If you haven't bought an Xbox One or PlayStation 4 yet, you're in luck: They're both cheaper than ever at $250. The time is ripe!
That's a straight up 50% reduction in price from the original asking price of the Xbox One, and a major discount for the PlayStation 4. And since both consoles launched back in 2013, each has a fully stocked library of games to enjoy. Better yet: Many of those games have dropped in price as well.
That all begs one obvious question: Which console to buy? The PlayStation 4 and Xbox One are nearly identical in most ways:
They cost the same amount of money.
They play many of the same games.
Both act as set-top boxes, with apps for Netflix, Spotify, YouTube, and whatever else you could want.
Both have online services that cost the same amount of money and offer similar things (online multiplayer, "free" games each month).
They can both stream games to the internet without any additional hardware.
Even the controllers are nearly identical, save for a few bells and whistles.
What really differentiates the consoles at this point is a handful of "exclusive" games. Some folks love "Halo," and the only place to play "Halo" games is on Xbox. Some folks love "Uncharted," and the only place to play "Uncharted" games is on PlayStation.
But, as demonstrated last week during the annual E3 video game trade show, Microsoft still doesn't have the kind of big exclusive games that people want.
Microsoft's hour-long presentation highlighted the company's new, more powerful Xbox One X, and it did so through the scope of dozens of games. In total, Microsoft showed 42 titles during the presentation ("22 with console exclusivity," Microsoft's Xbox lead Phil Spencer pointed out to me in an interview).
Of those 42 games, I'm hard-pressed to identify what people should be excited for on Xbox One this holiday.
To be clear, I'm not talking about the Assassin's Creeds and Call of Dutys of the world — those games are on both Xbox One and PlayStation 4. No one is buying an Xbox One instead of a PlayStation 4 because of these types of games. I'm talking about marquee titles you can play only on Xbox One. In years past, games like "Halo 5: Guardians" and "Rise of the Tomb Raider" were the obvious standouts. In 2017?
"Crackdown 3" and "Sea of Thieves" lead the charge. Huh?
Neither of these games looks bad — they both look quite fun, actually! But neither is the kind of game that sells many game consoles, and that's a problem for Microsoft considering how far behind the Xbox One is in sales compared with the PlayStation 4. It's also a problem for the launch of the new Xbox One X, which arrives on November 7 and launches with "Crackdown 3," "Sea of Thieves," and a new "Forza" racing game. Diehard Xbox fans may rejoice, but these are the types of games that sell a few million units apiece and don't inspire people to buy game consoles.
Even the magnificent "PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds," which Microsoft locked in as a "console exclusive" (the game is already available on PC, but will also arrive on the Xbox One later this year) is unlikely to move too many Xbox One consoles. It's a fantastic game, and has the potential to explode even more than it already has, but it's still relatively obscure compared to what Sony showed off at E3 2017.
While much of Sony's PlayStation 4 lineup at E3 featured games that don't arrive until 2018 (including "God of War," seen above), it showcased a lineup full of major exclusive games. It probably wasn't 22, and many may not arrive this year, but the lineup included many heavy-hitters: a new entry in the "Uncharted" series, a major expansion to "Horizon Zero Dawn," an exclusive Spider-Man game, and a brand-new, ridiculously pretty game named "Detroit: Become Human."
This is stuff people want to play, and stuff that will get people buying consoles.
In the longer term, Microsoft assuredly has a new entry in the "Halo" series in the works. It's also likely that there's another entry in the "Gears of War" series on the way — two major franchises that are locked to Microsoft's platforms. Moreover, they're the reason why people buy Xbox consoles. And hey, if you're a racing fan, having "Forza Motorsport" as an exclusive is a genuinely big deal.
But, for most people, the console to buy this holiday — and in general, really — remains the PlayStation 4.