If you’ve been following the launches of the PS4 and Xbox One, you’ve had quite the emotional rollercoaster. They're awesome and shiny, but as we near closer and closer to the releases, we’re seeing apps, features, and hardware stability dropout.
First the delays. Over the past couple of weeks, Microsoft has been quietly informing us on what will be included at launch and what will not. Most noteworthy is the delay of the ability to stream to Twitch.tv from the Xbox One, which was pushed back to 2014. Microsoft explained that it wanted to "ensure the initial Twitch on Xbox One broadcasting experience meets the expectations of the Twitch community.” Perhaps a fire was lit when, Microsoft got a whiff of how well the service worked on the PS4 at launch.
Summary: the app was not ready in time. Unfinished apps like this dropping from the Xbox One's launch is less of an isolated incident and more of an unfortunate trend.Case in point: the Xbox’s Sky TV app, “Now TV,” which was originally included in the launch lineup but then pushed back to Summer 2014. Long available on the 360, this service was, once again, just not done in time for launch. Another casualty to this holiday season launch was the music functionality of the Xbox. More specifically, its ability to play music from USB. All we know about its future is that it will happen “not at launch.” And, of course, here we’re reminded of the delay in 3D blu-ray functionality.
While the Xbox One is plagued with delays, the PS4 is not off the hook. Besides the delays of several launch titles--such as Watchdogs, Tiny Brains, and Driveclub--there's also the little matter of the system suffering from hardware failures. Nicknamed the Blue Light of Death (flat-lining makes more sense though, right?), images of consumers’ broken PS4s have been popping up all over the internet. Are the temperatures that the PS4 is climbing to (even while idling) the cause? Is it a hardware issue? A software issue? Will this be as costly a mistake as the Xbox 360’s red ring of death issue that plagued the early days of that console’s release? Or are these failures being blown wildly out proportion due to an overzealous and grave dancing-prone community? Tough to call just yet.
Here's what we can say: Anecdotal evidence points to a hardware fail rate well above Sony's projected 0.4% launch average. It's early days, so we still need to wait and see whether the actual number hits that projection, floats closer to an industry standard of 3-5% for a major household electronic device, or accelerates to Red Ring of Death status (some reports put it at as high as 68%). Pending how this situation plays out, Sony may have been wise to pass over immediate gains, and delay its console alongside those many several launch games.
The PS4 and Xbox One have been pitting themselves against each other since their inception, and it’s been win-win for consumers the entire time. We’ve had the luxury of just sitting back and watching each console try to match and exceed the features of their competitor. Sure Microsoft had to backpedal from their unfortunate reveal event detail, but on a whole this competition has resulted in some great innovation by each company.
But, with news story upon news story coming out about delays and hardware malfunctions, this race to the finish feels like it ended prematurely. Sometimes it’s hard for the consumer to declare a winner when it feels like they're on the losing end of a console war.