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

Sony's latest console is notably more powerful than Microsoft's, but raw hardware capability has rarely determined market leadership in the gaming industry. Will extra horsepower help PlayStation 4 to create a significant sales advantage over Xbox One?

Feb 4, 2014 at 5:30PM

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), 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. 

Your living room is the next battlefield
You know the way you consume entertainment now is under siege. But do you know how to profit? There's $2.2 trillion out there to be had and when the guard changes, three companies will be poised to benefit. Click here for their names. Hint: They're not Netflix, Google, and Apple.

Keith Noonan has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Activision Blizzard. The Motley Fool owns shares of Activision Blizzard and Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

1 Key Step to Get Rich

Our mission at The Motley Fool is to help the world invest better. Whether that’s helping people overcome their fear of stocks all the way to offering clear and successful guidance on complicated-sounding options trades, we can help.

Feb 1, 2016 at 4:54PM

To be perfectly clear, this is not a get-rich action that my Foolish colleagues and I came up with. But we wouldn't argue with the approach.

A 2015 Business Insider article titled, "11 websites to bookmark if you want to get rich" rated The Motley Fool as the #1 place online to get smarter about investing.

"The Motley Fool aims to build a strong investment community, which it does by providing a variety of resources: the website, books, a newspaper column, a radio [show], and [newsletters]," wrote (the clearly insightful and talented) money reporter Kathleen Elkins. "This site has something for every type of investor, from basic lessons for beginners to investing commentary on mutual funds, stock sectors, and value for the more advanced."

Our mission at The Motley Fool is to help the world invest better, so it's nice to receive that kind of recognition. It lets us know we're doing our job.

Whether that's helping the entirely uninitiated overcome their fear of stocks all the way to offering clear and successful guidance on complicated-sounding options trades, we want to provide our readers with a boost to the next step on their journey to financial independence.

Articles and beyond

As Business Insider wrote, there are a number of resources available from the Fool for investors of all levels and styles.

In addition to the dozens of free articles we publish every day on our website, I want to highlight two must-see spots in your tour of

For the beginning investor

Investing can seem like a Big Deal to those who have yet to buy their first stock. Many investment professionals try to infuse the conversation with jargon in order to deter individual investors from tackling it on their own (and to justify their often sky-high fees).

But the individual investor can beat the market. The real secret to investing is that it doesn't take tons of money, endless hours, or super-secret formulas that only experts possess.

That's why we created a best-selling guide that walks investors-to-be through everything they need to know to get started. And because we're so dedicated to our mission, we've made that available for free.

If you're just starting out (or want to help out someone who is), go to, drop in your email address, and you'll be able to instantly access the quick-read guide ... for free.

For the listener

Whether it's on the stationary exercise bike or during my daily commute, I spend a lot of time going nowhere. But I've found a way to make that time benefit me.

The Motley Fool offers five podcasts that I refer to as "binge-worthy financial information."

Motley Fool Money features a team of our analysts discussing the week's top business and investing stories, interviews, and an inside look at the stocks on our radar. It's also featured on several dozen radio stations across the country.

The hosts of Motley Fool Answers challenge the conventional wisdom on life's biggest financial issues to reveal what you really need to know to make smart money moves.

David Gardner, co-founder of The Motley Fool, is among the most respected and trusted sources on investing. And he's the host of Rule Breaker Investing, in which he shares his insights into today's most innovative and disruptive companies ... and how to profit from them.

Market Foolery is our daily look at stocks in the news, as well as the top business and investing stories.

And Industry Focus offers a deeper dive into a specific industry and the stories making headlines. Healthcare, technology, energy, consumer goods, and other industries take turns in the spotlight.

They're all informative, entertaining, and eminently listenable ... and I don't say that simply because the hosts all sit within a Nerf-gun shot of my desk. Rule Breaker Investing and Answers contain timeless advice, so you might want to go back to the beginning with those. The other three take their cues from the market, so you'll want to listen to the most recent first. All are available at

But wait, there's more

The book and the podcasts – both free ... both awesome – also come with an ongoing benefit. If you download the book, or if you enter your email address in the magical box at the podcasts page, you'll get ongoing market coverage sent straight to your inbox.

Investor Insights is valuable and enjoyable coverage of everything from macroeconomic events to investing strategies to our analyst's travels around the world to find the next big thing. Also free.

Get the book. Listen to a podcast. Sign up for Investor Insights. I'm not saying that any of those things will make you rich ... but Business Insider seems to think so.

Compare Brokers