I’d Be Skeptical of Reports About the PlayStation 4 Being ‘50% Faster’ than Xbox One

Can we give it a rest?

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Robyn Beck / AFP / Getty Images

Attendees walk between signs for Sony PlayStation and Microsoft Xbox on the first day of the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in Los Angeles, California, June 11, 2013.

There’s an Edge story picking up steam about the PlayStation 4 being “around 50% faster” than the Xbox One. There’s no question about it if you ask Edge — the author of the piece doesn’t even bother to use the word “allegedly.”

Computing performance, like human intelligence, is a slippery, subjective metric that can mean different things to different people (developers or otherwise). If you’re going to talk about it meaningfully, you need to be as scientific as possible. And if you’re not — if you’re just going to pass along anonymous claims from a non-representative sample of developers (that is, the ones you could persuade to talk) — you need to tread lightly, not open with a declarative implying “around 50%” is settled science.

Here’s something you can take to the bank: not all development studios are created equal, nor are they equally proficient with new hardware. That, and this “report” compiles quotes from anonymous development sources — that alone should give anyone pause. Indies? Major studios? First-timers?

Even if we close our eyes and assume this is accurate and representative somehow, why is it mainstream gaming news in 2013? For whom? Aging bipolar gamers channeling childhood playground squabbles? Does an abstraction like “around 50%” really predispose you to pick up a PS4? Because you think the games are going to better how and why, exactly? Do you think a marginal performance advantage is really going to give any locked-in architecture staying power if tablets and smartphones have their way?

Licensing deals and title exclusives and unique peripherals are meaningful differences in 2013. Price points and pack-ins are meaningful differences in 2013. Artful game design is a meaningful difference in 2013. Geometry metrics and shader wizardry and frame-rate gaps are not meaningful differences in 2013. We either move past this obsession with abstract system specs, or keep living down to stereotypes about gaming as spectacle in lieu of art form.