As the dust settles on a particularly chaotic holiday season, it is time to take stock of our lives and bank accounts. The November releases of the two major next-generation game consoles, the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, led to record-breaking sales and many frantic games of hide-and-go-seek for gamers and their parents. These eighth-generation heavyweights have combined to sell more than 4 million consoles in a little over a month.
Perhaps you gave the gift of gaming this year? Or perhaps you are still on the fence about which system to buy? Here are some observations:
The PlayStation 4 is a little smaller, gets a little warmer and plays a little louder than the Xbox One. Most performance tests I've read give a slight edge to the PS4, but the differences in image quality and the speed of the consoles are minimal. The Xbox One comes with a camera that also allows for voice commands and motion capture, while the PS4 has a camera that only allows for motion capture and is sold separately. The Xbox One's camera freaks me out. It recognizes me, greets me and reminds me of Hal from "2001: A Space Odyssey." (Me, "Xbox, play Call of Duty: Ghosts." Xbox: "I'm sorry, Rory. I'm afraid I can't do that.")
Both consoles have had some hardware problems reported. A few PS4s have not powered on properly, which is indicated by the console glowing blue constantly (it should glow blue for a few seconds and then glow white). A small number of Xbox Ones have had disc drive issues. Both have had an even smaller number of controller input issues. Sony and Microsoft have maintained that less than 1% of all consoles shipped have had such problems, but with more than 4 million units sold, even 0.5% means a few thousand busted ones. The first 20 minutes of setting up my PS4 were agony. I was sure that it would explode when I powered it up, but it has been problem-free in its first two weeks of use.
Now that I have probably jinxed my PS4, let's move on to the bonus features of the consoles.
The Xbox One is marketed as the all-in-one (I just got the name) entertainment system, and it does offer more entertainment applications than its competitor. Each system has the larger entertainment apps, such as Hulu and Netflix, but Xbox has secured more exclusive channels, such as Fox Now and the CW.
Here is where parents will want to pay attention.
These devices come preloaded with Internet browsers. I received a press release from an adult website stating its support and compatibility with the PS4. Pornography apps already exist for Nintendo's Wii U, and it is only a matter of time until they are available for each new console.
Between the browser, the entertainment apps, the games and the systems' ability to play DVD and Blu-ray movies, chances are you may want to disable some things on your child's game system. These systems have parental controls, but they are a little tricky to set up. I recommend using your favorite search engine to find some step-by-step instructions on how to enable parental locks. I would also recommend disabling the Internet browser, as it is pretty useless compared to a PC's browsing capabilities and the wrong websites could give your console a virus.
If you don't like shooter or sports games, then you are pretty much out of luck for at least the next two months. Most of the games available for the new systems fall into one of those two categories. If you're like me, and you love those genres, then I recommend "NBA 2K14" and "Killzone: Shadow Fall." Both are fantastic.
I hope you find my basic survivor's guide to next-gen console ownership informative, useful and awesome. There is a wealth of information available online for those interested in learning more about a particular issue.
Rory E. H. Appleton is the associate editor for corruptedcartridge.com and a journalism student at Fresno State. Each week, he plans to use this column to gush about the quirky world of video games and technology. You can reach him at email@example.com.