Friday is the PlayStation 4 launch day, which means our first glimpse at not only the PS4, but the next generation of console video games.
Sony’s (SNE) new gaming console will go head-to-head with Microsoft’s (MSFT) Xbox One when the latter launches next weekend. The gaming titans are coming into the market a year after Nintendo (NTDOY) released the Wii U, the successor to last generation’s best-selling console. But the Wii U has struggled in sales, which means the market is wide open to SNE and MSFT.
By now, the technology has been analyzed, the specs have been dissected, and the two seem closely matched. The PS4 comes out on top when you dig into the details, but in terms of general gaming experience, the two machines are pretty similar — especially for cross-platform games.
So if anything is going to make or break the consoles, it won’t be GPU performance — it’ll be console exclusives.
Much of Nintendo’s struggles are due to the fact that third-party developers are hesitant to produce games for the weaker system (both the Wii and the Wii U are less powerful than their competitors), forcing Nintendo to lean heavily on its exclusive properties. But third-party titles are pretty ubiquitous on PlayStation and Xbox devices, making console-exclusive games one of the major tiebreakers for consumers who are deciding between systems.
Here’s a look at some of the biggest franchises exclusive to each console. Please note that most of these series won’t have a new game available at or around launch; however, given the success of each franchise, it’s a pretty safe bet that they’ll show up sooner or later.
- Dead Rising
- Forza Motorsport
- Gears of War
- God of War
- Gran Turismo
- Little Big Planet
(For a full breakdown of which titles will be available at launch, IGN has the whole list.)
The Xbox One has the slight advantage for exclusives available at launch: Dead Rising 3 and Forza Motorsport 5 will both be available at launch, while the PS4 is relying on Killzone: Shadow Fall. However, inFamous: Second Son will release soon after the PS4 launch date, giving some support to the Killzone title.
Xbox has already teased a new Halo installment for Xbox One, although we have no details about when that will arrive. And it should only be a matter of time before Kratos shows up for a God of War installment on the PS4.
Right now, there doesn’t seem to be anything tipping the scales too far in either direction. Over at the Yahoo Finance Breakout blog, Jeff Macke thinks the Xbox One’s Kinect means “game over” for the PS4, but I’m not sure the rapid sales have translated into smooth gameplay experiences. Maybe the new Kinect — which does seems to be significantly improved — will change that, but we’ll have to wait until next week to find out.
The bigger factor for early-stage sales could be which of the consoles’ new exclusive franchises take off. Will Knack send PS4 sales surging, or will Ryse: Son of Rome slay the competition? Sure, Call of Duty: Ghosts and Skylanders: Swap Force will probably outsell them both, but the first Halo game was a launch title for the original Xbox, and look what that turned into.
If you’re still deciding between the PS4 and Xbox One, know your options, know which franchises you’re choosing between, and go from there. As long as you have fun, there’s no wrong decision.
Adam Benjamin is an Assistant Editor at InvestorPlace. As of this writing, he did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.