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The new reality of gaming: Updates for Xbox and Playstation redefine video games

The next generation of video games is almost upon us. Sony’s PlayStation4 and Microsoft’s Xbox One will both be launching this November, ushering in a new era of gaming. This release promises to be one of the most momentous launches in entertainment history and has the potential to cement video games as a powerhouse in the industry.

Sony’s PS4 launches first this year, arriving on Nov. 15 for $399. One of the most exciting new aspects of the PS4 is its completely redesigned controller, the Dualshock 4. The wireless controller features a clickable touchpad in the center, which is quite similar to a track pad on a laptop. It also features redesigned shoulder triggers, more ergonomic grips and a headphone jack tucked conveniently on the bottom of the controller.

The most intriguing and touted feature of the new Dualshock 4 is the “share” button.  With the simple press of a button, users will be able to seamlessly upload and share the last 15-minutes of game play to friends through their PS4 or other social media devices.

Also, the controller features a built-in infrared sensor that would work with Sony’s peripheral, PS Eye. However, Sony has decided to make the peripheral an optional purchase rather than a mandatory one, so this feature is now rendered practically useless.

On the hardware side, the PS4 is significantly more powerful than its predecessor with engineering similar to a high-end computer. More games will be able to run at 1080p resolution and 60 frames per second, which all translates to smoother game play and better visual fidelity. The PS4 also comes standard with a 500 GB hard drive, but this is entirely customizable and can be upgraded by the user.

Unfortunately, one downside to the PS4 is that users now have to pay an annual fee to play games online. While this is something Xbox owners have been accustomed to for the last several years, this will be a first for PlayStation. This restriction only applies to online play, however, so services like Netflix or Hulu Plus will remain uninhibited if users wish to not pay for the service.

Although, the benefit to paying for online is that it automatically makes you a member of Sony’s PlayStation Plus program. The service offers new deals every month ranging from free games, discounted games and 60-minute game trials. The only hook is that the free games you download are only yours to keep if you remain a member. Yet, any discounted games you buy as a member remain yours forever.

On the competitor’s side, Microsoft will be releasing the Xbox One on Nov. 22 for $499. Microsoft has made several changes to the Xbox One since its initial unveiling, so it’s important to get the facts straight about what exactly the Xbox One will offer.

For starters, the biggest feature of the Xbox One (and likely the reason for the $100 price difference) is the inclusion of Kinect 2.0 with every system. This is a completely redesigned version of Microsoft’s motion sensing peripheral that will become a staple of the Xbox One experience. Kinect 2.0 features improved voice recognition, body and facial recognition and can now recognize multiple people simultaneously.

While the demos and previews of Kinect 2.0 look promising, it is hard to say how impressive it will be prior to the release. Also, many are concerned that Xbox One’s success is tied too intimately to Kinect 2.0. This concern is worthwhile considering that Microsoft has yet to prove Kinect is anything more than just a gaming gimmack.

With regards to hardware, the internal specs are nearly identical to the PS4 so the graphical differences between the two machines are negligible. However, the Xbox One does have the potential to output games at an astonishing 4K resolution, more than double the current highest resolution of 1080p. Along with the PS4, the Xbox One comes standard with a 500 GB hard drive, but it is not user replaceable or customizable.

Furthermore, the Xbox One wants to be the ultimate multimedia box in your living room (or dorm room). Microsoft has paired up with several cable companies so that you can watch TV from your Xbox. The Xbox One’s hardware allows seamless transition from games, television, movies and music. With Kinect 2.0, you can say, “Xbox, watch the Cardinal’s game.” and it will switch to the game. This looks to be a standout feature of the Xbox One, but again, it remains to be seen how well it runs.

As for the controller, Xbox One’s is extremely similar to its predecessor, the Xbox 360. But in Microsoft’s case, this is a very good thing since the 360 controllers have become somewhat of the industry standard. Most of the revisions to the Xbox One controller are slight tweaks and modifications that only improve upon the original 360’s form. The analog sticks feature new grips, the battery pack is more flush with the controller and the shoulder triggers feature magnetic resistance so you’ll feel every recoil and punch thrown.

Also, the Xbox Live experience is practically the same from the last generation so users still have to pay an annual fee to access apps like Netflix and the ability to play games online. Microsoft still does not have an answer to PlayStation Plus’s program, so Microsoft seems to be lagging in this regard.

As for the launch lineups, both systems will feature a somewhat lackluster lineup. Xbox One’s includes the zombie slayer “Dead Rising 3,” racing simulator “Forza Motorsport 5,” ancient combat brawler “Ryse: Son of Rome” and fighting game “Killer Instinct.” The PS4’s lineup will include the high-powered shooter “Killzone: Shadow Fall,” the family friendly platform “Knack” and a miniature game/tech demo “Playroom” that requires the PS eye.

The promise of these new consoles lies in their great potential. Yet, it should be said that it may take a couple of years for the developers to fully harness the power of these machines and deliver true next generation gaming experiences. However, this shouldn’t dissuade you from looking into either one of these consoles as they look to be the new reality for gaming.


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