The air is crisp, the leaves are falling, and we find ourselves in the midst of one of the densest fall release seasons in recent memory. It’s a good time to buy either Sony’s PS4 or Microsoft’s Xbox One, and this is probably the first year I say that without reservation. This generation came into its own in 2015, and late adopters will be rewarded with lower prices and excellent games. But with Black Friday just a few weeks away and the holidays a few weeks after that, anyone looking to buy a current-gen console has a choice to make. Both the Xbox One and PS4 have their strengths and weaknesses, and both, right now, are pretty good buys. Today we’re looking at Xbox One, but check back tomorrow for the 5 best reasons to buy a PS4 instead of the Xbox One.
Backwards Compatibility: This is the big one. Microsoft MSFT +0.00% dropped a rare, unleaked bombshell at E3 this year when it announced Xbox 360 backwards compatibility would be coming to the Xbox One, and the feature goes live on November 12. About 100 games will be supported at launch, with more to come as Microsoft gets new legal agreements with publishers: just pop a disc in, trigger a download and play. It’s a big win over Sony pricey Playstation Now service. for anyone without a previous generation console, it means that an Xbox One automatically comes with a broad, high-quality library for much less than current-gen games, and it eases the upgrade process for anyone with an Xbox 360. Most importantly, it’s a dramatic increase in functionality for the Xbox One two years out of launch, and one that PS4 won’t be able to match. It’s impressive that Microsoft managed it at all.
Windows 10: At a certain point, Microsoft allowed the Windows and Xbox divisions to actually speak to each other, and everything got better as a result. To start with, Windows 10 promises a much needed face lift and tune-up for the Xbox One’s slow and confusing UI, but it also comes with a lot of other advantages for both the console and ecosystem. You can already stream Xbox games to the PC, and Microsoft is working on streaming PC games to Xbox One as well, which would be a big boon for PC/Xbox gamers. Windows 10 also promises cross-play between the two different platforms, and should simplify the development pipeline for anyone bringing PC games to Windows. Windows 10 also sees Microsoft’s Cortana assistant come home to Xbox.
Windows 10 is a bit of a question mark at this point, but it’s a very promising one, especially for PC gamers. Microsoft is making a big push to unify their disparate platforms, and they’re uniquely positioned to continue to blur the line between PC and console games. We’ll see how this one continues to develop, but there’s a lot to be excited about.
Exclusives: If ever there were a year to point out Microsoft’s increasing commitment to exclusive games, it would be 2015. We’ve got both Halo 5 and Rise of The Tomb Raider (I know, it’s a timed exclusive), two big AAA exclusives that promise to be some of the best titles out this year. Sony gained a big advantage in the exclusive war at the end of the PS3/Xbox 360 generation, and Microsoft took it as a wake up call. This one comes down to taste, but Microsoft has a lot to love on both the AAA and indie front. If you prefer your Halo to your Uncharted, your Gears of War to your Ratchet and Clank, Xbox One is the way to go.
The Controller: We don’t spend a lot of time talking about controllers with these two machines, but when you get down to it, it’s one of the most substantive differences. It all comes down to which one you prefer to have in your hand, and for me, that’s the Xbox One. There’s something about it that just feels right: simple, efficient, and effective. The Dualshock 4 is a fine controller in its own right, but if I had to pick one I’d go with Xbox. Though, frankly, I’d prefer Microsoft just allowed backwards compatibility for controllers and let me use my near-perfect Xbox 360 controller.
Honorable Mentions — The Cloud, The Xbox One Elite Controller: Theoretically, the Xbox One could be the most powerful console on the market with access to Microsoft’s extensive cloud technologies. But we’ve only seen it in demos, and it’s been two years. Can’t really put it back on the list until it’s working out there in the wild. And while the Xbox One Elite controller is one of the best pieces of game hardware I’ve laid may hands on, I can’t really recommend you buy a system so that you can spend another $150 on a controller.