The Xbox One or the PlayStation 4? This is the question hovering over the video-game industry until the consoles hit shelves later this year. Any enthusiast who doesn't want to spend $900 on both systems will be forced to choose, and both companies are promising big things when the consoles are available.
Plenty could change before the consoles arrive four months from now, but Sony currently has the favorable strategy, giving the PS4 an early lead in the console race.
• Price: Perhaps the most important advantage of the PS4 over the Xbox One is price. The PS4 will cost $399, while the Xbox One will be $499. The extra $100 for the Xbox One goes toward the Kinect motion sensing camera, which is packaged with every system. This new and improved version will be integrated into the entire experience, to the point where the system won't function without it.
The Kinect is going to need a lot more support than it received with the Xbox 360 if it hopes to live up to expectations. Hardware limitations have stunted development of Kinect-required titles since it was introduced. It's more often used as a supplemental device for blockbuster titles such as "Mass Effect 3" or "Forza Motorsport 4."
• Used-game compatibility: Digital rights management (DRM) has been a hot topic surrounding the upcoming consoles. Sony received loud and lengthy applause at this year's Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles when the company made the announcement that the PS4 would support used games, which was a direct response to Microsoft's used game policy for the Xbox One.
Initially, the Xbox One was going to bar the ability to play used games. Once a used game was inserted into the system, the user would have to pay full retail price to "unlock" full access to the game. After a sizable backlash, Microsoft has reversed this stance, and the Xbox One will play used games similarly to current consoles.
• Force for change: Microsoft may have changed its mind regarding the future of DRM, but the about-face suggests that its initial strategy was flawed. The tech giant initially looked unwilling to force change within its industry, a trait for which it has become well known.
The same company unveiled Xbox Live, its Xbox online infrastructure, in 2002, which came with an annual $50 fee. Paying for an online service for console games was an unprecedented move at that time. Since then it has grown into the largest home console network for multi-platform games such as the "Call of Duty" series. Microsoft's initial DRM policy could have potentially grown into the standard for console gaming, but we'll never know because of the about-face.
• Games: Neither system has a clear upper hand when it comes to games. The majority of launch titles will be available for both systems, although the PS4 has exclusives such as "Knack," "DriveClub" and "Killzone: Shadowfall," and the Xbox One has "Ryse," "Dead Rising 3" and "Forza Motorsport 5."
• Features: The PlayStation's edge comes in the form of features. Sony is going to great lengths to strengthen the PS3's weak link, the PlayStation Network. Since acquiring Gaikai, a cloud-based gaming service, Sony has made clear its grandiose plans for the PS Network. Friends will be able to watch and even control games being played by other friends. Lengthy system and game updates, something that plagues the PS3, now can be faster.
Also, the PS4 could breathe new life into Sony's handheld, the PlayStation Vita. The Vita will be able to remotely play PS4 games similarly to Nintendo's Wii U and GamePad. The integration could create opportunities to move more Vita units with PS4 and Vita bundles.
Max Parker blogs as The Game Guy at communityvoices.sites.post-gazette.com. Follow him on Twitter at @GameGuyPGH.