Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) Xbox One had a strong debut, selling millions in its first month on the market. But with the holiday rush over, sales have slowed to a crawl: Last month, rival Sony's (NYSE:SNE) PlayStation 4 outsold Microsoft's console by 2-to-1 in the U.S., and retailers have begun to offer incentives on the Xbox One to move inventory.
While the console race is still in its early stages, Microsoft appears to have its hands full. It's become clear that Sony's machine is more powerful, capable of offering much better-looking games.
Metal Gear Solid creator praises Sony's machine
Hideo Kojima, the creator of the legendary Metal Gear Solid franchise, has been a vocal supporter of Sony's PlayStation 4. Most recently, in an interview with Japanese gaming magazine Famitsu (via DualShockers), Kojima heaped lavish praise on Sony's latest console:
I think, between the home consoles available ... [Sony's] PS4 is the best. It's also excellent for graphics, being able to render 1080p at 60fps with room to spare. Since it does it a little better than other hardware, the image quality of the PS4 is the most beautiful.
Kojima's comments are particularly notable given that his upcoming work, Metal Gear Solid V, will appear on both Sony and Microsoft's consoles. In other words, Kojima is familiar with both machines, and has no reason to be biased.
Of course, Kojima's comments should come as no surprise to anyone who has been following the industry. Over the past few months, a number of third-party games have been found to perform better on Sony's PlayStation 4, able to output graphics at full 1080p HD, rather than the 720p that some of Microsoft's Xbox One titles have been limited to.
More power for less money
Arguably, this gap in graphical power is not necessarily a deal-breaker. In fact, less powerful video game consoles have almost always outsold their more powerful competitors: The Wii outsold both the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 despite lacking HD visuals, while Sony's PlayStation 2 outsold both the original Xbox and the GameCube.
But the popularity of these less-powerful machines was largely driven by the price: With lesser technology, weaker consoles have almost always been offered up at cheaper prices, making them easier for consumers to afford.
Not this time. Although the Xbox One isn't as powerful as Sony's PlayStation 4, it's more expensive -- a full $100 (or 25%) more.
The extra cost is likely due to the inclusion of Kinect 2.0, the motion and voice-controlled sensor sold with every Xbox One. Although the Kinect gives the Xbox One smart TV capabilities Sony's PlayStation 4 could never hope to match, for dedicated video gamers, the Kinect is largely superfluous.
It's hardly surprising that the PlayStation 4 has outsold the Xbox One so far. Dedicated gamers are the sort of consumers most likely to purchase a console following its release: If all you want to do is game, Sony's machine offers better-looking games at a lesser price point -- the choice is obvious.
In the long run, Microsoft may be able to close the gap by offering better exclusives, bolstering its TV capabilities to attract non-gamers, or aggressively cutting the price of its console. For now, Sony is clearly offering gamers the better deal.