April 18, 2014, 6:04 AM —
The war between Microsoft's Xbox One and Sony's Playstation 4 continues. This week's battle seems to be going in Sony' favor. They announced on Wednesday that they've sold 7 million Playstation 4s globally as of April 6th, 2014, just about a month after announcing 6 million units. (To be precise the 6 million announcement was as of March 2nd 2014).
Microsoft, in the meantime, announced that they have sold 5 million Xbox Ones to retailers (Sony's number was units sold to customers). In spite of all the TitanFall hype the PS4 still outsold the Xbox One in March (though Microsoft claims TitanFall on Xbox One was the best selling software for that month).
The Xbox One also suffered a potential blow when the Xbox One version of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was delayed or possibly canceled. The game is launching on April 29th for just about ever other major platform including the Xbox 360. It's not clear what the snafu is; hopefully it'll get cleared up quickly so Xbox One owners will get to do some web-slinging. Polygon has a bit more on this story.
[Update 4/29/14: Good news! The Amazing Spider-Man 2 launched today, and it is available on the Xbox One after all. It's still missing from the game's home page, but it's on the Xbox One's digital store.]
Sales figures (and a potentially missed game) are good arguing points but they don't indicate which is the better product. A more interesting battle is that of features. Sharing and streaming seem to be particular hot spots here. The PS4 launched with built-in Twitch streaming, for instance. It took a while for Microsoft to add Twitch streaming to the Xbox One, but when it did the implementation was more full-featured than it is on the PS4. (On the Xbox One you get a full Twitch app for both streaming and viewing, and your streams can be archived on Twitch.) Sony needs to play catch-up when it comes to streaming.
When talking about sharing recorded gameplay (as opposed to streaming, I mean) the Xbox One has held a slight lead in terms of features. It allows you to save the past 5 minutes via the voice command "Xbox record that" but if you want more than five minutes you need to launch an app, which feels pretty clunky. The PS4 has a dedicated share button. It's less slick than the 5 minute Xbox One voice command, but much better than launching an app.
The Xbox One has some video editing tools and it can save your recordings to OneDrive. As of today the PS4 has very limited editing tools and can only share to Facebook, which is arguably the most bone-headed decision that Sony made when it comes to the Playstation 4. Facebook? For video? Sony needs to play catch-up when it comes to sharing, too. And it's about to.
On Wednesday Sony announced the details of its 1.70 firmware update, and it is going after feature parity when it comes to recorded video. They are adding 'SHAREfactory,' a set of tools for editing and adding commentary to your captured video. Here's the teaser for it:
One specific feature it includes that Xbox One doesn't (to the best of my knowledge; I'm sure someone will correct me if I'm wrong) is uploading your own music to use in your videos.
1.70 also adds support for copying shared video (and screenshots) to USB storage, and from there of course you can do anything with them. This isn't as nice as Microsoft's OneDrive support but it is infinitely better than limiting video shares to Facebook.
I'm amazed that neither console lets you upload directly to YouTube and can only assume Google is the obstacle. I have to think both companies would like to offer such an obvious feature.
Lastly, 1.70 allows you to preload "select" games (I assume it'll be up to the publisher which games are preloadable) that you've pre-ordered digitally. In fact this should happen automatically if you have your settings right. The PS4 already does a good job with it's Play as you Download feature (I was playing Infamous: Second Son after about 45 minutes of downloading.) but this should make things even better. I want to be able to play my digital purchases at midnight when the stores start selling physical copies!
Sony hasn't given us a date for 1.70 other than saying it is coming soon. Traditionally their firmware updates come pretty quickly after they blog about them so I'm expecting it any day now.
Neither the Xbox One or the PS4 is backwards compatible with the prior generation of consoles; that's the price of changing hardware so radically. But Sony has announced Playstation Now, a system that lets you stream Playstation 3 games, and not just to the PS4. You can stream them to a PS3 (in fact that's where the system is being beta tested), the Playstation Vita, and to new Bravia TVs. A Sony.com blog post describes a new line of 4K TVs that support Playstation Now. You connect directly to the TV with a dual-shock controller and away you go, provided you've got the bandwidth to drive a streaming game service. The TVs launch in June but it isn't clear that Playstation Now will be ready by then. Still, it's a nice perk I guess, if you have nothing else that will run Playstation Now.
Read more of Peter Smith's TechnoFile blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Peter on Twitter at @pasmith. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.