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For a long time I've accepted Microsoft's rhetoric on the power of Xbox One. I've gone along with the talk about balance; I've acknowledged the promise of Cloud technology; and I've empathised with its frustration over the ongoing community backlash.

But now it's difficult to be so forgiving.

With two of next-gen's major launch titles performing noticeably better on PlayStation 4, now's the time for the tough questions to be asked: why, given the £80 premium, has Microsoft failed to provide a machine capable of offering the same performance - a reasonable performance - as its rival? Why is Call of Duty: Ghosts – a game often ridiculed by the community for its underwhelming visuals – unable to render at native 1080p? And should those who have stuck with Microsoft through thick and thin over the last four months finally start to reconsider their purchase?

That final question is something I've been asking myself over the last few days, and has left me (and, I imagine, thousands of other similar-minded gamers) in an awkward situation heading into the next generation. As regular readers will know, Xbox 360 has been my predominant platform throughout the last cycle. The vast majority of my friends are on Xbox Live, I've always preferred Microsoft's UI and controller, I've invested almost 10 years into its online service, and, well... the lure of the achievements keeps me coming back.

I was also fairly convinced that multiplatform titles on Xbox One and PS4 wouldn't suffer from any major visual differences at launch. Getting a fully optimised title ready for a console launch is an enormously difficult task, of course, doubly so when there are two of them launching simultaneously. And as such, I wrongly presumed developers would aim for the lowest common denominator across both systems to get their title running stably and, quite frankly, to make their lives easier.

If Sony was ever to able to pull forward, I believed it would be later in the console's life as developers ran into bottlenecks on Xbox One and managed to squeeze the extra ounce of power out of PS4's GDDR5 RAM and impressive GPU.

Perhaps foolishly, I also believed Microsoft's bullish claims about its machine's capabilities.

"There is no way we're giving up a 30%+ advantage to Sony,” said Albert Penello, Xbox's senior director of marketing and planning, last month. “And ANYONE who has seen both systems running could say there are great looking games on both systems. If there was really huge performance difference – it would be obvious."

He continued: "I get a ton of hate for saying this – but it's been the same EVERY generation. Sony claims more power, they did it with Cell, they did it with Emotion Engine, and they are doing it again. And, in the end, games on our system looked the same or better."

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Penello's words are a particularly agonising read now. The two games we've seen and heard about so far on Xbox One – the games that could arguably matter most to a huge portion of next-gen investors –do not look better on Microsoft's console. They don't even look the same, with PlayStation 4 displaying a significant advantage in pure pixel count. Based on early indications and an ill-advised aggressive commentary, Microsoft, frankly, appears to have dug its own grave.

This week's revelations bring into question any last minute decisions over early next-gen investments. To those picking up both, on which platform should you pre-order Battlefield 4, Call of Duty: Ghosts, Watch Dogs or Assassin's Creed 4? On the face of it, it seems an easy choice: just go for the option that provides the better-looking game.

After all, much of the buzz of a next-gen launch centres around being left dazzled by those sparkling graphics. But to many players, making the switch would be to throw away years of investment and trust in a particular product and service - a conundrum made considerably more difficult when the vast majority of their online friends could still be playing games like Call of Duty and Battlefield on the weaker platform.

I still put trust in Microsoft's console offering the more appealing exclusives in the short term, and struggle to see how Knack, Killzone and DriveClub will manage to live up to Dead Rising, Titanfall and Forza.

But as we've seen with Wii U, getting a launch right can be vitally important to public perception, and once the idea that a machine less powerful than one almost £100 cheaper seeps into the mainstream, Microsoft may struggle to turn things around. And as developers grow more familiar with PlayStation 4's hardware, there's little reason not to believe that the differences between the two consoles could remain a constant.

Eight weeks ago, Microsoft's Major Nelson said that he was “very much looking forward to the next few months (and beyond) as the truth comes out” about Xbox One. The truth is out there now, and it certainly isn't pretty.

In the hours prior to the news about Call of Duty: Ghosts' performance breaking, discussed the issue of next-gen's native resolutions on Episode 35 of the VideoGamer UK Podcast. To hear the rest of the team's thoughts on the issue, head through to our podcast page.

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SimonMiller's Avatar


All our comments are replicated in the forums, found here:

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Posted 14:34 on 01 November 2013

User Comments

justerthought's Avatar


I really cannot understand why you were so naive and trusting. I guess brand loyalty is a powerful thing. The facts where glaring you in the face. Microsoft's comments did not add up. They were asking you to believe in magic instead of looking at the hard facts. The specs tell it all. Everything predicted by me has turned out to be true.

The next gen developments are perfectly fine from a PS4 perspective, so you're title is tarring both with the same brush. PS4 is a beast. A gamers dream machine. The multimedia sucks right now but software and services can be improved later with upgrades. Lame hardware cannot.

You have to understand PS4 is a 'games console'. XB1 is a 'multimedia console' that also plays games. The emphasis is totally different because the xbox brand has been hijacked to launch a TV box on the masses.

XB1 is a great machine and will get great games, but it won't be the hard core gamers choice because the PS4 takes that crown convincingly. If you play Assassin's Creed 4 on PS4, the power shines through. The game is running 1080p smooth as silk with high res textures, zero screen tear and all the fancy graphics stuff all turned on running simultaneously without even breaking a sweat. Contrast that with the XB1 version running 900p with shimmering distant details the same as current gen, and the PS4 totally stable like a photograph with no shimmering at all.

The reasons (boring technical bit):
(1) The GPU has 50% less cores than PS4 and does not have access to GDDR5 RAM. ESRAM can only hold 32MB at any given time and cannot help fill the DDR3 RAM any faster than its physical limit. Without lots of fast RAM to rapidly load all the scene assets, the GPU cannot render the frames fast enough, so they have to be simplified by lowering the pixel count. Cloud processing cannot help because it is limited by the latency of your ISP.

(2) 3rd party devs create expensive AAA games using a generic code scaleable game engine, then optimise each port with the relevant dev machine. They cannot afford to re-write all the game code just for one machine in order to make use of ESRAM and cloud processing. They will just do what they did with PS3 CELL. A basic lame conversion optimised as best they can within the time limit. The XB1 user base is not large enough to warrant the extra cost of major re-coding. MS do not have 1st party studios like Naughty Dog to do all the expensive research on how to utilise CELL's untapped power and pass the knowledge to the 3rd party devs free of charge. Cloud stuff will just be a few gimmicky additions without alternating the core gameplay. ESRAM usage will improve over time but may never be fully exploited. Even if it was, it is still a poor man's version of GDDR5 RAM and will always be a bottleneck, especially in open world games where stuff has to be streamed to RAM in realtime. That's a big problem because MS failed to realise the future of games is open world. Hence why Bungie had to break away with Destiny.
Posted 02:50 on 28 December 2013
daxius70's Avatar


so are you saying the new console hype went from Clash of the Titans to Clash of the Tightasses?
NVidia did say the pc is the ultimate gaming machine. I think what Microsoft / Sony should do is allow people to purchase a PS or Xbox os for PC and allow for scalable performance for their titles.

Dual vid cards 32 gigs of ram and all the hard drive space you need with a six core processor at 3.5 gighrtz like Kramer said...giddy-up

that way people can get the best of both worlds and both Sony and MS would see
increase sales for being able to have your cake and eat it too

the Daxman
Posted 02:42 on 01 December 2013
GlobalDominance's Avatar


Let's be totally honest. The XB1 isn't a bad entertainment hub, that plays games. Nothing bad about it, it's just more tailored to the original ideas of being all in "one". The PS4 is more geared towards gaming, with being an entertainment hub (apps) secondary. PS4 has more brute strength, so games will look slightly better across multi-platform titles because of meeting certain parity needs. PS4 will gain a more meaningful edge in terms of graphics, once it's 1st party developers start to get a more rounded feel for the system. This doesn't mean the XB1 1st party developers are going to slouch, not at all. However, Sony has been better at producing internal wares compared to MS (but that's my opinion). Anyhow, PS4 is my choice for gaming needs in the future, while XB1 may be the overall entertainment hub for social media.
Posted 20:12 on 25 November 2013
justerthought's Avatar

justerthought@ BenRawR

Are you happy with that state of affairs? You sound like you are trying to justify living with the problem. The situation stems from a system that is under powered. Computing power affects more than resolution at the end of the game development diary.

Lots of other features will be taking a hit as well in order to preserve the core game. Why suffer when you don't have to. The list of possible side effects will be lower res, screen tear, lower res textures, pixilated shadows, less objects onscreen, more pop-in and reduced physics, like no water refraction or plants that bend as you walk through them or no boketh depth of field blur. Devs will have to decide which ones to delete in order to maintain the core game on XB1, while they will all be running no problem on PS4.

Note about boketh: real world camera lens's do not blur highlights the same as shadows, so out of focus areas have the darker areas blurred smoothly, while highlights and light sources turn into beautiful circular blobs with only a slight blur. The effect takes a lot of processing power to pull off in real time, so it has not been possible until now. But XB1 users not be able to enjoy this next gen feature if it impacts on the core game.
Posted 13:37 on 21 November 2013
justerthought's Avatar


I think all your comments are the result of finally accepting the fact that MS have hijacked the xbox brand to launch a TV box on the masses because they lacked faith in gamers as a source of income. Sony know gamers never go away and have focussed all their hardware on game performance.

To sum up, XB1 is a 'multimedia console' that also does games, PS4 is a 'games console' to the best of its ability.

You sound like a gamer to me so you have no choice but to jump ship because things are going to get worse. When all the open world games roll in, the XB1 is going to suffer a crushing blow because its GPU does not have access to fast GDDR5 RAM to stream all the high res assets in real time as you move around. Cloud processing is too slow due to ISP latency and the ESRAM is too small to help because it can only run 32MB of data at high speed at any given time.

I know I've resorted to nerdy tech terms there, but you have to realise the importance of GDDR5 RAM. Even if you ignore the more powerful GPU inside PS4, there is a reason why all gaming PC's have at least 2GB of GDDR5 RAM tagged to the GPU. XB1 has zero GDDR5 RAM.

Yes I'm a PS fan but this is info you really need to know.
Posted 13:10 on 21 November 2013
BenRawR's Avatar


I think there's an issue everybody's overlooking.
The fact that CoD is running at 720p on Xbone (I'm not a PS4 fanboy, this unfortunate name has stuck) and 1080p on PS4.
"Overlooking?!?" I hear you say? Yes.

Resolutions are taken from left over power. They DO NOT come from a separate part of each console as a little non-power-consuming 1080p on/off switch.
The fact is that each console is capable of producing a game with 4K visuals, however that game would have to be 10 minutes long with very little mechanics.
Ghosts could be polished to 1080p on the Xbone but that would mean SACRIFICES to other parts of the game would've come into play. If you think about both copies releasing at 60fps 1080p, then all hell would've broken loose a few days after release date when people noticed that the PS4 would unmentionably have extra gameplay thrown in because it could handle it without compromise.
Games are designed > characters are designed > stories are written > levels are designed > mechanics are implemented > etc. etc. etc... > > > > > > > > Time to sharpen up the visuals and quality with the last remaining power. Oh... There's none left. There's no way we're cutting out some gameplay, guess we'd better compromise on visuals - it looks "alright" as it is.
^ And there's your CoD Xbone development diary.

The resolutions don't matter, the game will play through the same way at a smooth 60fps on each system. BUT, here's (my entire point) the issue that may be prevalent in this generation...
If games are maxed in a sense of scale and mechanics with a steady framerate on PS4 and have to be tweaked extensively on Xbone to match it and/or it simply can't cope running the same version... What would anybody see in paying more for a console that can't compete with it's rival?
Posted 14:58 on 02 November 2013


My chin has developed rather an itch.

Anyway. I think the live stream event pretty much proves that there is nothing for potential Xbox One fans to be worried about.

I'm hoping I can borrow a copy of the game on Xbox One to see the difference for myself, as I'll be trading my PS3 copy for a PS4 one on 29th, but I doubt the final retail version will show much difference between the two to the untrained eye (ie mine)
Posted 14:33 on 02 November 2013
Njeezy's Avatar


I know you keep saying (very eloquently) that Microsoft lost you as a customer due to their many policies that you disagreed with. But from the comments you keep relentlessly posting I'm starting to think that you were never interested in the Xbox One to begin with.

Just a thought.
Posted 08:21 on 02 November 2013
Axio300's Avatar

Axio300@ EverTheOptimist

the devs don't need to get used to the hardware this generation as they are just pcs they have no "CELL or Emotion Engine" they are simple AMD processors that the devs have probably worked with before the only thing they have to learn is how to use the XBOX ONE's ES RAM which is useless anyhow
Posted 06:42 on 02 November 2013
Axio300's Avatar


they don't need to learn the hardware this generation because they are virtually the same as pc's you could probably run windows on either of them
Posted 06:28 on 02 November 2013
Mintyrebel's Avatar


Matt you own the site now!? Since when?
Posted 20:41 on 01 November 2013
FantasyMeister's Avatar

FantasyMeister@ Leathersoup

I'm not so sure, I'd agree that brand loyalty never profits the majority of consumers, but there are notable exceptions, e.g. anyone who stuck with XBox Live for 10 years straight, anyone who has ever been invited to a Sony Gamer's Day etc.

Anyway, steering back on topic, I don't think XBox One's 720p problem is the biggest deal-breaker yet, simply because graphics don't make games. They help, but they're not the be all and end all.

I'm sure there will be more deal-breakers to come from both Sony and Microsoft for those on the fence, but I think the biggest problem for Microsoft is that they aren't able to launch globally, and asking early adopters to wait until 2014 when the PS4 comes out in 2 weeks' time is probably asking too much of them.
Posted 20:34 on 01 November 2013
Leathersoup's Avatar


Brand loyalty never profits the customer.
Posted 20:25 on 01 November 2013
CrotchRocket's Avatar

CrotchRocket@ MasonCooper42

I agree with you for the most part but think you misunderstood the nature of my comment. I was trying to emphasise that how xbox fan boys (yes me included) had been defending Microsoft but after more recent news was throwing in the towel. Your preaching to the already converted lol

On the issue of DRM though (in general not just Microsoft) I think your opinions are outdated. I accept the benefits of physical media and enjoy owning it myself. Weather you consider it a good thing or not digital media has taken huge percentages of sales away from physical media. Just look at the recent HMV and Blockbuster news and how Apple and Amazon's Kindle have all but destroyed the book shop.
I'm not saying digital is better than physical but there's no denying the added benefits are obviously persuading a lot of people to simply download media now.
I find that you think DRM will never work on a console confusing. It already is. My recent purchases of gta 5 and the last of us were digitally download. I don't know the percentages of games sales on console made via download but there's no denying a shift in the trend.
Physical media is near and dear to all our hearts but unfortunately like vinyl it will become a thing of the past or at least very rare.
I hope I'm wrong and both can coexist successfully but I doubt that when we can stream blu ray quality movies from a cloud based library to any of my friends living rooms that I'd rush out to pay more for a copy I'd have to cary around with me to do the same thing. Granted that's some time away.
Posted 15:47 on 01 November 2013
MasonCooper42's Avatar

MasonCooper42@ CrotchRocket

thing about drm, is that it is a digital thing, we can still loan each other blu-rays, dvd's heck even vhs and cds if we wanted, and we like to be able to do that, its when microsoft went to try and physically restrain what we could do with a physical product is where they went wrong.

speaking of which, drm isnt going to work for video game consoles for at least twenty years, why? because of the film industry, we all have blurays and dvd's and until they start coming out in digital form over physical form, (which i cant see happening for a long time) then there is always going to be a need for a games console to have a dvd/bluray/home entertainment movie slot for casual people.

the 180's are good, as you said for showing willingness to change, however what if microsoft do a further 180 and just turn it back on like they have in three weeks just turn it off.

the price now is an issue because sony has an superior product on paper, but if that price difference is kinect, 80 quid dosent sound that bad, i wonder if kinect was to break how much it would be to replace.

that reminds me of something.

matt lees, simon, dave, bratterz, orry brothers, can someone get an actual xbox one, and NOT CONNECT IT TO THE INTERNET and show us what these drm features look like, i think that would be a very good public service to provide to the consumers.
Posted 15:01 on 01 November 2013
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