The Xbox One vs PS4 debate will likely rage on for a long, long time. Since both consoles aren't on the market yet and wary consumers are still trying to pledge allegiance to one side or the other we can expect a LOT of Xbox One vs PS4 debates about specs and features and games before we even get to play the systems. It's already started. There are Xbox One vs PS4 spec debates and Xbox One vs PS4 launch title debates and there are plenty of fanboys on each side spewing hate and, in the middle, a lot of anxious gamers who don't want to make a $400 mistake this fall and buy the wrong system. But there is one area of the Xbox One vs PS4 debate that I think is pretty obvious: the Xbox One will have a far superior online component thanks to a strong investment by Microsoft that builds off the strength of the already-dominant Xbox LIVE network.
Xbox One vs PS4: Microsoft Delivers 300k Server Checkmate
The number one deciding factor, right now, in the Xbox One vs PS4 specs for online gameplay is server count. Currently, Xbox LIVE runs off of about 15,000 servers. It's a big number, and as an avid Xbox LIVE user I can say from personal experience that the system is very reliable. There have only been a handful of times in the eight years I've had the service that it was down for more than an hour or two. So those 15,000 servers seem to be doing a decent job of handling the gaming, video and chatting functions of the 46 million Xbox LIVE users.
During the Xbox One reveal event, Microsoft boasted that they were ready to launch 300,000 servers on the Xbox One release date. 300,000 servers is, according to the company pitchmen, equivalent to ALL the computing power in the world in 1999. A report in The Atlantic disputed this claim, and said it's probably more like 1995. Which is still pretty incredible.
"Realistically, since they are using less powerful (but specialized) servers, and orienting ourselves on the computing powers that are common in the gaming industry," renowned computer scientist and researcher Martin Hilbert told The Atlantic, "I think the reality is rather that the computing power of this cluster is equal to the world's total computing power in 1994 or the world's general-purpose computing power in 1996. I'd say they are some 5 years off ... but nevertheless very impressive!"
Why does this server count give Microsoft the edge in the Xbox One vs PS4 online gaming debate? Because, according to a report in Ars Technica, those servers will be doing cloud computations that lift the burden of processing things like physics modeling, fluid dynamics, and cloth motion from your console. Easing the burden on the console means a reduction in latency which means, ultimately, less lag.
Sony has been relatively quiet on their server count or online capability. For all the hype we hear about Gaikai streaming and the infamous "Share" button, Sony isn't putting the hard numbers out there. Pocket-lint.com addressed online gameplay in their own Xbox One vs PS4 debate and said Microsoft is poised to deliver "a class-leading multiplayer experience."
I think the reason Sony isn't talking about its server count is because its nowhere near the 300,000 Microsoft is bringing to the Xbox One release date. Virtual or dedicated, 300,000 servers are still way higher than what Sony's using. If they were using 301,000 servers, believe me, we'd hear about it. And yes, I admit, how well everything works remains to be seen, but let's dig up some history in the Xbox One vs PS4 online gaming debate when it comes to how well the services actually work ...
Xbox One vs PS4: Xbox LIVE Has Always Been Better Than PSN
If we're going to talk about company history in this Xbox One vs PS4 specs/online gaming debate then, sorry Sony fans, you're not going to like what I have to say. But the simple fact of the matter is that Xbox LIVE is by far the superior online service.
First, I'll dismiss the haters who love to point out that Xbox LIVE isn't free. You're right, it's not free. It's $5 a month. $5! If you're living the kind of lifestyle where $5 a month is a huge financial burden for you then you're probably not gonna be getting a next-gen console for a few years anyway. There's more to life than money, and in this Xbox One vs PS4 debate I feel like the cost of Xbox LIVE is worth it because it delivers a better experience.
Let's talk reliability. As I said before, in the eight years I've been on Xbox LIVE I can't recall a time when the server was down for more than an hour or two, at most. Honestly, I can't even remember the last time I had an issue logging in to Xbox LIVE that wasn't related to my own Internet connection.
The same cannot be said about PSN.
As recently as LAST WEEK the PSN crashed because of high traffic. This time, the culprit was too many people trying to download the Last of Us demo from the PSN store. Sony had egg dripping down its face and tried to be cute about it on Twitter.
Zombies are crashing the PSN Store, huge infestation attempting downloads, PSN working to resolve promptly
— Sony Santa Monica (@SonySantaMonica) May 31, 2013
Sony fans, can you really sit there with a straight face and tell me the PSN is ready for the next generation when their servers can't handle a mass download that they had MONTHS to prepare for?
Then there's the issue of security. Obviously, in the Xbox One vs PS4 online gaming world of the future, anything can happen. But as of now, the score in the "Servers Hacked" contest the score is Sony -1 Microsoft -0. And it wasn't just some rogue hack that muddied up the system for a day or two. Reuters called it one of "the biggest Internet security break-ins ever."
In April 2011, tons of personal data was stolen from the PSN and Sony warned the 77 million registered users to cancel credit cards as a precaution. Oh, but they didn't tell everyone what was really happening until almost a week after the PSN went down, resulting in massive fines from governments across the world.
And the network was down for three weeks. THREE WEEKS! In the age of on-demand gaming and broadband speeds and online service being down for an hour or two seems like an eternity, so those three weeks must've been awful for the hardcore PS3 gamers out there. Nothing of this magnitude has ever happened to Xbox LIVE. So, when it comes the security track record in the Xbox One vs PS4 online gaming debate, once again the edge goes to Microsoft.
But what about the services themselves? Here we enter into matters of taste. I own both systems and play online with friends on both Xbox LIVE and PSN. I personally prefer to use Xbox LIVE because A.) It's less laggy (for me) and B.) I can TALK to my friends as I play. Not send text messages back and forth, but actually have conversations and feel as though they're in the room with me. Hell, Xbox LIVE lets us party chat even if we're not in the same games together, something the PSN does not do.
The Xbox LIVE interface is also much more user friendly than the PSN. Xbox LIVE runs off of tabs and live tiles and delivers a vibrant looking home screen that's easy as pie to use. The PSN interface is just lists. There is no diagonal navigation to speak of, simply scroll from tabs left to right and then scroll up and down various boring lists. It looks like garbage compared to what Xbox LIVE gives customers (for that INSANE sum of $5 a month).
But hey, I'm just one gamer with a column. My opinion on which service is better in the Xbox One vs PS4 debate is just my opinion. It's not like I'm a developer working on the most valuable video game franchise in history, right? I mean, what would the people behind a multi-billion dollar game think?
Xbox One vs PS4: Call Of Duty Developers Think It's Better, Too
If you're a Call of Duty fan, then the Xbox One vs PS4 debate is probably a pretty simple one for you. Once again, the Call of Duty franchise is choosing to favor Xbox LIVE users with exclusive content. But why? According to Activision, it all comes down to Xbox LIVE.
"With billions of hours logged online, Call of Duty titles consistently rank atop Xbox LIVE's most-played charts, making it the largest Call of Duty community of any entertainment system," the company said in a 2012 press release announcing the exclusivity deal with Microsoft.
I love America. I love democracy. And with democracy, the numbers do the talking. In this case, the numbers show that, for online gaming, Xbox LIVE delivers a better experience. The Call of Duty series is played by millions of people everyday. Black Ops 2 sold $1 billion worth of copies within 15 days of its release.
I'm not saying COD is the greatest game ever. It isn't. But when it comes to the numbers it's the best-selling, most popular game out there. So, if the world's best-selling thing ever is being played most often by Xbox LIVE users, well, that pretty much puts the final nail in the coffin for Sony. After all, the people have spoken. If it was better to play games on PSN then more people would be doing so than on Xbox LIVE. But that's not the case. So, when it comes to the nex gen Xbox One vs PS4 online gaming debate, the winner is Microsoft. They have more hardware, a better service and the backing of the biggest game in the world.
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