Why I Switched Platform

As gamers make the switch from one generation of consoles to another, many of them are also switching allegiance from one technology company to another.

In the new era of gaming, will you prefer Xbox or Playstation?

From Xbox To PS4

Playstation Defectors

Playstation and Xbox Booth
Source: Gage Skidmore, CC-BY 2.0, via Flickr

I recently read an article, stating that at least a third of new Playstation 4 owners have switched from the Xbox console, as they made the transition from the last to the next generation of gaming.
I’m one of those switchers and so far, I’m very happy to report that the PS4 does everything I expected of it, and more.
I have read one or two reviews by people who migrated the other way, but on the whole, there do seem to be more folk going from Microsoft to Sony, in the current console mash up.
This made me ask the question, why is this happening?
The two machines aren’t massively divergent, being based on similar PC-style hardware, but they are pitched at two quite different audiences.
Here’s why I made the switch.

Xbox Happiness

The decision to switch from one console maker to another was a tricky one for me, as I have been a gamer for over 30 years.
It was even more so, because I was very happy with my Xbox.
In fact I had been very happy with two Xbox devices: the original Xbox (I do wish I could still call it Xbox 1!) and the Xbox 360.
I have enjoyed all the games I played on it and believe me, I played a lot of them!
It was also during my time with the Xbox, that I discovered that I’m really an “action game” kind of guy.
Yes, I still play the odd RPG or strategy game, I still enjoy playing shooters, but the games that really get under my skin are those which make me think a little more.
Action/adventure games often combine elements of those differing genres and at the moment, that’s what makes me tick.
Most open world games would fit into that category and the Xbox has had plenty of them.

Leaving Xbox

Or Towards An Ex-Xbox

However, that happy state of affairs was not to last.
Towards the end of the 360’s life cycle, I found I was looking at the list of available games and there wasn’t really anything else I wanted to play.
I had already played all the best games on that console, and what was being advertised for the Xbox One just didn’t excite me anymore.
But I think the first real blow to my confidence in the Microsoft platform, was the Kinect motion controller.
I got very excited at the possibilities of Kinect, when it was first advertised, and I nagged my wife about it, until she finally caved in.
While there were some excellent games in the first year we had it, there was only ever a small line-up for the device.
I held out hope that something new and truly interesting might be released, but then the Xbox One was announced…
The One had a new, updated Kinect 2.0 with it, so if I upgraded my machine, the old Kinect v1 would be going the way of the dinosaur.
While I and my family enjoyed the few Kinect games we had, I now feel overall that it was a waste of money – gutted.
The last straw for me, was the operating system for the 360.
There’s nothing wrong with it technically, but over time, more and more “stuff” has been added to it, with adverts liberally smeared across each screen.
I hate adverts and I have no reason to believe the One will be any different.

Towards A PS4

There comes a time in every gamer’s life, when they start to realise that the platform they are on isn’t going to last forever.

Perhaps their PC needs a better graphics card to work with the latest flight sim, or a faster processor, to keep all those pixels spinning.
So too, in the world of consoles, occasional updates are needed in order to keep on “wowing” players, with the latest bells and whistles.
When the Xbox One and PS4 were announced, I knew my 360’s days were numbered.
I tried to finish the titles I really wanted to and then traded in as many as I could bear to part with, to make space for the inevitable.
I hummed and hawed about which next generation beast to get.
Both are powerful machines and Kinect 2.0 was attractive but expensive, bundled as it was with the Xbox, and I was still smarting from my previous purchase.
The main thing that swung me was each company’s pitch:
Microsoft was trying to create a “do it all” entertainment centre.

Sony stuck with what they were best at, aiming directly at gamers, not movie buffs.

Sony’s tack worked with me, because I already have a combination Blu-ray/hard disk recorder, so had no need, or desire, for yet more TV options.
Of course, both devices will play Blu-rays and both will allow internet-enabled applications, like movie streaming and iPlayer.
On paper, the Playstation has the edge in pure gaming power (although it’s a close run thing) and that was what finally won me over.
That, and the chance to play something different, to what had gone before.
– I loved Halo as much as the next person, but got a bit tired of it, after the third iteration.
I now welcome the opportunity to try out some Playstation exclusives, such as Metal Gear, Uncharted and The Last Of Us.

The PS4 – Setup

I got my PS4 in the GAME Boxing Day sales, as an online purchase, after having a failed attempt at getting it from the shop (sold out).
It was slightly cheaper and I got a download code for The Last Of Us Remastered, as part of the deal.
On unboxing, I was surprised to find that it was smaller than I expected and not much bigger than the 360 had been.
Set-up is super simple: just plug in the HDMI cable to the PS4 and the TV, plug in the power cable and switch on.
It then takes you through a short wizard, allowing you to set the language, date and time, network and so on.
You can also login to Playstation Network (PSN) and other social networks, should you wish.
Many of these items are optional and it is clearly stated that they can be entered later, if you just want to get on and play.
I had already set up a PSN account for the purpose, so I just logged into that.
Once past the wizard, it automatically downloaded the latest software update from Sony, but this only took a minute or so.

PS4 Controller -Dualshock 4

I am pleased that the controllers on the PS4 are all wireless now.
Last gen included wired, as well as wireless, controllers which while being cheaper, were a bit of a pain if you accidentally moved too far from the console.
The bundled controller is supplied with a micro-USB cable to connect it to the console for charging, so you’ll still get the tethered feeling, on occasion.
However, it can charge while you play or while the console is in “rest” (or standby) mode.
To set up the controller for the first time, you connect it to the console and press a button – that’s it.
I have seen some reviews criticising the light on the front of the controller, for being too bright.
You can turn it down in the settings menu though, and I like the fact that it changes colour to show you how good the battery is.
I thought that the touchpad was a gimmick until I used it, and it’s slowly growing on me.
The “X” button on the left

Similarly, I thought the same of the speaker built into the Dualshock.
In fact, I have been pleasantly surprised by the added immersion that it brings (see my Shadow Of Mordor review for details).
It is reasonably good ergonomically, too – a subject close to my heart.
The main issue for me, has been adjusting my muscle memory to the terminology/iconography (if that’s the right word).

– PS4 has shapes, rather than letters, inscribed on the action buttons.

Several times I have pressed the “square” button, instead of the “cross” button, because that was where the Xbox “X” button used to be (see photos)!

I’m sure I will adjust quickly though.

The “cross” button, bottom

PS4 Next Generation Goodies

There’s lots to like about the PS4 console itself.
I have already talked about some of them, but here’s a summary of the things I appreciate:
  • It boots up and switches off very quickly
  • It’s very quiet – disks spinning can only be heard occasionally
  • Games install to the hard disk, but you can start playing before they finish doing so
  • All games are in high definition (HD), so look great
  • Blu-rays load up quickly and give a high quality picture
  • Menus are simple and easy to use – yes, some adverts, but highly contextual (much less than Xbox…)
  • I can start a game download, leave it to run while I am playing a game and let it complete, after I switch it off (once the right settings are on)
  • Sharing videos and screenshots is very easy (great for a writer like me!)
  • The controller now has sound built in, as well as a touchpad, to help with text entry and other tasks
  • Free stuff really is free
It’s on that last point that I want to linger.
I wrote an article a while ago, on the Xbox vs Playstation debate.
In that article, I stated that Microsoft would need to get its act together, when it came to things that were free elsewhere (or words to that effect).
For example, on the 360, if I wanted to browse the internet, I had to first pay for an Xbox Live Gold subscription.
Worse still, if I wanted to watch movies from Netflix, or similar, then I would also need to have the Gold subscription in addition to whatever subscription I paid to the applicable service.
That really annoyed me, although I understand that Microsoft have since relaxed some of those limitations on the Xbox One.

PSN And The Sony Ecosystem

Sony have been quick to get on the “for the gamers” boat that they have built.
They are trying to beat Microsoft at their own game, so to speak.
They too have introduced a “Gold” equivalent Playstation Plus service, for those who want to play multiplayer games.
At the same time, they have been careful not to lock non-subscribers out of the free stuff.
They have sweetened the deal for PS Plus with free to download games, which you can continue to play as long as your subscription is active.
However, they have gone one better than that:
Certain online games which are “free to play”, can be enjoyed without a Playstation Plus subscription.
As a family man, I don’t have a lot of time for playing games and I’m sometimes concerned at what I may encounter in the online gaming world.
So the thought of forking out on a subscription to play with a load of folks who may (or may not) blast me with foul language, doesn’t fill me with excitement.
Being able to try out a full game for free, lets me test the experience, without dipping into my wallet – a genius move by Sony, IMO.
I tried it on DC Universe Online, which took a long time to download, but was great fun in the intro levels.
Better still, free to play PC shooter Planetside 2 is currently in Beta on PS4 and will be officially released, sometime this year.
Planetside 2 features battles with several thousand players in a session – yes, you read that right, I said several thousand!
This moves gaming far beyond what we have come to expect and I for one, am very excited.
It gives me a much bigger incentive to have my machine plugged into the internet, than just game updates and the odd movie.

It’s All About The Platform

For me, choosing a console is not just about the hardware and the games (though there’s no disputing, the games are the main determining factor, for many).
These days, it’s about the overall platform.
I was a staunch “Silver” member on Microsoft’s platform and will probably remain a standard (non-Plus) member in Sony’s kingdom.
Perhaps it was just that I was due for a change, anyway.
I had been an Xbox man for about 10 years, after all, but something about Sony’s argument has won me over.
I thought it was worth a try and now that I have my new shiny tech, I’m impressed with the complete package, not just the games.
And maybe, just maybe, Sony have worked out what it takes to gain – and retain – loyal gamers, better than Microsoft.
I’ll revisit this topic in a few months and see if that hypothesis holds water, or whether the shine has worn off by then.
My question for you today is:
What do you think of the Sony/PS4 and Microsoft/Xbox One platforms?

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