Xbox One vs. PS4: The final battle of the consoles?

Summary:The big showdown in tech this holiday and into 2014 is Xbox One vs. PlayStation 4. Why do we still need game consoles anyway?

David Gewirtz

David Gewirtz

Yes

or

No

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

Best Argument: Yes

24%
76%

Audience Favored: No (76%)

The moderator has delivered a final verdict.

Opening Statements

Transformation ahead

In Tarot, when a reader draws the Death card, that doesn't mean there's certain death in the future. Rather, most readers interpret the Death card as indicating change and transformation. Change can be scary, but it can also be beneficial, and that's how I'd interpret the future for the gaming console.

When compared to PCs, consoles are much easier to run and they provide a very predictable, branded environment for developers. Users don't need to spend nearly as much time fiddling and customizing and trying to get the games to just run. Compared to mobile devices, consoles offer unparalleled depth and power -- a level of raw performance and capability mobile devices just can't match.

But... not all customers need all that horsepower and not all customers want to spend another $500 when they've got an iPad and a PC. Not all customers want to shoot at each other, and not all customers like the idea of getting on social gaming networks and hearing or taking the abuse that's often there.

Casual gaming is very much on the rise. Dip-in-dip-out gaming, and free-to-play gaming are changing the playing field. Consoles aren't dead, but the game is on.

Are consoles dead? No way!

In fact, with a new generation of games consoles having just come to market, and big names such as Google and Apple positioning their pieces for an assault on the living rooms of the world, consoles are set to see their status increase. Why? Because the modern console is not just a platform for playing gams on, it is also a hub for all things entertainment, from music to TV shows and films.

While the consoles of yesteryear were aimed primarily at teenage boys who wanted to spend their free time virtually shooting each other in the face, the new consoles are aimed at those who want a tool to pipe multimedia from a variety of channels to their TVs.

Oh, and let us not forget that the bottom has fallen out of the PC market, and that gamers still need something to scratch their itch.

Consoles are far from dead.

The Rebuttal

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Welcome back to our Great Debate

    It's been a while since our last debate before the holidays, so our debaters have had a chance to brush up and make this a heated discussion. Everybody ready?

    Posted by Larry Dignan

    I'm set

    I'm looking for a fair fight even though I'm getting killed in the popular vote, so far.

    David Gewirtz

    I am for Yes

    Let's play

    I'm ready to argue.

    Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

    I am for No

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Why new consoles?

    The big showdown in tech this holiday and into 2014 is Xbox One vs. PlayStation 4. Why do we still need game consoles anyway?

    Posted by Larry Dignan

    It's a power play

    Game consoles fit that place in the market between the do-it-yourself PC game hot-rodders and the more casual games on tablets, smartphones, and the Web. The benefit consoles offer is a predictable and powerful environment with a controller interface tailored specifically to game play. There are triple-A titles that are deep, complex, and amazing that just wouldn't be nearly as enjoyable on a tablet or phone.

    Look, kids can happily enjoy their latest Barney episode on any screen they want, but to enjoy the full experience of a movie like Avatar, you want a big, HD screen with excellent sound. The same can be said for blockbuster games -- the consoles give a play environment that's more than just touch on a screen.

    David Gewirtz

    I am for Yes

    PCs are losing steam

    I can list a number of reasons why consoles are still important:

    •        The bottom gas fallen out of the PC market and gamers need a platform
    •        Consoles are cheaper than gaming PCs
    •        Consoles have a longer lifespan than gaming PCs
    •        Piracy is lower on consoles, so game publishers prefer them to the PC
    •        They're a great way for Microsoft and Sony to gain a foothold in the living room

    Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

    I am for No

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Battle for the living room

    Both game systems have integrated services and created efforts to be living room hubs. Will they be successful? Why or why not?

    Posted by Larry Dignan

    PS4 for the hard core

    I have my doubts about the television integration of the XBox One. People likely to want all that TV integration power are likely to be pretty particular over the devices and services they get their TV from, and the XBox One is limited to one HDMI feed into the box. People who just want to watch TV won't gravitate to the XBox One because it has a TV front-end. On the other hand, I think the subset of people who want to play and talk about their favorite sports may find a great opportunity in the XBox One.

    The PS4 is more a gamer's console, aimed at the gamer. I frankly think that's the better strategy, and given that the cost of entry is $100 less, it's probably going to have a lot of traction early on, especially if it can field games of the quality that eventually found their way to the PS3.

    David Gewirtz

    I am for Yes

    No clear future

    Games consoles have morphed from being a single-purpose device into a convergence device that handles a wide range of multimedia, streaming video and music from a whole host of providers.

    But the question as to whether they will be successful remains. Given that the home entertainment features are free, it is there for people to try out at their leisure. But given the success of devices such as the Apple TV and Roku, it is possible that people are ready to embrace media hubs.

    Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

    I am for No

  • Great Debate Moderator

    What's the better player?

    Which vendor is most likely to get the living room entertainment hub effort down?

    Posted by Larry Dignan

    It's a tie

    Well, it's odd, because Sony has the vertical integration. I have a Sony TV in my living room. Sony makes a great line of home entertainment products and has been doing so for decades. Yet the PS4 is less about owning the living room than owning gaming.

    Microsoft just has the XBox One, and while the Kinect is justifiably amazing, they're stuck with the same living room limitations everyone else is: fragmented intefaces, cable cards, and a TV distribution industry that doesn't want intrusion frome game console makers.

    I don't think either is going to win this outright.

    David Gewirtz

    I am for Yes

    Xbox One and PS4 are very similar

    At the moment, that's hard to tell. If we concentrate only on gaming devices, then Microsoft and Sony have very similar offerings, and unless another major player enters the market (Apple or Google, perhaps, or maybe even Valve's SteamBox) then I don't see there being much of a divide between the two.

    Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

    I am for No

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Why not the cloud?

    Why aren't we doing cloud gaming at this point?

    Posted by Larry Dignan

    Needs more value

    Well, in some sense we have been for years. One of the most popular games of all time, World of Warcraft, is arguably a cloud-based game. You run a client on the PC, but it's really GaaS (Gaming as a Service). Almost all the MMOs (massively multiplay online) games are cloud-based games.

    Microsoft tried to introduce a more cloud-centric model with the XBox One, but gamers and the press revolted. Gamers (like most consumers) don't want to be controlled, and Microsoft made a few strategic errors understanding its audience. For example, a huge number of serving military personnel play XBox games, and they're not able to stay connected all the time. The always-connected rule really freaked out the current generation of gamers.

    I think the answer is that cloud gaming will take off once vendors use the cloud to provide value and opportunity to consumers, rather than as another intrusive DRM capability.

    David Gewirtz

    I am for Yes

    Bandwidth

    It's hard for us who enjoy the benefits that fast broadband has to offer to see the world through the eyes of those who are accessing the web over a slow connection.

    Consoles are, by design, a mass-market device, and as such they need to cater to what the masses have access to, and right now fast broadband isn't ubiquitous enough for console makers to rely on owners having access to it.

    Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

    I am for No

  • Great Debate Moderator

    What's needed to stay alive?

    If consoles are going to stick around going forward what technologies will they need to stay relevant?

    Posted by Larry Dignan

    It's the games

    At this point in our evolution, I think it's less about technology than it is about great games. 3D and total immersion will be fun for some players, but disorienting to others. Physical experiences like the Wii and the Kinect will have an appeal, but it will be far from universal.

    But story-telling and creating a great game -- that's what brings people in. Nintendo did very well in the last console cycle even though it had the least appealing hardware. That's because they have titles like Mario that are just excellent games. Nintendo's failing with the Wii U (other than the incredibly bad naming choice) is that there haven't been any killer games that avid fans just have to have.

    David Gewirtz

    I am for Yes

    Keep ahead of the game

    The main thing that a console needs to stay relevant is that new versions are released regularly that has the performance overhead necessary to keep them in the game for a few years.

    The Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 were perfect examples of this, both consoles being far enough ahead of the game at the time they were released to be able to still be sold years later.

    Another thing that consoles need to stay relevant s content, and this now extends beyond games and into films, TV shows, and music.

    Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

    I am for No

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Content wars

    How important is the content and game releases to consoles? Is it all about exclusives?

    Posted by Larry Dignan

    It's quality first

    Exclusives help the consoles compete against each other, but that's mostly a marketing stunt. The fact is, if there's a Halo game that is exceptional and only runs on the XBox One, people will buy the console for it. If there's a Nathan Drake game that is just incredible and only runs on the PS4, people will buy the PS4 to play it.

    But, again, it's not about the exclusives, it's about the quality of the game. Vendors have to start with incredibly compelling games, and then, if they're that appealing, then the exclusive hook will work to fuel competitive console sales.

    David Gewirtz

    I am for Yes

    Exclusives matter

    Very, especially launch exclusives. However, consumers – especially those who buy a lot of titles – aren't all that thrilled by exclusives because it means buying multiple systems.

    Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

    I am for No

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Disappearing disks?

    In five years, do you see anyone really using physical disks and hardware for gaming?

    Posted by Larry Dignan

    No, except as a security blanket

    Disks, probably not, except as a security blanket to make gamers feel safe that they own their games. But we're moving out of being an ownership-centric society and we no longer hold our physical books in our hands or sort through our LPs while sitting on the floor in front of the record player. As long as the ability to switch and load games is fast and seamless, diskless gaming will be a winning future.

    David Gewirtz

    I am for Yes

    Bandwith decides

    It's all down to bandwidth. If enough people have access to fast connections, then physical disks will eventually vanish. But I don't see either the console makers or the games industry taking the risk of jeopardizing sales by moving to a download-only model until the market is absolutely ready for it.

    Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

    I am for No

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Why not a gaming PC?

    Why wouldn't a laptop or PC integrated into an entertainment center trump a console?

    Posted by Larry Dignan

    Tech support

    Well, I have one. I have a gaming laptop integrated into my 60-inch HDTV. I also have a PS3 and an XBox 360. I prefer to play the consoles over the gaming laptop because it never fails: with every new game, there's some new driver that needs to be loaded, some new need to fiddle with configurations, an hour or so of installing updates, and I spend more time being a living room IT guy than playing my game.

    So even though I have a very powerful gaming laptop -- and even though I like PC games like WoW a lot -- I prefer playing the console because if I have an hour free to play, I'd like to actually play and not take a busman's holiday from managing tech.

    David Gewirtz

    I am for Yes

    Stability

    The beauty of a games console is that they offer a stable platform in terms of design that changes very little over the lifespan of the device. Over the eight years that the Xbox 360 or seven years that the PlayStation 3 has been available, the platform has changed little, and games designed for the console when it was initially released will work on latest models and vice versa.

    PCs can't come close to offering developers this sort of hardware stability over an extended period of time.

    Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

    I am for No

  • Great Debate Moderator

    The mobile threat

    Will mobile games ultimately destroy consoles?

    Posted by Larry Dignan

    Mobile is catnip for game developers

    I certainly hope not. Mobile gaming is catnip for game developers, because the games are much cheaper to develop and highly profitable, especially when you add in-game purchasing. But as I said above, the tablet or smartphone just doesn't have the same depth as a triple-A console game.

    Also, I find I'm really off-put by all the in-game purchases in mobile games. I'd like to just buy a game (even if it costs more) and just enjoy it, rather than be pulled out of the enjoyment zone to be sold to every ten minutes.

    David Gewirtz

    I am for Yes

    Surviving separately

    I certainly hope not. Mobile gaming is catnip for game developers, because the games are much cheaper to develop and highly profitable, especially when you add in-game purchasing. But as I said above, the tablet or smartphone just doesn't have the same depth as a triple-A console game.

    Also, I find I'm really off-put by all the in-game purchases in mobile games. I'd like to just buy a game (even if it costs more) and just enjoy it, rather than be pulled out of the enjoyment zone to be sold to every ten minutes.

    Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

    I am for No

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Can mobile games compete?

    Can mobile games, which are usually simple and stripped down relative to console titles, improve enough to compete?

    Posted by Larry Dignan

    Yes

    The Infinity Blade series, by the same studio that makes Gears of War, is a good example. They know their craft. I'd still prefer to use a joystick and a 60-inch screen, but tablets are proving to provide good gaming experiences. Consoles will still beat them with dedicated gaming hardware, but there are a few mobile games that show the potential.

    David Gewirtz

    I am for Yes

    Maybe

    I don't see mobile gaming as competing against the console as much as appealing to a different market. That market might be eating into console gaming at the edges, but gamers aren't going to be playing CoD on tablets any time soon.

    Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

    I am for No

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Sharing Halo

     Do you see Halo on a tablet anytime soon? Should that be a focus for Microsoft?

    Posted by Larry Dignan

    In with the old and out with the new

    The original Halo game came out in 2001 and would certainly run quite nicely on a tablet, if Microsoft chose to port it. Halo Spartan Assault is a Halo-branded game that runs on the Lumia 520 Windows Phone (and above). So, we are, technically, seeing Halo on a tablet. And since there are Windows (not RT) tablets out there with pretty decent graphics processors, and there's a Halo Windows port, the answer it's that it's already available.

    But going to the spirit of the question, will we see a Triple-A brand-new, major Halo game on a tablet? Probably not.

    David Gewirtz

    I am for Yes

    No, no

    With the Xbox, Microsoft doesn't need to do this.

    Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

    I am for No

  • Great Debate Moderator

    The pocket book

    How important is pricing to this console battle?

    Posted by Larry Dignan

    Huuuge

    Nintendo won the last console cycle on price, more than anything else. The Wii had some novelty value early on, but it certainly wasn't a better console. It's a big bet Microsoft is making, pricing the XBox One at a hundred bucks more than the PS4.

    David Gewirtz

    I am for Yes

    Money matters

    And this is why it's important that consoles have a long lifespan, because this allows the price to fall so it can enter the market at all levels. The early adopters pay the big bucks, then over the course of a few years the console slowly drops in price until it is phased out. That way the makers squeeze the maximum revenue from the device.

    Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

    I am for No

  • Great Debate Moderator

    The toughest road ahead

     Assume there won't be three large game console makers in the future. What gaming player---Nintendo, Sony or Microsoft---has the most challenges?

    Posted by Larry Dignan

    Nintendo: No backup plan

    Nintendo. This is Nintendo's only business, where Sony and Microsoft have vast holdings in other areas that can help balance out the losses and provide added value, synergies, and technological assets to the gaming business. Nintendo... Nintendo is betting the FarmVille on the Wii U and is currently hanging on because of the huge success of the DS.

    I frankly expect Nintendo to go the way of Sega, drop the hardware business, and port its titles to tablets and smartphones. That would be a winning strategy because Nintendo's games, of all the big console vendors, have the best fit for mobile and the deepest library of successful handheld titles.

    David Gewirtz

    I am for Yes

    Nintendo: A flat tire

    Nintendo. After the flash-in-the-pan success of the Wii, the company has struggled to keep the dollars flowing in. The Wii broke new ground and bought gaming to a whole new audience. The problem though was that it didn't seem like a committed audience, and wasn't really interested in buying games beyond what was bundled with the console.

    Nintendo has some valuable properties – Mario, for example – but it needs to  figure out whether these are best leveraged on their own platforms, or on a wider stage.

    Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

    I am for No

  • Great Debate Moderator

    The end

    Thanks again for joining us. As usual the debaters did a great job. Stay tuned for their closing statements on Wednesday and my choice for winner on Thursday. Please read the comments and add your own. And vote.

    Posted by Larry Dignan

Closing Statements

Consoles can't jump over obstacles

David Gewirtz

This debate asks the question of whether this is the final battle of the consoles, implying this is the last generation of consoles we'll ever see. I'll throw a bone to my opponent by coming out and saying that I expect there to be future console generations. But…
 
… the games business is changing, like everything else in computing. Mobile and cloud have reached into gaming and caused disruption as much as they have in music, entertainment, and our own enterprise IT world.
 
PC gaming will stick around as long as there are PCs, because there will always be a generation of Hot-ridders who want to get the most out of their gear. Big, triple-A console titles will also stick around like the big blockbuster movies we see each summer. That said, like the blockbuster movies, the big console triple-A titles are getting mind-blowingly expensive and each one is a bet-the-company gamble. That risk will help divide the gaming market into the few, very big-budget players and a wide range of players who will take advantage of the vastly larger market and vastly lower entry cost of mobile.
 
So, vote Green/Yes if you, like me, are convinced consoles ain't ever gonna be the same, that the console vendors put a higher priority on intellectual property security than gameplay, and that no one hardware maker will ever own the living room entirely. 

Game consoles will stay, let's play

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

I see that I'm not alone in thinking that game consoles are going to stick around for some time to come.

While there was a time when it seemed like the HTPC – Home Theater PC – was going to be the piece of tech that dominated the living room, its reign was cut short by the more versatile, easier-to-use game console. And now that all the major players in the games console market have transformed the box into a hub for all things media, these devices appeal to more than just the gamers in the house. The game console now combines the gaming power of a PC, the flexibility of a set-top box, and the convenience of a media extender into a single unit.

Add to that, a connection to the web and the hardware overhead will last for many years worth of improvements through system updates, and still give you a winning device.

Long live the game console.

David gets the win

Larry Dignan

I came in predisposed to think that cloud gaming will trump consoles by time the next product cycle rolls around. The crowd and Adrian Kingsley-Hughes argued that consoles will stay relevant, but David Gewirtz had a better argument by a slim margin. If CES talks taught us anything this week it's that cloud gaming has some tech hurdles, but they can be overcome. David gets the win. 

Topics: Great Debate

About

Larry Dignan is Editor in Chief of ZDNet and SmartPlanet as well as Editorial Director of ZDNet's sister site TechRepublic. He was most recently Executive Editor of News and Blogs at ZDNet. Prior to that he was executive news editor at eWeek and news editor at Baseline. He also served as the East Coast news editor and finance editor at CN... Full Bio

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