PS4 vs. Xbox 1 — Which Should You Buy This Holiday Season?

Two men holding PS4 boxing while waiting to buy them at a shop cash register

With the launch of the Playstation 4 last night, the eighth generation of video game consoles officially began (don't even mention the Wii U).

And with the Xbox One launching next week, this is the first even-footing fight between modern gaming consoles as we know them. With the PS4 now available to massive numbers of consumers, how are things looking for the early edge in the latest console war?

To answer that, we'll look into Playstation's technical concerns, console exclusives, and sales performance so far. (For a great overview of the history leading up to this showdown, TGN has a great video series you can watch.)

First, Playstation has a potentially troubling console malfunction affecting some of its consoles. According to Sony representatives, 0.4% of the consoles sold are experiencing the Playstation's answer to the Xbox 360 Red Ring of Death. This so-called "Blue Pulse of Pain" has been affecting some brand-new and promotional PS4s, and, if that 0.4% figure holds true upon wide release, could affect as many as 20,000 units. Those affected report the console's indicator pulsing with a blue light and refusing otherwise to power on.


Other than that, the console is functioning as expected, with tech specifications almost perfectly matching its competitor. For a comprehensive look at technical specifications, CNET has a great breakdown. The menu looks like a natural evolution of the Playstation 3's interface, and the gaming, while a definite step up, is still very limited by cross-platform compatibility with last-gen consoles. The real potential of the eighth generation won't fully reveal itself until developers ditch the seventh generation.

In terms of console exclusives, this is the essential list: Playstation 4 has Knack, Killzone: Shadow Fall, and a variety of downloadable titles, with Infamous: Second Son and Driveclub set to come out in the near future; Xbox One has Dead Rising 3, Ryse: Son of Rome, Forza 5, Zoo Tycoon, and a couple others, including a downloadable revival of the 17-year-absent Killer Instinct franchise. The incredibly anticipated Titanfall is also an Xbox One exclusive once it launches in the near future.

With Knack and Killzone both performing relatively poorly with the critics, and the rest of their exclusive lineup severely outgunned, game exclusivity is definitely not an advantage for the PS4 this holiday season. While that cannot be determined for sure until the critics have at Ryse, Forza, and Dead Rising, it is looking safe to say Xbox has an early lead in that crucial determinant.

Finally, sales figures.

So far, it is too early to tell exactly what day one sales are of PS4, but we do have estimates. PS4 announced over 1 million PS4 preorders back in August, with an estimated 1.5 million total pre-orders by launch. Sony expects to sell 5 million consoles by the end of March (three million by the end of the year.) Microsoft has not released any pre-order or sales estimates. However, according to estimates from the Electronic Arts COO based on numbers he has gotten from sources in Sony and Microsoft, the total number of estimated sales for both consoles is 10 million by the end of March. That suggests a five-million-each dead heat between Xbox and Playstation.

What explains how even the sales figures are becoming, given the massive lead Playstation has in public opinion with gamers? Xbox has been catching up fast since its PR disaster earlier this year, first of all. Recanting a lot of unpopular opinions showed many that Xbox does indeed care what gamers think. Second, Xbox is marketing itself as more of an all-in-one entertainment device, meaning a lot of more casual gamers and non-gamers with families will purchase the device. Third, a very complicated metric developed by consultant SDL analyzes web searches, keywords, and activity online to determine intent to buy and brand interest. And the Xbox One has gotten their pick for the overall winner for the launch window.

None of this is conclusive, but all of the performance aspects, console exclusives, and sales figures point to this being an incredibly tight race.