Microsoft has taken some heat for its pricing of the Xbox One X seeing that $499 is a serious leap over the price of the standard Xbox One S and the main competition, the PlayStation 4 Pro. Xbox Boss Phil Spencer claims in an interview with Eurogamer that the price is fine because the Xbox One X is just that much better than the PlayStation 4 Pro.
In fact, he says the PlayStation 4 Pro sits in a sub-class of consoles that competes not with the Xbox One X, but in fact, the Xbox One S. (Man, I am really going to get sick of writing these consoles’ names, aren’t I?)
I look at Pro as more of a competitor to S than I do to Xbox One X. This is a true 4K console. If you just look at the specs of what this box is, it’s in a different league than any other console that’s out there. When I think about techniques to somehow manufacture a 4K screen like what some other consoles try to do, this is different than that. This is 40 per cent more GPU. The amount of RAM we have in this, the speed of the RAM, the speed of the harddrive, the reaction we’re getting from developers.
Sick burn, but I’m not entirely sold on his argument. Actually, his point falls in line with the general messaging of Microsoft and the gaming industry these days. Just listen to his follow up.
having Patrick [Soderlund, EA executive] show Anthem at the end of our show, which looked fantastic, opening with Forza, but having the third-party validation – when I stood there and went through Final Fantasy and Resident Evil and Ghost Recon and Rocket League,
Game, game, game, game, not exclusives but good, good, good. He’s talking about games, wait, no… he’s shifting, he’s shifting!
those assets that were running behind me were all in 4K because those developers were already up in 4K on this kit, because that’s the box we built. There’s not a tonne of work developers are having to do to get to 4K, , and then they can spend the extra headroom they have and time to perfect the game they want to build. That’s why we’re able to say, over 30 games will have 4K updates for Xbox One X when we launch it.
4K, 4K, 4K, 4K, 4K, not exclusives, but they have higher screen resolutions and frame rates than Sony’s versions!
I’ve used these words a lot over the last few days, but I’m still not shy about it. The Xbox One X and PlayStation 4 Pro are consoles for number munchers, gamers who put specs and performance above anything and everything else. Microsoft, and Sony to an extent but mostly Microsoft, is trying to turn this into a numbers race for the prize of most dominated company in the video game realm. It has realized that it can’t keep up with Sony’s stream of first-party exclusive titles and support from its home country of Japan, so it is trying to change the narrative of this video game.
When you’re this far behind, such drastic measures are what it takes to get back in. Don’t try harder, change the rules!
Deep down to their core, the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 really aren’t all that different. 90+ percent of their libraries are exactly the same, and games look relatively identical when placed side by side, at least, if you’re an old timer like myself who isn’t trained to be so sensitive to such minute details. Because of this, the argument over which console to buy has changed away from “Which console has the best games?” which was the standard when I was a kid and had to choose between a Super Nintendo or a SEGA Genesis. It remained this way all the way up until even the previous generation, which started showing signs of this current plague, but still had killer exclusives that sold their systems.
The focus of gaming marketing now is not better games, but rather “Which console makes these identical libraries look better?”
Hence, we have a numbers race, and Microsoft is going all in on that bet that it can win that race as it shifts the focus of gamers and into specs. Performance, frame resolution, RAM, CPU, frame-rates, the lifeblood of video games in 2017. Nevermind gameplay and story and ideas, you’re going to have to focus on numbers from now on!
Munch, munch, munch, munch, munch.
Needless to say, I have a huge problem with this approach to selling video games, and I will speak out against it wherever it reveals its ugly head and no matter if it comes from Microsoft or Sony, both of whom are feeding into it. I’d call out Nintendo if it tried this nonsense as well, but it would be more like telling a kid to go back to the kids’ table at a wedding than a critique of its argument.
Numbers don’t make good games, people do. Even with my PlayStation 4 sitting under my television, my Nintendo 3DS and PS Vita still enjoy the majority of my gaming time of any platforms I own. And I can promise, it’s definitely not because the Nintendo 3DS has better specs than the PlayStation 4, but because of the quality of the games that appear on them. Nintendo 3DS games speak to me in ways that numbers don’t. The ironic part of this argument is that I mostly play JRPGs on my Nintendo 3DS, where twisting and manipulating numbers is where most of the fun lies.
And you have to think, with all of the dollars Microsoft sank into making this the most powerful video game console of all time, how many killer AAA games could it have developed that would have made the Xbox One more exciting as it originally was? How many teams could Microsoft have hired to make some genuinely innovative games with what was already available?
All of those resources went to making a more powerful console, just so your screen resolution and frame rates are a little bit better.
Performance is important, but not when it’s set up as the pillar of a creative medium. Numbers are not creative, people are. Eventually, this gilded curtain of numbers will come tumbling down, and the more you squeeze on the idea of performance trumping all, the more gamers will slip through your fingers.
This can’t be a numbers race. Games have to be first and foremost, lest we all start sniveling about any game that dares not be 100 percent perfect. Don’t be a number muncher, kids. Be a gamer.