Nov 16 2013
The next generation of consoles is here. Sony is already selling the PS4 in the US and probably some other countries, and Microsoft will begin shipping the Xbox One next week, too.
I’ve always been quite happy with the Xbox 360 and I have a weak spot for Microsoft when it comes to gaming platforms – after all, I grew up with PCs running Microsoft’s operating systems, and that somehow shaped my perception of the gaming world.
When the Xbox 360 was released, I thought that this was the first console EVER that was powerful to play the games that I wanted play. I’m a die hard fan of the First Person Shooter genre, and all the shooters that I want to play run on the 360. While the same game on a PC might look better than on a console, there is this one killer argument against using a PC for playing games: MONEY.
I grew tired of constantly upgrading my PC hardware to keep up with the requirements of the latest games. I just want to install the game and play it – I don’t want it to be a burden on my budget. When you buy a console, you no longer need to constantly upgrade your PC. That’s a good thing.
And now, after almost eight years, comes the next generation of consoles from Sony and Microsoft. At 400 bucks for the PS4 (without camera) and 500 Euros for the Xbox One (with Kinect), it’s a small investment for a piece of equipment that’s supposed to serve for at least seven years. If your budget allows it and if you’re a hardcore gamer, you should buy both anyway. But in the world where I live you actually have to work for your money, so you might only be able to buy one of the two.
So which one is it going to be?
Normally I’d say it simply is a question of which platforms has the exclusive titles that you are more interested in. The discussion back in the PS3 and 360 days was about whether you preferred Dead Rising and Gears of War over The Last Of Us and Killzone.
But I’m afraid that it’s no longer that simple, and the reason for this are three letters and how they changed how we looked at many things. These three letters are: NSA.
It’s already bad enough that each and every cell phone – and that especially includes old, non-smartphone cell phones – can easily be turned into a microphone and tracking system. Yes, if “they” want, “they” can listen to anything you say just as long as your mobile phone is in the same room as you. And yes, “they” can also easily triangulate your geographical position as long as your 20 year old Nokia “bone” is turned on and near you. No, you don’t have to own an Android, Windows or Apple iOS smartphone for this – an extremely old Nokia or Motorola cell phone is more than enough for this magic.
That we know for quite a while now. That we’ve been ignoring for a very long time. That let us sleep well anyway.
But then came Snowden and revealed all those top secret documents to the public, and by now we KNOW that there never were any conspiracy theories – the actual truth is even more fantastic than the worst conspiracy theories ever were.
The government HAS built more than just one machine, and we ARE being watched every hour of every day. At least as long as we are on the Internet.
The question now is: Do you want a device in your living room that can only be turned on by a voice command, which already means that its microphone actually is always listening to you 24 hours every day, and that has a camera that is always pointed at you and that runs facial recognition on everybody within its range? Because that device is the Xbox One with its mandatory Kinect camera – a device that also needs to be connected to the Internet at least occasionally to keep functioning properly.
I don’t know about you, but while the geek in me somehow is still fascinated by this technology, the human being in me – to put it very mildly – is not comfortable with this scenario at all.
That does not mean that I think that Sony is more trustworthy than Microsoft. Certainly not – for example, I have not forgotten that these guys factually placed a root kit on the “Mr & Mrs Smith” DVDs when they released that movie and infected every PC that was used to playback the movie with their malicious software. No, Sony certainly is not more trustworthy than any other corporation.
Their only advantage currently is that they do NOT bundle the PS4 with the “Sony Eye” or however they call their alternative to Microsoft’s Kinect. The PS4 won’t be watching you every hour of every day, and it won’t be listening to you either. On top of that, the PS4 even has more powerful hardware, which will give it another advantage some time down the road when the exclusive titles come that will actually be able to fully use that hardware. The Xbox One has weaker hardware specifications out of the box and, as I’ve read today, even burns around 10% of those weaker resources for the Kinect sensors in the background. It already hurts the performance of the Xbox One today, and it will only get worse down the road.
So, as much as it pains me as an Xbox 360 fan to say this, there are very good reasons to buy the PS4 instead of the Xbox One.
Unless, of course, we just wait a little longer and see what Valve’s Steambox(es) will look like – and cost – when they are being shipped. That shouldn’t be far in the future, and until then, almost everything that can be played on an Xbox One or PS4 can still be played on today’s PCs, Xbox 360s and PS3s.