Will the next gen launch be a disaster? Sean Knight muses on the possibilities that the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 aren’t ready for the public
It’s November and gamers can’t help but be excited about the impending launch of Sony’s PlayStation 4 and Microsoft’s Xbox One. Both consoles are a significant leap in terms of technology, graphics, and capabilities, while capable of performing multiple functions simultaneously. This means the consoles are no longer just a gaming platform but a social and media platform as well. Unfortunately this also means that the potential for disaster is also higher.
Enough so that I would recommend that consumers refrain from purchasing a launch console. But before you grab your pitchforks and light your torches I would ask that you hear my reasons.
Both systems will require a day-one patch. For the XB1 the patch will allow gamers to use their console offline and work without the Kinect; reversing Microsoft’s original plan for the system. The PS4 patch, which Sony revealed will be 300mb, is needed for the console’s DVD/Blu-Ray drive. That means the PS4 must also be connected to the internet for first use and will allow consumers to have access to the remote play feature among other things.
Because both devices require consumers to download a day-one patch it means that the online infrastructure of both companies will be given a massive stress test on launch day and the initial week. Fans and early adopters of the new tech will hook up their consoles as soon as possible in order to download the required updates. Yet while both Sony and Microsoft claim that it won’t take long to download the patch, everyone simultaneously downloading 300mb for the PS4 or, as some believe, 500mb for the XB1, will negate that claim.
One only has to look at how MMOs or any online-only game, such as Diablo 3, have performed during its launch and see the same could potentially happen to Sony and Microsoft during their launch period. Granted, these are not just video game developers with limited resources but that still doesn’t make these two corporate giants invulnerable.
Sony’s track record hasn’t been the best when it comes to their online infrastructure. Plagued with slow downloads for their patches, not to mention the April 2011 fiasco with their online security, the company will certainly be putting their PlayStation Network on the line. On the other hand, Microsoft has the better reputation when it comes to their online services but it could be sorely tested when the XB1 is released November 22. For example, when an update is released for Dota 2 on Valve’s digital distribution network ( which boasts 65 million users), there is a noticeable effect on the network.
And Steam has been the most established digital platform for ten years.
Which brings me to my next point. There won’t just be the day-one patches to tax the online infrastructure. There are the launch games that might have their own day-one patch in addition to people downloading digital copies as well, taking up even more resources.
But let me move away from online capabilities and focus on the potential problems with the XB1. There is no denying that, without the day-one patch the XB1 is nothing more than a $500 brick. Because of such a patch this means that there is the possibility of the system suffering from software malfunctions since, let me be honest, Microsoft rarely does anything right the first time. If the software developer can release a patch for Windows 8.1 that causes a PC’s mouse to lag, and make some games unplayable, what are the chances that this software update won’t bring with it a plethora of problems? Especially since it will be running three different operating systems simultaneously.
Then there is the elephant in the room. The Xbox 360’s Red Ring of Death that brought about the highest failure rate (54 percent) of any console and took several versions of the device to rectify the problem. It is possible that we could see something similar, especially since Microsoft has been tweaking their console’s CPU to improve its performance shortly before production.
Don’t think that Sony is above all of this, however. The PlayStation 3 suffered a 10 percent failure rate and had the Yellow Light of Death issue. There could be software issues with the PS4 too, considering all the features that it will bring (though not nearly as many as the XB1 considering it will be running three separate operating systems). Although I find it puzzling as to why a patch is needed to activate the Blu-ray drive.
In either case, the next-gen consoles are going to be more advanced and more complicated than the PS3 and 360. That means there is the potential for additional errors on the software and hardware side.
There is, however, one last factor that could make the launch not only a disaster, but a PR nightmare. I’m talking about the regular consumers and gamers that don’t visit news sites. Those who are unaware that both systems will require an internet connection to download a day-one patch that, without it, the Xbox One is nothing more than an expensive paperweight. New owners who will wonder what is wrong with their Blu-ray drive, not knowing that the PS4 needs to be hooked up to the internet to download a patch.
Hopefully I’m wrong about this and both companies will be prepared for the large number of people downloading patches and video games at the same time. Maybe the hardware will be sound and work without any problems.
We’ll just have to wait and see. Sony’s PlayStation 4 is up first, coming out November 15 in North America, and it will provide us an indication of what to expect with Microsoft’s Xbox One.