Call of Duty: Ghosts may show the extra power of the PlayStation 4, but it doesn’t matter (yet)
Let’s start with a bit of news that you should take with a large grain of salt: NeoGAF is reporting that the Xbox One version of Call of Duty: Ghosts runs at 720p, while the PlayStation 4 version of the game runs at 1080p. The resulting thread is, as you would expect, filled with wailing, gnashing of teeth, and reports of falling skies. The console war, many are stating, has already been won. We've reached out to Activision for comment.
If NeoGAF is the human centipede of gaming news, the proverbial sewing has been completed. Here’s the reality: This bit of news, if it turns out to be true, doesn’t really matter. At least not at the moment.
Power only matters if it matters
Let’s start with the obvious, most gamers simply won’t be able to discern a difference between the two resolutions when playing the game. The original thread even states this.
“I don't believe if they walked up into a store and saw the Xbox One version and PS4 version side by side (if the resolution stuff is true) that they would notice,” the poster states. “However, systems and games in this industry sell on word-of-mouth more than any other factor. So they may not personally notice it, but they WOULD notice all their gamer friends saying the Xbox version is markedly inferior to the PS4 version. Ergo, a boulder starts rolling down a hill…”
I personally wouldn’t be shocked if this story was accurate; we’ve heard reports that the PlayStation 4 offers superior power in the past. “Our contacts have told us that memory reads on PS4 are 40-50 per cent quicker than Xbox One, and its ALU (Arithmetic Logic Unit) is around 50 per cent faster,” Edge Online reported.
“One basic example we were given suggested that without optimisation for either console, a platform-agnostic development build can run at around 30FPS in 1920×1080 on PS4, but it’ll run at '20-something' FPS in 1600×900 on Xbox One,” the article continued.
So it’s not crazy to think that a launch title may have been easier to get running at a higher resolution on the PlayStation 4. The question is whether it matters. The Xbox was more powerful than the PlayStation 2, but Sony of course outsold Microsoft’s first system, for any number of reasons. The PlayStation 3 may have been potentially more powerful than the Xbox 360, but it was challenging to use that power to its fullest.
The most powerful system doesn’t always win, and it’s silly to think these raw numbers matter to many gamers. If the game looks fine on their televisions, the fact that one version has a higher resolution is fodder for forum arguments, but won’t likely sway purchasing decisions. Differences need to be immediately apparent and negatively impact play to sway purchasing decisions, and nothing like that exists in this case.
Besides, frame rate is much more important than resolution, and Microsoft would be much more damaged if it was reported that the game ran at 30fps vs. the 60fps of its competitor. Lower frame rates would be detrimental to game play, especially at the higher levels, so that’s the more important number. Few gamers would be able to pick out the difference in resolution on their displays, but halving the frame rate would be much easier to spot, even for lay people.
There is also the fact that Microsoft continues to pay for the timed exclusivity of Call of Duty content, meaning that Xbox One players will be able to pay for the new content packs before they’re released on any other system. Players who want to remain competitive are going to go where they can get the content first to begin practicing.
That’s not to say that Microsoft won’t be hurt if this becomes a trend, and Sony’s lower price is going to be a massive advantage at retail this holiday season. Arguing that the PlayStation 4 offers a higher resolution on the biggest games while also being less expensive is a hell of a talking point.
In this particular case, however, it’s hard to imagine that anyone outside of the forum communities are going to be swayed one way or the other. More likely is that the people arguing about this have already made up their minds about which console they’ll be buying, and now it’s all about scoring points online.
So for now this just doesn’t matter, and it’s unlikely that even a trend of games running at a lower resolution will hurt Microsoft in the long run as long as the frame rates are consistent and Microsoft is able to lock down exclusive access to content, timed or not.
Of course, I’ve certainly been wrong before.