Or: How Xbox One Makes A Hypocrite Out Of Me
My name is Jonathan Lester. I'm a hypocrite. And I think I want an Xbox One.
I should covet a PS4 more than anything on this planet, even if we ignore everything that happened before Gamescom 2013. By my own criteria, Sony's press conference was utterly perfect; cutting away all the hype, dubstep and bullshit that tends to rot most live shows to the core. Instead of a dubstep montage, Sony literally sat down and talked us through the user interface in a live demonstration, before showing us a cavalcade of great-looking games in a no-nonsense, matter-of-fact way. Not just stodgy AAA exclusives, but indie games, fantastic boutique titles, the type of innovative experiences I bang on about time and time again to anyone and everyone who'll listen. It was genuinely magnificent.
Then we bring back the last few months of staunch indie support and coherent communication, and the choice ought to be obvious.
And yet, gun to my head, I might choose the other One.
As someone who's championed indie games at every opportunity, not to mention free to play titles, the PS4 manages to fulfil every single one of my wildest dreams. Sony's launch lineup contains a few big boxed games, alongside an avalanche of recklessly creative smaller titles that don't break the bank yet provide an insane amount of breadth and variety. On top of that, there's the likes of Planetside 2, Warframe and War Thunder, which we don't even need PlayStation Plus to enjoy. Xbox One, meanwhile, has been going through the same old motions, only with free FIFA.
Despite all of my excitement and constant proselyting about indie and F2P games, however, I was suddenly struck with a horrific realisation; something that makes a filthy hypocrite out of everything I thought I stood for. Indie and free to play games, the two things that make the PS4 the best console on paper, don't factor into my console buying decision one iota.
Actually, no, that's not it. At all. More accurately: I already own a PC.
Right now, as in this very second, I could play any single one of the PS4's free to play launch titles. I'm already Battle Rank 32 on Planetside 2. I've crafted the Ember frame in Warframe. War Thunder, Blacklight: Retribution and all are already out on PC. I don't need a console to play them. I never will.
Much the same is true for indie games. I'm secure enough in my indie credentials to not have to defend them (oh what the heck: instead of playing my early copy of The Wonderful 101, I reviewed a badger simulator developed by some Swedish guys. That's how I roll). I love indie games and have espoused them on our front page for years. But much of the PS4's lineup will be available on PC at some point, and for every boutique title that remains PS4-exclusive, I'll have ninety dozen alternatives to choose from on Desura, Steam, IndieVania and even IndieGameStand. Hell, even the OUYA. I don't need to spend hundreds of Pounds on another machine to play them.
Community and sharing? Don't make me laugh. Sure, the idea is sound and fantastic fun in theory, but in all honesty, will I ever do anything interesting enough to be worth watching online? Probably not, and sorry, neither will you in all likelihood. What I'd prefer is a console that I can effortlessly control with my voice, access all of my games and videos instantly, browse the net with a single word and multi-task effortlessly between applications... oh. Hello Kinect.
What a next-gen console really needs to offer at launch, then, is some big fat juicy shiny bullshit exclusives to absolutely justify the asking price. Something to wow my mates with; the vapid, AAA boxed games I tend to rail against at every opportunity, marking me out forever as a hypocrite in the process. The PS4 has a Killzone sequel and a racing game, but the Xbox One has Forza 5. And Dead Rising 3. A spiritual successor to Panzer Dragoon (I've waited so long, dammit). Titanfall. And a comfortable controller to play them on, just to sweeten the deal.
Sure, Titanfall, CoD: Ghosts and Battlefield 4 will be available on PC. But I could, in a moment of weakness, decide to avoid lugging my rig into the living room or faffing about with driver updates and instead play on a console with guaranteed dedicated servers and the same Gamerscore I've been subconsciously working on over the last six years. I'll probably opt for the PC option, but it'll be a close-run thing.
When it comes to the crunch, I'll almost certainly do the smart thing and sit this one out, enjoying the diverse range of gaming experiences available on PC, 3DS and current-gen home consoles before making an informed decision down the line. By then, we could well be waxing lyrical about God Of War IV and a new Uncharted, or perhaps getting misty-eyed over The Order: 1866. Indie and F2P will feature back into my purchasing decision, and I'll definitely end up buying a PS4 at some stage. Equally, though, with Halo and Project Spark in the wings - not to mention the doubly exciting prospect of ID@Xbox - the decision is going to be anything but clear.
The Xbox One makes a hyprocrite out of me. If Microsoft can seal the deal by presenting a united front and a convenient release date, it might even make a customer out of me.