According to Wikipedia, we are currently riding out the end times of the 8th generation of gaming consoles. PlayStation 4, Xbox One and the latecomer to the scene the Nintendo Switch have all performed well but is there a clear performer who has blown the competition away?
Obviously, with this question there is a certain amount of nuance, it very much comes down to personal opinion on which console you prefer. All the consoles mentioned have positives and negatives but is there one that has performed better overall when compared to the competition?
If you are reading this article the chances are you pay attention to the gaming world in general.
Console Sales Figures
It will not come as a shock to you to find out that PlayStation, in terms of sales, is by far the “winner” during this 8th generation.
According to IGN, these are the top 15 best-selling consoles of all time:
- PlayStation 2 – 159 million
- Nintendo DS – 154.02 million
- Game Boy/Game Boy Color – 118.69 million
- PlayStation – 102.5 million
- Nintendo Wii – 101.63 million
- PlayStation 4 – 91.6 million
- PlayStation 3 – 88 million
- Xbox 360 – 85 million
- Game Boy Advance – 82 million
- PlayStation Portable – 80 million
- Nintendo 3DS – 75 million
- NES/Famicon – 62 million
- SNES/Super Famicon – 49 million
- Xbox One – 41 million
- Nintendo 64 – 33 million
The figures show that the PS4 has sold approximately 92 million systems compared to the Xbox One selling 41 million. For reference, the Nintendo Switch is lagging behind both companies with a sales figure of around 20 million units but this is due, in part, to the later release of the console.
Why has PlayStation performed so well during this 8th generation? Let’s start with power.
Which console is the most powerful?
Again, if you have been living under a rock it is fairly clear that the Xbox One X, at this point in time is the most powerful console available, so much so that Microsoft pride themselves on this adding the tagline to advertisements referring to their console.
At the start of this 8th generation, the launch PS4 and Xbox One were similar but did have differences, weighing more towards the Sony PlayStation in terms of power.
Below is an excerpt from an article on ExtremeTech in which they compare the PS4 and Xbox initial launch consoles:
With eight cores (as opposed to two or four in a regular Kabini-Temash setup), both the PS4 and Xbox One have plenty of CPU power on tap, even if neither measures up to what you can get out of a PC. The large core count allows both consoles to excel at multitasking — important for modern living room and media centre use cases. Ultimately, though, despite the Xbox One having a slightly faster CPU, it makes little difference to either console’s relative game performance.
As mentioned above, CPU speed is important but it is the GPU and RAM that tends to make the real difference when looking at graphical prowess.
In numerical terms, the Xbox One GPU has 12 compute units (768 shader processors), while the PS4 has 18 compute units (1,152 shaders). The Xbox One is slightly ahead on GPU clock speed (853MHz vs. 800MHz for the PS4).
In short, the PS4’s GPU is — on paper — 50 percent more powerful than the Xbox One. The Xbox One’s slightly higher GPU clock speed ameliorates some of the difference, but really, the PS4’s 50-percent-higher compute unit count is a serious advantage for the Sony camp. Games on the PS4 have considerably more graphics power available, and that shows up in real-world comparisons. Beyond clock speeds and core counts, though both GPUs are identical. They’re both based on the Graphics Core Next (GCN) architecture, and thus support OpenGL 4.3, OpenCL 1.2, and Direct3D 11.2.
RAM subsystem and bandwidth
Once we leave the CPU and GPU, the hardware specs of the Xbox One and PS4 begin to diverge, with the RAM being the most notable difference. While both consoles are outfitted with 8GB of RAM, the PS4 opts for 5500MHz GDDR5 RAM, while the Xbox One uses the more PC-like 2133MHz DDR3 RAM. This leads to a massive bandwidth advantage in favor of the PS4. The PS4’s CPU and GPU have 176GB/s of bandwidth to system RAM, while the Xbox One has just 68.3GB/s.
This points towards PS4 being the more powerful console and again could possibly be why more people initially went with PS4 over Xbox, at least at the start of the generation.
In more recent times Xbox and Microsoft have added upgraded consoles to their arsenal as has Sony, with Xbox currently having the most powerful games console currently available in the market.
PlayStation released the PS4 Pro and Xbox went down the route of the S and now the X. Both sets of consoles catered for the 4k market and owning a 4K television or monitor was really the only way to enjoy the graphical power of each machine.
Nintendo lags behind in terms of power and the Switch is significantly underpowered when compared to the PS4 Pro and Xbox X, the flagships of Sony and Microsoft.
Of course, this hasn’t stopped them from cornering, as they have always done, the handheld market. The fact the Switch is powerful enough to run games like Doom and Wolfenstein 2, albeit at lower frame rates and resolutions, speaks volumes for the dinky little machine and I for one am a huge fan. If only it had released earlier on it may have taken a larger share of the market but this, of course, is conjecture on my part. As a Nintendo fan, and a big fan of the company in general I was, and am extremely happy they still have a part to play in gaming history. I am unsure if you can call 20 million console sales a niche market but they certainly have made waves and look as if they will continue to do so for years to come.
Which console is the best of this generation?
Positives and negatives are part and parcel of every games console. This is obviously subjective and is very much down to personal preference. For me, I have in the past owned consoles from a variety of companies, Nintendo, Microsoft, Sony, Sega, but for me, the console that I “jived” with the most was the Sony PlayStation. I do not have anything against Microsoft or Nintendo and have great respect for what both companies try to achieve but it is Sony for me that has always been the way I have initially gone when purchasing a console at the start of a new generation.
With the PS4, at launch, the graphical processing power was superior when compared with its rival the Xbox One, furthermore Sony, in my opinion, has a greater depth of exclusive software and content. Yes, Microsoft and indeed Nintendo do certain things better, but for me, the exclusivity of their games was the main selling point. I have loved some of the exclusive game’s content from Microsoft and Nintendo but Sony pips it in this regard.
It was beneficial that Naughty Dog produced 2 classic games at the closing stages of the PS3’s lifespan and Sony promised more of the same for the 8th generation. They have, in many respects, kept their word and the slew of exclusives this gen has been nothing short of breath-taking. God of War, Spiderman, Uncharted 4, Detroit Become Human, Bloodborne, Persona 5, Horizon Zero Dawn… the list goes on and all the games I have mentioned have both reviewed extremely well and sold by the bucket load. These games, at this point in time, do not appear on any other system and this is something that, in my opinion, has made Sony the proverbial king of the console generation this time around.
In addition to the exclusive titles, Sony has also made other excellent inroads with their continuation of indie games appearing on the PS4 store. Also, due to the number of console sales, they seem to have cornered the Fortnite market to a degree, at least on console. It stands to reason that the majority of console users will be playing Fortnite on the PS4 due to overwhelming sales in comparison to other console systems.
This brings me to my next point as to why Sony has performed well this gen. They blocked cross-play.
By withholding cross play they essentially have blocked off friends who have different systems from playing together, thus pushing friends to all have the same system. Judging by the sales of PS4 compared to other consoles it seems as if most consumers have gone with PlayStation this time round in this instance. This, of course, would not be the only reason for the huge number of PlayStation sales but it will have had some effect.
The fact they do not allow cross play for many titles is a sore spot for a lot of gamers. I can understand Sony’s argument from a business perspective. They have a huge market share in terms of consoles sales, why would they want to give up any ground that would take away from their brand? Of course, as a consumer, I would want to be able to play a game across any system as many people do have a preference when it comes to consoles. For example, my close group of friends are evenly split with Xbox One and PS4. That discussion may be another article altogether.
Public relations is the next facet that plays a huge role in any console generation. How can you spin the information about your console to make it sound like the most appealing and go to console in the market? Naturally console share positives and negatives but in many instances, PR plays a huge role in shaping people’s perspective.
Microsoft, in my opinion, failed at the launch of the Xbox One to gain people’s attention in a positive way. The fact that they marketed their console as a media centre capable of a number of impressive feats took away from its main purpose: playing games. The “always online” feature was also something that they misjudged and this irked many gamers. At the time many were clearly not ready for this due to a number of reasons. Poor internet or even no internet connection would clearly be one of the problems, security could be another factor many people were unsure about and data usage is another.
Sony’s system for all intents and purposes was also online all the time or at least leaned heavily on online usage but they didn’t mention this in their opening address regarding the PS4, they focused on the games and sold the system as such. That coupled with the exclusive content under development, the more powerful launch console and a decent slew of year one titles was clearly enough for Sony to burst into a lead over Microsoft.
Microsoft over time has made many great decisions since the launch of the Xbox One. The introduction of “Xbox Game Pass” being one. On the other hand, it is still not as popular in terms of sales as PS Now but this could be down to the fact that they haven’t sold enough consoles. In any event, it has been a great addition to their arsenal and has a lot of positives in comparison to Sony’s online streaming service. The fact that Microsoft release many of their exclusive titles on the Game Pass means that consumers are not forking out 60 dollars for a title they may not enjoy. Sony has yet to produce this level of consumer service and have up until recently lagged behind in the features of their online system. I suspect they are waiting for the release of the PS5 before truly ramping up the content on PS Now but this is just conjecture at this point.
What are your thoughts on Xbox, Nintendo and Sony’s performance during this 8th generation of consoles? Who is the winner in YOUR mind?
Who do you think will “win” the 9th generation of consoles and become ruler of the console gaming universe?