Now that both the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 have hit stores shelves and found their way into buyer’s homes, it’s probably about time to call off the ongoing console war. For most of this year, fans who’ve placed themselves firmly within either the Sony or Microsoft camp have loudly defended their system of choice while denigrating the other. A scrap of news regarding the resolution difference between the PS4 and Xbox versions of Call of Duty: Ghosts sends people into a frenzy. The announcement of a user interface choice leads to Microsoft fans telling PlayStation owners that they spent their money the wrong way. Not only is this tiring, but, now that we’ve been able to see both machines being put to actual use, ignores the fact that each of the systems seem just fine.
Microsoft rightfully attracted a good deal of scorn for its announcement of restrictive Xbox policies. People were upset with the idea of mandatory internet connections, used game limitations, and always-on Kinect sensors. The anger directed at the company for these decisions likely served as the spark that made most of 2013 an online shouting match between those who agreed with Sony’s more open approach and those who planned to stick with Microsoft in hopes that their specific vision of the future would turn out for the best. This was a real difference of opinion that warranted some discussion. Was it better for console buyers to fully embrace an always-online, digitally progressive system if it meant sacrificing many of their consumer rights? Or would a more traditional machine — one that takes less drastic steps forward while maintaining a greater level of freedom — be the right choice? Separated from brand loyalty, these are interesting questions to consider. But then, the Xbox One’s highly criticized policies were reversed and the debate became hypothetical.
So, what’s there left to fight over now? Sure, there are advantages and disadvantages to buying either a PlayStation 4 or Xbox One, but at this point saying which console is better largely comes down to matters of personal taste. The differences between operating systems, exclusive game releases, and controllers are fairly subtle and, when these distinctions are more pronounced, they’re meant to appeal to unique audiences anyway. The Xbox is probably a better choice for people with cable TV; the PS4 for folks who are primarily interested in using their system exclusively for playing videogames. In this sense, neither is better than the other. They’re two comparable machines with features that may make one more appealing to a certain person than the other.
Really, personal preferences aside, those of us who like playing games should just be happy the current generation of consoles seems so promising across the board. Exclusive titles like Sony’s Infamous: Second Son and The Order: 1886 seem as interesting as Microsoft’s Quantum Break and Sunset Overdrive (and plenty of third party games will be playable on both systems). Even Nintendo’s Wii U, a console that looked just about as dead as dead could be earlier this year, has snuck up on the attention-grabbing PS4 and Xbox and finally started to come into its own. While Sony and Microsoft jockeyed for headlines over the last few months, Nintendo’s latest console has quietly released a bunch of well-received games including Pikmin 3, Super Mario 3D World, and The Wonderful 101. Considering that the Wii U’s biggest problem was a dearth of quality games, a release calendar that suddenly features a good number of them helps to address one of the system’s most pressing issues.
All of this variety seems like a pretty good thing for people who like videogames, not a reason to fight over which console is better than another. Console wars are probably just an intrinsic part of consumer culture — nostalgia mixed with the need to feel validation for spending upwards of $500 on a piece of technology — but that doesn’t mean they’re not ridiculous. Instead of defending our own spending choices and telling others they’re silly for purchasing something different, we should just be happy that the videogame industry is healthy enough to support three big coexisting consoles in the first place.