Though it's a term favored by many in the media – one we're guilty of using ourselves, in fact – many gamers hate the idea of the so-called "console wars." This term, they say, puts gamers at odds with one another and leads them to bicker amongst themselves rather than at publishers and developers who should be pushed to improve their products. Even ”South Park” has taken the opportunity to lampoon this supposed fissure between the two "factions."
Now, in particular, as the results of the eighth generation's console launches begin to roll in, it becomes increasingly difficult to see this as a hard-fought battle – one with no give or take. Both consoles have similar features, and have sought to match one another bit by bit. Their launch day reviews seem to echo one another: each of them solid 8-out-of-10 machines, great but not perfect, buggy yet necessary to move the industry forward.
While Microsoft (MSFT) and Sony (SNE) have duly patted each other on the back in the spirit of competitive camaraderie, their sales data has them neck-and-neck, too. Both the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One have seen record-breaking releases with over a million sales on their respective launch days.
With so much in common with one another, the dividing issue is a singular, but important one: the games.
Oh, sure, the Xbox has TV integration, accompanied with its voice commands, while the PS4 has a touchpad and motion-based interface. But with a customer base that is rapidly ditching cable television and is jaded by highly promoted features like the Siri and the Playstation Move motion controller, these latest features are likely to be disregarded as gimmicks by many hardcore gamers. (Others, like my roommate, may still be drawn by the ability to, say, control their device with voice commands.)
As for the games, both consoles have launched with relatively weak lineups – most launch titles for each console have been met with lukewarm reviews. The ones that have been well-received are somewhat niche offerings – the Xbox's car racing simulator “Forza Motorsport 5,” for example, or the PS4's indie shoot-em-up “Resogun.” Until more quality games are released, next-gen console owners with mainstream tastes are basically playing with $500 Netflix (NFLX) machines.
The fanboys have already made their inevitable choices, but legions of undecideds still lurk in the wings. While "console exclusives" – titles available only on one platform or another – are an oft-derided element of the console gaming landscape, they could ultimately decide the winner of this generation's "console war." Only when consumers start purchasing an Xbox One to play the new “Halo game or a PS4 to try the latest “Infamous will we start to get a better picture of this generation's winner.
For now, though, it's a dead heat.
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