The buildup to the November release of Sony and Microsoft's newest gaming consoles trumps that of every console cycle before it. PlayStation 4 and Xbox One have each been promised to shatter expectations. And while they've been well received, the newest living-room contenders are not without their faults.
Let's look at a few reviews of the systems:
IGN calls PS4 "an exceptionally well-crafted console" with the power and aesthetic to set a new bar for gaming. However, their thoughts on Xbox One are less complete, as they're waiting for total familiarity with the console before advising their readers. Kudos.
Joystiq points to a few of PS4's pitfalls—with hard drive space and user interface clutter topping the list—but is also impressed that the system retains a gaming focus despite its feature palette. Similarly, the multi-media functionality and ease-0f-access improvements made by Xbox One receive due limelight in their review, and, although incomplete, the XOne rating is clearly positive.
And finally we have Polygon who, unlike most, pegs both systems with a hard numerical rating. PS4 comes in at 7.5/10 with "a distinct lack of compelling software" but clear potential for the coming months, while Xbox One carved out an 8/10 and is, Polygon says, "an impressive marriage of software and hardware that raises the bar in terms of what we expect from a living-room machine," albeit a currently incomplete one.
The consensus is a resounding "Yeah, they're good," which is a solid response. For consoles, however, solid isn't ideal, especially with price tags at an all-time high. No, with the momentum and promises of nearly a decade behind them, PS4 and XOne were designed with unequivocal success—but that simply hasn't happened. Let's work on that, shall we?
Fixes for the PlayStation 4
Sony is currently fighting a two-front battle against lackluster launch titles and underutilized/faulty hardware. Underwhelming feedback to charge-leading games like Killzone: Shadow Fall and Knack is the system's greatest hurdle. The games' visual fidelity is unassailable, but--and particularly in the case of these two--content has been too dry to really hold attention. Luckily, the remedy for this is obvious: wait for more games.
At least, that's the consumer answer. On the development side of things, two key players need to be found: a unique killer app and a hard-hitting sequel to a popular franchise—your typical system sellers. Indie support will likely fill the former, and although a new Uncharted title was recently announced by fan-favorite developer Naughty Dog, it looks like Infamous: Second Son will steal the latter, what with its fancy bundle.
Then there's hardware blues. It's a given that not all of a new product's features will be pushed to their limits right out of the gate, but the sheer number of PS4 doohickies that have fallen by the wayside is disappointing. Pressing the thorn deeper are claims of console failure, ranging from trouble ejecting discs to overheating issues.
Hardware issues have proven to be isolated incidents, with Sony reporting a 0.4% failure rate. And when it comes to UI, PS4 owners can keep their head up, as firmware updates have already cleaned up most of the mess. Regardless, Sony needs to finalize the PS4's nuts and bolts as quickly as possible, and more importantly, prove to consumers that their new product is a safe investment.
Fixes for Xbox One
Microsoft is in a very different position, both from Sony and from what most gamers expected. After a few bouts of policy gymnastics, Microsoft has managed to narrow their problems down to overly familiar games and unrealized media applications. (Of course, at the time of writing this, the system has yet to release to the public, so there's no room for absolutes.)
One thing's for sure, though: Xbox One hasn't brought many new games to the table. Multi-platform releases likes Call of Duty: Ghosts and Battlefield 4 do little for the system, as do obvious sequels like Forza 5 and Dead Rising 3. However, by and large, Xbox One has delivered the stronger of the day-one titles, which means MS needs to turn their emphasis to new series. Riding Xbox 360 titles will only get them so far, and with Sony already pushing a horde of new IP, gamers will lose interest if XOne is packed with nothing but same-old.
Much like PS4, Xbox One remains largely untapped. Its multi-media design philosophy has fallen a bit flat, with unresponsive voice commands and features weighing it down. But once again, it's a matter of system updates—and how quickly MS can distribute them.