The PlayStation 4 Is ‘First and Foremost a Video Game Console.’ So?

PR messaging aside, there's much evidence that the PlayStation 4 is clearly the gamer's console, while the Xbox One is not.

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Brendan McDermid / Reuters

PlayStation 4's lead system architect Mark Cerny speaks during the PlayStation 4 launch event in New York City on Feb. 20, 2013

After Microsoft spent much of its Xbox One reveal talking about television, Sony is eager to position itself as a pro-gaming alternative.

“The most important thing we need to do is agree and understand that the PS4 is a great video game console that appeals to video gamers,” Sony President and CEO Kaz Hirai told reporters at the D11 conference, according to The Verge. “Providing other non-game content is an area we will reveal and talk about in the coming months, but it’s first and foremost a video game console.”

Wooing the hardcore gaming set is a logical move, considering the backlash Microsoft has faced over its all-purpose entertainment box ambitions. Microsoft has been panned by the press and even some game developers for the lack of gaming focus in the Xbox One’s big reveal. Players have been making their displeasure known as well: A YouTube video that splices together a dizzying number of “TV” mentions at the Xbox One announcement has 6 million views. At the gaming forum NeoGAF, some folks put together some convincing mock advertisements on Sony’s behalf.

Hirai’s comments make for great headlines, but let’s not pretend they represent anything more than pandering. PR messaging aside, there’s much evidence that the PS4 is clearly the gamer’s console, while the Xbox One is not.

It’s not as if Microsoft is pursuing TV opportunities at the expense of gaming. As Official Xbox Magazine recently reported, Microsoft will spend more than $1 billion on exclusive games, including eight games that aren’t sequels. The company has also opened up three new game studios over the last two years. Is Sony outspending Microsoft? We don’t know, and it doesn’t really matter. Both companies will lock up their own exclusives, and people will have to decide which games they value more. The fact that Microsoft didn’t spend much time talking about games at the Xbox One reveal will become a moot point at E3, where games will be the focus.

Will the PS4 dashboard be more game-centric than the Xbox One dashboard? We don’t know that yet either. Microsoft is touting a “personalized” home screen, which presumably would show more game-related things if you play a lot of games. Sony hasn’t shown its entire interface, only the bits that relate directly to gaming. And again, it doesn’t matter much; these interfaces stop being important once you’re in the game itself.

As for game-related features, both consoles are promising similar capabilities, such as instant-on, cloud-based saves and the ability to play games as they download. And I can easily pick which unique aspects of each console appeal to me as a gamer. Sony’s plans to  let indie game developers self-publish on the PS4 seems like a great, forward-thinking decision, while Microsoft’s promise of “living games” could be a huge step up from online play as we know it.

The most quantifiable advantage Sony might have for gaming is memory. Both consoles have 8 GB of RAM, but only 5 GB will be available for games on the Xbox One, while the PS4 will have 7 GB according to an unconfirmed rumor. Even so, it’ll be a while before we have any idea how the difference will affect actual games.

The whole debate just seems like a weird one to be having. It’s meaningless in all the ways that really matter, and it distracts from the more serious issue of what will become of used, rented and borrowed games. While Microsoft’s messaging on that matter has been much sloppier, neither company has offered a cogent explanation of their plans. Hirai didn’t broach the subject during his D11 session.

I’m not even sure what the pro-gamer chest-beating accomplishes in the end. I’ve been going to E3 since 2009, and every year Microsoft keeps amping up its entertainment messaging, while Sony keeps using the show to celebrate gaming. Regardless of what gets announced, I always find myself enjoying Sony’s presentation a lot more. The result? Microsoft is winning the console wars. (Correction: While Microsoft is still way ahead of Sony in North America, the two consoles are essentially in a dead heat in worldwide shipments.)