How Important Is PlayStation 4's Power Advantage Over Xbox One?

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The buildup to the releases of the Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT  ) Xbox One and the Sony (NYSE: SNE  ) PlayStation 4 saw the two devices compared to each other at nearly every facet and juncture. As two similar pieces of hardware from rivals in the gaming space that will play host to a great deal of the same software, these comparisons are certain to persist throughout each console's respective lifecycle. While the Xbox One can broadly be said to offer more in the way of media functions, Sony's PlayStation 4 offers more powerful hardware at a lower price.

The respective launches of these two consoles saw versions of premier titles from Activision Blizzard (NASDAQ: ATVI  ) (NASDAQ: ATVI  ) , Ubisoft (NASDAQOTH: UBSFF  ) , and Electronic Arts  (NASDAQ: EA  ) offer better performance overall on Sony's console. Will this trend continue throughout the console generation? If so, will it have a significant impact on market share results?

Opening act stumbles
Given that launch software has typically been a poor indication of what systems are capable of, there has been at least some reason to hold off on making judgments as to whether the PS4 version of multi-platform games would typically run better than their Xbox One counterparts. Which version of a game runs best will often be a question of which platform the lead version was developed on, and that was frequently the Xbox 360 in the last console cycle. With the PlayStation 4 having a hardware advantage and being much easier to develop for than its predecessor thanks to a more conventional system architecture, this trend is not likely to continue.

Frame raider
Released on both the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One, Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition is an updated version of publisher Square Enix's 2013 action adventure game that saw the reinvention of famed heroine Lara Croft. The title was one of last year's best-selling console releases and was listed by many critics as one of the best games of the year. The amusingly named Definitive Edition is also the latest instance of a multi-platform game that offers better overall graphical performance on the PlayStation 4.

The PS4 version of Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition generates display images at 60 frames per second while the Xbox One version is said to hover around 30 frames per second. With the PlayStation 4 version of the game being an average of 30 fps more definitive than the Xbox One version, the name is generating easy controversy in online communities.

Sony's console is known to have a more powerful GPU, and Definitive Edition will not be the last game that runs better on PS4. There may also be another explanation for the considerable difference in performance, however. Two separate teams were tasked with porting versions of Tomb Raider to the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. It has been said that the team that handled the PS4 version has more experience.

Performance anxiety
The question of whether Xbox One will almost always have trouble matching the performance of PS4's versions of multi-platform titles is worth considering. News that 2013's Call of Duty: Ghosts would run at only 720p on the Xbox One while rendering at 1080p on the PS4 kicked off the initial rounds of performance controversy. Subsequent announcements that Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag and EA's Battlefield 4 also offered graphically superior PS4 versions were the beginnings of a trend that will likely persist throughout this console generation.

There's talk that Microsoft will be unlocking some of an approximate 10% graphical processing reserve in a coming update for One. Such a move could improve the system's performance by a small margin, but would not approach bridging the current tech gap that comes from PS4's GPU and RAM advantages. The PlayStation 4's lower price point has likely been the main factor driving its early sales lead over Microsoft's new console. If Sony's system routinely offers graphically superior versions of multi-platform releases, the fact that Xbox One costs $100 more becomes increasingly problematic.

A battle of content vs. performance?
Microsoft has a successful history of making deals to secure exclusive content. Not only were last gen's "Call of Duty" titles developed first on Xbox 360, they also featured exclusive downloadable content for the system. This has continued with Ghosts for Xbox One and EA's Battlefied 4 also features timed-exclusive DLC. On the other hand, Ubisoft's latest "Assassin's Creed" currently offers exclusive content on the PS4. These types of deals arrange for (often temporary) points of distinction across versions that are usually very similar. In order to make up for the considerable performance gap between the two consoles, Microsoft could wind up pursuing exclusivity contracts even more aggressively than it did in the last cycle.

Having the definitive version of third party software matters
There are multiple ways to define "definitive." PS4's power advantage is real and it is significant. Whether Microsoft can arrange the right partnerships and realize its multi-media integration goals will determine how the broader consumer base comes to view PlayStation 4's power advantage. 

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Read/Post Comments (11) | Recommend This Article (8)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

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  • Report this Comment On February 04, 2014, at 9:30 PM, anrbfan wrote:

    Important enough that I am NOT buying an X-Box One.

  • Report this Comment On February 04, 2014, at 9:38 PM, ZephyrGumby wrote:

    This "article" is full of nothing but speculation. How does the author know what the "PS4's GPU and RAM advantages" are?

    The early games are based on working on new technology. Who knows what games will look like in 6 months or 6 years? These articles keep coming out of the woodwork and none seem to offer any real insight...just assumptions and more fan boy fun.

  • Report this Comment On February 04, 2014, at 11:39 PM, speculawyer wrote:

    The PS4 has better specs and is $100 cheaper. MS has an uphill battle here.

  • Report this Comment On February 05, 2014, at 2:48 AM, Bunnyking77 wrote:

    I'm not happy with either consoles but when I buy one it will NOT be an XBONE.

    $100 more for a weaker chipset that will NEVER run games at 1080HD/60FPS.

    PS4 is made for gaming and that's what I want, not a glorified cable box.

  • Report this Comment On February 05, 2014, at 4:04 AM, hawkhell wrote:

    Wasn't the Xbox One suppose to have cloud computing?

  • Report this Comment On February 05, 2014, at 8:59 AM, ThisGuyThatGuy wrote:

    So, here's an idea, let's hype up one company to where shares goes down for the other one (which we conveniently have stock in), and perhaps we can purchase more before it really kicks off in 3-5 years (which is how consoles usually go). I think there's a legal term for that...

  • Report this Comment On February 05, 2014, at 9:37 AM, gregpi2001 wrote:

    Zephyr and Charles, do your research and look at the specs for each machine. Both companies have stated their hardware and the specs for each machine. You can clearly see that the GPU and RAM on the PS4 is slightly better on the PS4 than it is on the One. How this will affect the outcome and the overall look of games over the next 10 years, well nobody knows. The potential is there though for the PS4 to be slightly better graphical and fps wise than the One. It's all going to be how the companies use this power though. So far most of the games that have came out on both systems have shown a slight increase in graphics and overall detail on the PS4 though. We'll see what the future holds.

  • Report this Comment On February 05, 2014, at 9:54 AM, adamlin747 wrote:

    I own and Xbox one and am planning on buying a ps4 soon. For those who think the ps4 isn't more powerful and this is "fan boy" stuff if you look at the specs which are out there is no question ps4 GPU outperforms the xbox ones. CPU pretty much same and ps4 has better RAM. So the ps4 IS more powerful, this isn't debatable it is a fact. HOWEVER that does not make it the better system, I bought xbox one first for two reasons, better launch games (imo) and ps4 was sold out :p I don't regret buying my xbox one and I doubt I will. Halo, Fable, Titanfall, gears of war, and many others you can't play on ps4. In terms of pure power pc trumps all. Content is king. With that said I will still be buying a ps4 as well.

  • Report this Comment On February 05, 2014, at 1:18 PM, richatct wrote:

    Totally irrelevant if one system has more power than another - they are essentially the same with minor tweaks and differences. If PS4 has a GPU that uses 128 mb of ram, and the Xbox one uses 156 mb of ram - rest assured, the video game makers will build the game for 128mb of ram for both systems, for the gpu, and so on. You see, video game makers (that make for both systems) will develop a game at the lowest common denominator. They are not going to spend twice as much R&D for one game to build it twice to use the max power for each system (and why would they spend the extra amount?). For the spec people out there - the only time that makes a difference is if a game is built for only ONE system - then they can use every ounce of power that one system can provide.

  • Report this Comment On February 05, 2014, at 2:06 PM, BlindSunlight wrote:

    ****I GET SO SICK OF THIS****

    They mention how Xbox has more entertainment value than PS4. HOWEVER PS4 has been praised to be a better media player than X1


    Cable pass through is a useless feature outside the US and useless to many inside the US. I mean how many millions have been cutting cords since Netflix? How many kids or young adults even care about cable? Not many.

    Now PS4 exclusive feature FRIEND SPECTATE/TAKE OVER MODE is a feature ALL can use and is a gamers feature.

    On top of that the power differences

    On top of that the free games via PS+

    On top of that the free exclusive content in AAA multi plats like Destiny, Watchdogs, Assassins Creed & Metal Gear

    Then Sony has good customer support and policies VS M$ being the worst I've ever dealt with (A) Halo 2 on PC Vista only (B) Drop of orig. xbox support/service as soon as 360 here (C) 360 - RROD to gain market share (D) paywall of basic features on both 360 & X1 (E) What they tried to do with X1 DRM/Always online/Kinect required or it's a brick (F) What they are doing now with Windows phone 7 xbox video content, forcing upgrades to windows phone 8.

    My two biggest complains about X1 though is the fact that you can only play single player games and watch disk based movies without xbox live unlike PS4 where you can do everything except online multi player. And the fact that Xbox live is a worthless service until games with gold finally arrives (which it'self has proven to be far inferior to PS+ free game offerings).

  • Report this Comment On February 05, 2014, at 5:57 PM, SmoothDouglas wrote:

    @BlindSunlight I hear ya, I'm sick of it too. You make some good points, but they are one perspective of an apparant fan of the PS4.

    The XB1 does simply have better Entertainment features than the PS4. Heck, the PS4 you can't even play CD's on a PS4!

    The Kinnect is a great selling point of the XB1. The camera on it is really good and I like to Skype friends and family simply by saying who I want to Skype and it calls them. Also, running the TV through the XB1 is quite fun and convenient. Pause, Play, turn volume up or down, switch channels by voice is not only convenient, but pretty darn cool. It comes in really handy when I'm running on the treadmill and I simply say, "XBox, watch ESPN." Voice controls also can record gameplay, open other Apps and other cool stuff. Some people could care less, but many, including myself love it. My TV remote could be lost and I'd be fine with it! You are right though, outside of the US features are non-existent or being added.

    The Friend Spectator mode on the PS4 is pretty cool. Wish the XB1 had that feature.

    The power differences are minimal. I've listened to podcasts with guests from GameInformer and others that state that the gameplay differences are MINIMAL. If you had the two side by side (which nobody does BTW) you can hardly tell the difference. This isn't from me, it's from Game review websites. Both consoles are in their infancy and I expect both to have little differences in the end.

    Yes, you get free games with PS+. That's great, but you also get it with XB Live. The difference being once you quit your PS+ subscription your games go Bye Bye. You own them for life on the XB Live.

    Let me answer you alphabet questions:

    A) Who cares, it's 2014? BTW, I got one of the Halo games free on XB Live!

    B) Don't's been forever since the original XB was replaced by the 360. Who cares at this point?

    C) How did the RROD get them MORE marketshare? If anything it hurt it? Facepalm..

    D) Paywall of basic features....Netflix, HBO Go and online gaming are behind the paywall. True. But XB Live's entertainment features and interface are leaps and bounds better than PSN. Something I'm more than willing to pay for. Especially security and stability where the PSN was crashed for months and had a security breach. You couldn't even play Multiplayer games! Sometimes you get what you pay for. PSN you do have to pay for online gameplay.

    E) I wanted to embrace the policies XB1 was going to use. They rolled back on it because some very vocal gamers couldn't envision what the future held. It's the same as the PS4 now. I don't see the problem.

    F) Windows Phone 7/Windows Phone 8...What the? Not sure what you're trying to get across here, but it's appears to be a worthless jab at something.

    The XB1 has a lot going for it. For example, they have 300,000 virtual servers being used to help better match players with players with their same abilities, match them faster and also help do some of the gameplay. Sony doesn't have anything close to this. Also, XB Live allows for game policing. Basically, it puts Gamers with bad reputations with those also with bad reputation and those good with good. I don't want to game with a 12 year old who talks trash and simply makes multiplayer unbearable. He'll now be playing with his other annoying 12 year olds while I game with my friends in peace!

    Games for both consoles will have great exclusives. The one that everyone is talking about is TitanFall, which will not be on the PS4. It's already won several awards and it hasn't been released yet. Also, Gears of War franchise was bought by MS. Gears will only be on the XB1.

    If you're a gamer, you are going to play online. Period. Sony finally threw in the towel on not charging for the PSN. They realized the PSN was so lacking compared to XB Live they had to bring in money to make it better. Plus, Sony is financially not doing the greatest. It's really a non issue unless you're a rabid PS fanboy who complained about how evil MS was for charging for XB Live. Now they're quiet as a church mouse once Sony stated they'd be charging for PS+ with the PS4. Hypocrites.

    All in all, the XB1 is great for ME and my family. Kids love the Kinnect games, I like the SkyDrive integration, Skype integration and XB Live is so much better than PSN.

    If you're stuck not knowing which one to get, I'd suggest you look at the lineup of exclusive games and decide on which ones you like better. If it's an even race, I'd go with the XB1 because it's a fantastic gaming device and much more than the PS4.

    It's funny, the most vocal, obnoxious commentors on the XB1.....don't even own one. They're the fans that love to put down anything not the PS4.

    Be happy with what you got, and Game On.

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