and services they’re filtering through the PlayStation. Windows 10, on the other hand, comes with an Xbox application pre-installed. In Microsoft’s vision, Xbox should be your home away from your computer, a way to connect to your PC when you’re not in front of it. That means apps of all shapes and sizes, made by small developers and big ones alike. Already there are Xbox apps for Reddit, radio, torrenting, etc. That’s on top of basics like YouTube and Netflix.
11 Pro PS4: Shopping on PSN is a way better experience than on Xbox
Browsing PSN is like being a kid in a candy store. Trying to find a game on Xbox is like being swept away in a current of marketing and bad design. On PlayStation, once you’ve entered the store, everything you need is right there: free PS+ games, what’s new, and games on sale. You never need to leave the store to find anything. With Xbox, you’re always being ushered to the next product, which is whatever being promoted today. PlayStation also has a bevy of simple features we’ve come to expect when shopping online. PSN has a ‘cart’ system and a wishlist — features bizarrely absent from the Xbox Marketplace. Microsoft created the digital marketplace on consoles but somehow lost touch with how people like to shop. Hopefully, they get their act together sooner than later.
10 Pro Xbox One: Game sharing is easy on Xbox One
Microsoft doesn’t exactly condone game sharing, but they haven’t condemned it either. On Xbox, it is very easy to give a friend access to your game collection while you’re not using it. Once you’re logged into an Xbox One, everyone on that console can play your games. The system automatically creates a new cloud save per account and even lets you earn achievements. On PlayStation, you need to use the license owner's account to play games purchased on it, which means if you ever do decide to buy that game you’ll have to start from square one. Xbox users can go a step further by setting up a different machine as their “home” console, which lets every other account on that Xbox have access to their licenses even if they aren’t logged in — perfect for families.
9 Pro PS4: PlayStation gives away more games with its subscription service
Quantity isn’t everything, but it helps. Every month both Microsoft and Sony give away a handful of games to Xbox Live and PS+ subscribers. Sony gives away more titles, though. PlayStation Plus subscribers get access to six games each month, and Xbox Live users can download four. One caveat to the PlayStation's service is that you need to own a PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation Vita to be able to play every single game made available. That being said, Sony seems to prioritize brand new indie games (like Rocket League). They even go the extra mile making some indie games for Vita also work on PS4. The counter to that is that all four games made free by Microsoft will work on an Xbox One, but are also often older titles. Maybe beggars can be choosers.
8 Pro Xbox One: The future of Xbox is bright — your games are future proof
Between the Games Anywhere Initiative and Project Scorpio releasing in 2017, you can rest assured that a lot of your Xbox games will still look their best down the road. Microsoft has gone the extra mile to bring individual Xbox 360 games to the Xbox One and are already scaling their new first-party releases for 4K. You can feel pretty confident your games collection isn’t going anywhere. This idea of owning all your games in perpetuity is exactly what Microsoft is hoping to cultivate. Microsoft wants you to amass a huge library of games on your account. Their whole philosophy right now is that it shouldn’t matter what (Microsoft) machine you want to play games on, your Xbox titles always go with you. It’s a preservationist fantasy and a great one at that. Xbox is in it for the long haul, and it shows.
7 Pro PS4: PlayStation games get high resolutions TODAY
However, most games look better on PlayStation 4 right now. Where games struggle to get a higher resolution than 900p on the 2013 Xbox One, it’s very rare for PS4 games to be lower than 1080p. Also, if you happen to be in the market for a new home console today, the PlayStation Pro is the most powerful machine on store shelves right now. If you want to play the very best console versions of Mass Effect: Andromeda or Resident Evil VII the PlayStation Pro is the way to go. That’s to say nothing of 4K, which already has lots of support on the PlayStation Pro, including breathtaking games like Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End. PS4 has developed the reputation of delivering higher fidelity games — and they have earned it.
6 Pro Xbox One: Xbox One has faster UI iteration
The Xbox One is updated fast and furious. When the console first launched it was a mess. Applications (including games) crashed regularly and it was riddled with options that were only accessible through voice command. Within a short window, things were largely fixed. That’s the story of the Xbox One’s user interface: Microsoft fixes problems quickly. In the relatively few years the console has been available, the company has already replaced the UI whole cloth and are already planning another substantial expansion. Remember, this is to compliment near-monthly updates. They also go one step further with an opt-in preview program that lets user have permanent access to a beta version of upcoming revisions.
5 Pro PS4: PlayStation has a better UI overall
There’s one key difference between the PS4 user interface and the Xbox One’s offering. If someone were trying out both systems for the very first time, with no prior experience, they would find PlayStation 4’s UI is entirely intuitive. It is nearly impossible to get lost with the PS4’s user interface. Games, Store, Friends, Settings, etc. Are all prominently displayed across the system’s media bar. The latest iteration of the Xbox One’s user experience —while still effective— is a little bit more complicated and takes a bit of learning. There are a lot of shortcuts to memorize when you're getting familiar with the Xbox One. Even surfacing your friends list takes a second to figure out. Xbox isn’t complicated, but it’s not altogether intuitive, which makes a big difference when you consider how many different kinds of players (of all ages) are likely to use it.
4 Pro Xbox One: Microsoft is in a platform war with Valve and Apple, not Sony or Nintendo
Microsoft’s gaming agenda is about more than just the living-room. Microsoft and Sony are both enormous companies, but their gaming branches exist for very different reasons. The gaming division of Sony is a tendril of their multi-fasciated business — it exists to sell and serve people content. For Microsoft, however, their gaming business is a pillar that supports the larger vision of the company: that your Microsoft services are integral to your day-to-day life. The gaming arm of Microsoft goes hand-in-hand with their PC and Tablet business, and that means they can bring you a suite of interconnectivity in the vein of Apple’s ecosystem. What’s more, Microsoft has been upfront acknowledging Valve as a massive competitor, which is great news for gamers. Steam is one of the most beloved services in gaming, and we would be thrilled if Microsoft borrowed some of its features going forward.
3 Pro PS4: PlayStation 4 does exactly what it needs to: It plays games
Gaming consoles are a means to an end. The faster you’re playing games, the better. This entry is the culmination of a lot of things we’ve talked about so far. If you don’t want to fiddle with batteries, or accounts, or learning a new user interface, the PlayStation 4 is the system for you. If all you want to do is put a disk in the machine and press play, then you should get a PS4. It’s simple. Sony doesn’t have some of the bleeding-edge of technological ideas that Microsoft does, but it gets the job done. The PlayStation 4 is the clear successor in the line of home consoles that jumps from NES to SNES to PS1, PS2, and Xbox 360. It’s the go-to box for third-party games and ease of use. That’s been Sony’s idea from the beginning: put as many games as possible —from AAA to Indie— on a home console for the best price it can offer. It worked.
2 Pro Xbox One: Xbox One has more consistent first-party AAA exclusive games
Xbox exclusives are like friends who are always there for you. Since the Xbox One launched, there have been four new Forza games, two entries in the Halo franchise, a new Gears of War and a remastered one, as well as two Dead Rising games developed in Canada. That’s not all of Microsoft’s exclusive games, but it speaks volumes about how quickly and consistently they are developing titles. Combine that a handful of new IP, like ReCore, Quantum Break, and Sunset Overdrive, and it paints an optimistic picture of Xbox’s first-party offerings. Microsoft doesn’t get enough praise for delivering new, exclusive games, as regularly as they do. The analogy of Forza compared to Gran Turismo illustrates it perfect: in the decade between Gran Turismo 4 and 6, Microsoft launched the Forza franchise and released double the amount of Forza games. That goes a long way.
1 Pro PS4: PlayStation has more ambitious first-party AAA exclusive games
There is no denying the raw creativity Sony showcases with their first-party games. It may take years and years to make them, but there is no one else out there making giant AAA games like The Last Guardian. There’s no other company crazy enough to spend that much money building something with such niche appeal. Sony Computer Entertainment makes magic. There’s a reason why we’re already excited about the new God of War or Hideo Kojima’s next game. It can be aggravating when a big exclusive game like Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End gets delayed from the holiday window to late spring, but the wait is usually worth it. It’s reassuring to know that there is a big video game publisher who is always ready to take risks. Kudos to you Sony.