Game of thrones for top consoles

THE titans of gaming are going head to head in a 21st century stand-off.

With the release of the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, game fans are taking sides in time for Christmas. But which console offers more bang for the buck? And which will win the next generation battle?

When Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 launched in 2005/2006, the world was a different place. Facebook was in its infancy. Twitter was unheard of. These new consoles are social experiences, hooking up to existing networks and creating their own virtual hang-outs. The PS4 controller even has a dedicated button for sharing gameplay videos online.

In the mid-2000s, the idea of a voice-controlled games console was the stuff of Tom Cruise sci-fi flicks. But the Xbox One’s Kinect motion-sensor is an attentive robot that jumps to attention when you bark orders. Microsoft’s machine is the ultimate multitasker. You can pause a game to Skype a friend. Or watch a Blu-Ray while browsing Internet Explorer.

The PS4’s camera lets you participate in voice chat, and logs into your machine using face recognition. Sony’s console comes with the brilliant Playroom game, delighting toddlers, retirees, and everyone in between, as the camera creates the illusion of little robots that spill out of the controller and into your living room. Live From PlayStation, meanwhile, lets you broadcast your living room to an online audience. A couple from the US recently used this app to set up their own talk show, garnering over 200,000 hits in the process.

Although the PS4 and Xbox One offer huge leaps in graphical fidelity, these machines are not just about racing super-powered cars, traversing battlefields, or interactive story-telling. Next generation consoles aim for the heart of the home. You can watch television through Xbox One, for example. Both consoles play DVDs, Blu-Rays, and apps such as Netflix.

Considering the lifespan of past console generations, Xbox One and PS4 will last into the 2020’s. So which one to buy? The slimly designed PS4 wins by a margin. The box looks better under your television, and at €400 it’s considerably cheaper than the €500 Xbox One.

But who knows what innovations Microsoft will come up with over the next eight years. Back in 2005/2006, iPhones were a blip on the horizon. Now Apple’s App Store has over 150,000 games — gaming has left the confines of teenage bedrooms to become mainstream. Statistics suggest gamers average mid-30s in age, and as many females as males now play. Games like Grand Theft Auto V frequently break entertainment sales records, leaving cinema box office, music and book sales, trailing in their wake.

What other options exist for Christmas gaming outside the bus stop respite of smartphone fun? Sony’s PlayStation Vita is a smashing handheld device. Top Vita games include the dizzying adventure Gravity Rush, kid-friendly Rayman: Origins, music experiment Sound Shapes, and Stephen Fry-voiced LittleBigPlanet Vita. Furthermore, you can stream PS4 games to the Vita screen, solving family arguments when someone else is watching TV.

Nintendo is churning out games for its irresistible 3DS handheld console. These dinky charmers, delivered in eye-popping 3D, include The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Super Mario 3D Land, and Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon.

Game fans are unlikely to give up their trusty Xbox 360’s and PS3’s just yet, but as new releases for these consoles peter out in the New Year, three devices will command the living room space: Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Nintendo’s Wii U. The Wii U, released in 2012, has never quite captured the cultural zeitgeist like its predecessor, the Wii, but it has fantastic games like Super Mario 3D World. Nintendo still has a place in Santa’s sack.


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