Xbox One vs PlayStation 4: The future of games and connectivity

By Claire Reilly

Today Sony and Microsoft went head to head at the E3 gaming expo in Los Angeles, with both companies using key note presentations to spruik their latest and greatest gaming consoles, the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One.

While there was plenty of talk about specs, graphics and new titles to play on each device, one of the major questions that today’s pressers raised was the future of the games themselves in the next generation of console gaming.

While gamers would previously have bought the majority of their new game titles as hard copies (whether cartridges or discs), the major console manufacturers are focusing more and more on digital downloads. When they’re released later this year, both the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 will feature internal hard disk drives and both platforms have prioritised cloud gaming, with the opportunity to play games online and download new titles direct to the console.

Following on from its Xbox One launch event in May, Microsoft last week outlined the licensing restrictions on new games, stipulating how gamers would be able to use titles on their device, with a strong focus on disc-less gaming.

As part of Microsoft’s licensing “platform policies”, traditional disc-based games will still be available for purchase and online, but the full library will be accessible from the Xbox One, without the need for a disc, thanks to cloud storage.

The Xbox One will also allow users to share games “with everyone inside your home”, and up to ten members of the user’s “family” will be able to log in and play any games from their library on any Xbox One.

While this seems to indicate Xbox One users will be able to share and share alike, there were significant caveats.

Microsoft said that on-selling of games will be possible, although this needs to be ‘enabled’ by game publishers and “third party publishers may opt in or out of supporting game resale”. Furthermore, although games can be given away, users “can only give them to people who have been on your friends list for at least 30 days and each game can only be given once”. Finally, Microsoft stipulates that “loaning or renting games won’t be available at launch”.

It seems that the days of passing on cartridges and discs to friends is on the way out if Microsoft has anything to do with it. And with an increased focus on cloud storage and gaming, it will be even easier for the brand to lock down how game content is passed around.

With the benefit of watching Microsoft take the first move at E3, Sony today came out with some not-so-subtle attacks on its main competitor, heralding the PlayStation 4’s free and open ecosystem.

Jack Tretton, president and CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment of America, took to the stage at the brand’s E3 presser and announced — to the raucous cheers of the crowd — that PlayStation 4 “won’t impose restrictions” on used games.

“When a gamer buys a PS4 disc, they have the rights to use that copy of the game, they can trade in the game at retail, sell it to another person, lend it to a friend or keep it forever,” said Tretton.

He also confirmed that gamers will have the “ability to play games that are downloading in the background” and play games through the cloud with “real world friends”.

Since launching, Microsoft has confirmed that the Xbox One is designed to establish an online connection at least once a day to verify whether updates are needed. The brand notes that “a persistent connection is not required,” but that offline gaming “is not possible” for more than 24 hours on the user’s primary console, or more than one hour if the user is accessing their library from a separate console.

Many gamers may resent having to maintain a near-constant internet connection to play their games, and Sony’s Tretton took a deliberate swipe at this ‘always on’ connectivity.

“Playstation 4 disc-based games don’t need to be connected online to play, or for any type of authentication,” he said. “PS4 won’t require you to check in online periodically. And it won’t stop working if you haven’t authenticated within 24 hours.”

Both brands clearly have different attitudes towards the future of gaming. The question that remains is how gamers will respond to the launch of each device — Australian retailers will have to wait until the end of the year to see how sales fare.

Either way, the days of heading down to the local retailer to buy a hard copy of the newest game release may be numbered.

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