PS4 vs. Xbox One: The console wars take a new turn

Consoles

Depending on how you look at it, the game console wars just took another turn with the launch of the Playstation 4 and the Xbox One consoles.  What is even more amazing is the close and fierce competition between these two consoles in price, design, specs, and game varieties.

How do these two consoles stack up against one another?

The PS4

Playstation has always been primarily a gaming device and the PS4 stays true to the cause. The console and controller have been completely redesigned. A new controller, the Dualshock 4, comes with improved ergonomics with slightly indented trigger buttons while the analog sticks have a slightly elevated rim to keep a player’s thumb from sliding off.

PS4

Other improvements to the controller include a touchpad and a light bar. The touchpad dominates much of the middle space but is fairly responsive to touch especially for in-game navigation. A Playstation camera, sold separately, allows the console to detect the movement and depth of field in front of it via the light bar.

The PS4 comes with an additional app, the Playstation App, on both iOS and Android, which lets you carry your game beyond the big screen, on the go. You can purchase and download games for the PS4 on the move and even play from where you left off right within the app.

Some of the games you can start playing immediately you purchase the console include Killzone Shadow Fall and Call of Duty: Ghosts. The console debuts at $400.

The Xbox One

Xbox One comes in a completely new design in comparison to the previous Xbox 360. Xbox exclusives like Halo may not be motivation enough for you to purchase the console, but the added features like voice command support and motion control to the system via the Kinect will definitely make you want to reconsider your options despite the $500 price tag.

XBox One

What really sells it for Xbox One though is the fact that you can use it for more than just playing games. The machine comes with a cable port for watching your TV. What is even more interesting is the fact you don’t need to switch between the game and the TV. Simply tell ‘the One’ what you wanna watch. For instance, you can say, “Xbox, Watch ABC” and it will switch.

Other services you can access include Amazon, Hulu, YouTube, Netflix, Xbox Movies. You also no longer need to fire up services like Skype and Internet Explorer separately. These have been integrated with the One and you can pull them up onto the big screen just as fast.

The Xbox One also comes with the SmartGlass app for Android, iOS, and Windows.

Bottom Line

The question of which is better, the One or the PS4, is hard to answer when you have two big players with two big consoles. Never before has gaming had two such stand-out consoles to choose from. The Playstation 4 has the best bits gleaned from three generations of systems while the Xbox One offers much broader experiences.

Sony patent signposts the end of previously-owned video games

used-games-shelfIt’s no great secret that developers and publishers in the video game industry would like to see an end to the used games market. The reasons for this are obvious: while everybody gets paid when a game is bought brand new, no one involved in the process of actually making the games get paid when it’s bought and sold for a second time.

However, there are several reasons why a healthy used games market is a good thing for the industry, and who knows how many gamers would give up on what is an expensive hobby if the chance to buy and sell games was removed. Unfortunately this isn’t stopping the efforts to curtail the market, with publishers such as EA making it harder to justify buying used games. And if Sony has its way the next generation of consoles could kill the market once and for all.

Used Games Market

gamestop-shop-front

Currently the used games market is huge, with a majority of gamers splitting their purchases between new and used titles. In the U.S. the used games market is worth at least $1 billion, and that’s a healthy chunk of the overall market. As well as big-name retailers and independent games stores offering trade-in value, there are the online marketplaces such as Amazon and eBay.

While there is one obvious downside to this situation (as outlined above) the developers and publishers seem to be blind to the upsides. For example, if a gamer sells a title on after finishing playing it, they’re likely to plow the money gained back into the industry by buying a new game. It also means people are more likely to gamble buying a full-priced title as they know they can offload it for a fair price if it fails to live up to expectations.

Sony Patent

sony-logo

This reasoning has made no difference to the overall anxiety amongst industry people, and most are clearly keen to force gamers to buy new rather than used. The latest weapon in this fight – which has already seen online functions limited to those who buy games brand new – is a new patent applied for by Sony just a few months ago.

As dissected by NeoGAF it would see RFID tags embedded in all new game discs. The hardware would have the ability to read that tag and determine whether the game should function on that particular console. A new game would be tied to one console, with used games becoming unusable or, at the very least, having some functionality removed.

Sony is expected to launch the PlayStation 4 in the next 12 months, so it’s entirely possible such a system for identifying used games is already in the works. Microsoft is also gearing up to launch a new console, and there have been constant rumors that the next Xbox is also going to stifle the playability of used games. So the next-generation could potentially be a fatal one for the used games market.

Conclusions

If this turns out to be the case then I suspect many gamers would have to think long and hard about whether they’re going to continue to invest time and money in their hobby. If just one of the next-gen consoles included anti-used games measures then the other is likely to win big. If they both include such a system then no one wins, especially not consumers.

Image Credits: Seth Werkheiser, Stephan Mosel

Giveaway: Win 1 free month of PlayStation Plus

After I was banned from the PlayStation Network and forced to create a new account, Sony made it clear that they still appreciate me as a customer. What does that mean for you? It means I have two one-month trials of PlayStation Plus to give away.

I’ve covered PlayStation Plus before, and while I’m not wild about it myself, everything tastes better when it’s free. PlayStation Plus offers free games and nice discounts on a ton of content – it’s like free money in your pocket.

Before you enter, there are a few of stipulations:

  • The PlayStation Plus code must be redeemed by March 31st, 2012. If you spend too long waiting for the right discounts and free content to start your trial, you may be out of luck.
  • You are required to have a valid credit card linked to your PSN account to use the free trial.
  • If you don’t cancel your free month at least a day prior to the end of the trial, Sony will automatically bill you $17.99 and convert your membership to a 3-month plan.
  • Once your month is up, your free games will no longer be playable until you sign up again. Any discounted content you purchase (read: with REAL money) is yours to keep forever.

To grab one of these free codes, please leave a comment on this article about your favorite downloadable PSN game, and why it’s your favorite, by 12:00 PM CST on December 22.

Two lucky winners will be picked at random and will receive their code via email or direct message. Be sure to post with a valid account so we can get your code to you. If you post as a “Guest” we have no way of reaching you.

How to get banned from the PlayStation Network in 30 days or less

PlayStation Network BAN
If you know what you're doing, it's not that hard to pull off.

I’ve written about the sorry state of customer service in the world today and PlayStation’s Customer Service Department is no different. In fact, Sony has assembled a highly talented team of individuals when it comes to bungling customer relations to the point of losing a loyal customer forever.

A loyal customer for 16 years that’s spent an unfathomable amount of money since the original PlayStation was released in 1995. A loyal customer that sold his Xbox 360 to buy a PS3 the week it came out.

This is how I described myself, before yesterday.

Yesterday was the day my PlayStation account was banned forever.

I’ve always wondered how one can possibly get their account banned. The PlayStation network is full of anti-Semitic, racist, sexist usernames, and none of these users seem to have any problems accessing the PSN so they can verbally abuse every person they ever meet online. Sure, there’s a system to report these types of individuals, but how often does Sony ever take action against them?

Being one of the lucky few who’s been banned, I’ve decided to compile a step-by-step guide of a sure-fire way to get banned from the PlayStation Network in 30 days or less. 

1. Store your credit card information on your PSN account.

In hind-sight, this was a stupid thing to do, especially after witnessing Sony’s highly talented team of network security specialists in action. However, this step is necessary for getting your account banned.

2. Wait for your PSN account to get hacked.

There’s not really much to do here except wait. But rest assured, Sony’s network engineers have all but guaranteed that it will happen sooner or later.

3. Allow the hacker to purchase $220 worth of content in 6 minutes.

The $220 will be charged to your credit card. I actually feel kind of lucky that $220 was all that was taken from me. I also feel lucky the hacker didn’t hijack my account by changing my password. Either way, the specific dollar amount doesn’t matter so much, but a larger amount will increase your chances of success.

The 30 days or less starts here.

4. Call PlayStation and report unauthorized use of your PSN account.

This step is fairly self-explanatory. You will get a lecture about fraud, and they will tell you to dispute the transaction with the issuer of your credit card. After being on hold for what felt like ages and finally getting to explain the situation, I was actually told “Sorry, I can’t help you.”

5. Dispute the transactions with the issuer of your credit card.

This was actually a surprisingly painless process. I spent 5 minutes on the phone with a representative from my bank, who asked me a series of questions about the disputed charges. About a week later, I had to sign an affidavit confirming my intent to dispute the charges, and I also received my new credit card.

6. Wait a few weeks for your credit card company to refuse payment.

The transactions should be removed from your account immediately, but you’ll find out in a few weeks if your dispute was successful or not. Make sure you didn’t fraudulently dispute legitimate charges, as you could end up in legal trouble.

7. Turn on your PS3, and be notified of your ban.

PSN Account Banned
Success!!!

8. Create a new PSN account, or buy an Xbox 360.

You will still be able to access your downloaded games as long as you don’t delete your banned account from the console. The only thing that will be lost is Trophies, so be prepared for your online ego to take a hit.

‘Til the Blinking Red Light of Death Do Us Part

PS3

I can still remember the launch of the Sony PlayStation 3. While the supply shortage was nowhere near that of the launch of the Wii or Xbox 360, it was still quite difficult to get your hands on one. All I knew is that I wanted a PS3. I wanted one badly enough to pay $600 for one, even though I already had an Xbox 360. I found my PS3 on the second weekend after the launch, and I never looked back over the next 37 months.

Then, suddenly, tragedy struck. I was playing Fallout: New Vegas when the game came chugging to a halt, I heard a loud beep-beep-beep noise, and the game shut off. Fallout has a reputation for being very buggy and having frequent freezes and crashes, so I didn’t think too much of it. I restarted my PS3 and began to play Fallout again. After killing a couple Powder Gangers, it happened again. So I tried restarting the PS3 one more time, and within 10 seconds, before I could even get the game booted up, it crashed yet again. It was the dreaded “Blinking Red Light of Death.”

I spent the next few hours trying all troubleshooting ideas I could find on the internet. Some people have made claims that entering the debug menu and restoring the file system will fix the problem. No luck. Others claimed that removing the hard drive and re-seating it in the HDD slot will fix it. Nothing. I’d also read that it could be from the fans being clogged with dust on the inside of the machine, and that I should run a “fan test”. Not even close.

All of the other suggestions, tutorials, and walkthroughs suggested taking the PS3 apart and re-soldering the GPU and Cell Processor to the motherboard. Keeping in mind that I didn’t have the tools necessary to take on this job, and the fact that I thought Electric Engineering 201 & 202 were hard in college, I decided not to go this route. I didn’t feel like spending 2 hours attempting a fix that I would likely screw up and make things worse.

This left me with two options: send my console to Sony and have them repair it for $150, or buy a new PS3 Slim for $300. On the one hand, I could save a little money going the repair route. On the other hand, I could get a smaller, brand new console for only twice the money. My dead 60GB console has PlayStation 2 backwards-compatibility, but I realized that I never use it. The PS2 games that I still have are sitting exactly where they were when I first moved to Chicago, so it was unlikely I’d play them anytime soon. Also, I didn’t want to take the risk of the repair lasting only a short time before the console broke again. In the end, I decided to buy a new console.

PS3 Slim
The PS3 Slim is a lot sexier than the original model...

Going the route of buying a new console was not without its hurdles, however. The first challenge was retaining my game saves and purchased PSN games on the new console. Sony provides a “Data Transfer Utility” for transferring all content, even protected content, from one console to a replacement console. The challenge was getting the data off of the old console that doesn’t work for longer than 10 seconds. I thought I’d give it a try since I had nothing to lose.

In order to perform the procedure, both consoles need to be connected to different inputs on the TV, so I hooked the new one up to HDMI, and the old one up to Composite Video. This is when I discovered that my broken PS3 still worked fine running at 480i through the AV Multi Out port. I can’t imagine anyone would be satisfied gaming on a PS3 in 480i with a 55” Samsung 1080p LCD television, so I did the logical thing and just took advantage of the old console running long enough to transfer my data to the new console.

After the entire ordeal was complete, an astonishing 24 hours later, my new PS3 Slim is functioning as if it was the same console. If the Blinking Red Light of Death ever happens to you, I have two pieces of advice: dig out your composite video cable, and be patient with the data transfer utility. The result will be worth it, and will lessen the sting of dropping $300 on the replacement console.

Detailed information about all of the troubleshooting steps I attempted, as well as the ones I chose not to attempt, can be found aplenty on Google and YouTube, so I won’t go into further details here.