Why I Prefer My Xbox

By Shelby Steiner

My normal morning routine isn’t much different than anyone else’s (I’m assuming this at least). I wake up, brush my teeth, shower, drink coffee, and surf the internet for a bit while I eat breakfast. It was in this time this morning that I happened across a podcast titled: The Xbox One Is A Bit Of A Toss. I decided to ignore it and move on. Listening to it would be the equivalent of a diehard Chevy owner reading an article written by a Dodge fanatic about why Chevys are terrible. You catch my drift. Anyways, so I scroll past it and move on with my day, but the headline compelled me to consider why I even cared, and here we are.

IN THE BEGINNING

I obviously have not always been an Xbox fan. As I’ve stated on my homepage for this blog, I started with the NES and fumbled through the years between the PC, Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft brands (never owned a Sega). When the original Xbox released, my stepfather had given us a PlayStation 2 and a number of games to go with it. Needless to say, I absolutely loved it. I’d trade off my time between playing my PS2 and games like Red Alert 2 and Rainbow Six 3 on my family’s computer. Times were good and I was a happy gamer. Somewhere in there, I fit the time to play the best damn game on the GameCube, Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader.

But the seed was planted. I had this gaming magazine when we first moved to Washington that had a review of a game called Halo: Combat Evolved in it and it was mesmerizing. I read the article over and over, making note of the screenshot the author used depicting the beachhead level, but I knew I would never get to play it because the Xbox had just come out and it was too expensive for a high school freshman to afford. So I just filed that away and forgot about it.

Then it all changed.

One year, my parents surprised me with an Xbox system and a couple games and I was ecstatic (Halo was missing however). My gaming world opened up and I had an entirely new gaming catalogue to burn through. I found myself able to play games that I didn’t ever get the chance to play. Some, like Deus Ex Invisible War, I owned on the PC but couldn’t play due to my computer’s limitations and my own lack of knowledge on the issue. The difference in quality on the games compared to the PS2 was incredible to me. I became enamored with Xbox.

Through the years, I have owned every model of Xbox to date. My newest Xbox is a Forza Motorsport 6 Xbox One that makes sick vroom sounds when I turn it on. To this day, I still love my preferred brand.

WHY XBOX ONE INSTEAD OF PS4?

I get asked this question a lot by curious friends and pretentious Sony fans alike, though their inflection differs quite a bit. Friends are merely interested in my reasons behind my choice and I can understand why. Microsoft made many missteps and mistakes on their way to the 8th generation of consoles and had an idiotic asshat at the helm for the Xbox One launch. I’ll be the first to reluctantly admit that my chosen brand isn’t perfect. The GPU is slightly weaker, launch models had issues with the Blu-Ray drive, and the original interface was as slow as a crippled, drunk turtle trying to crawl through gorilla glue. So you may ask: Why do you like it still? The PS4 is clearly better.

On paper, yes, the PS4 is a better machine (though still noticeably weaker than my laptop). It has more graphical processing power, the user base is much bigger, the online service is cheaper, and the controller is a marked improvement over the Dualshock 3 controller. I should have no reason to pick the Xbox One, and I almost didn’t.

Here is why I went against the mainstream.

THE CONTROLLER

No ifs-ands-or-buts about it, the Xbox One controller is still a superior product in my book. It may not have an internal battery, but the thing doesn’t lose its charge after 8 hours of playing. It’s frustrating to say the least that I have to change my controller or charge it three times as often (compared to the Xbox One controller) in order to continue playing instead of just switching out my rechargeable batteries once or twice a week.

In addition to this, I can’t turn my Dualshock 4 controller’s useless glow light off for some reason. I’m beginning to think that Sony had some gimmicky reason to include it in the package, almost like they were originally planning on making the PlayStation Camera a mandatory addition to the PS4 system but backed out after the controller was already developed. It does, however, flash red and blue when cops are chasing you in Grand Theft Auto. So there’s that.

My Xbox controller doesn’t have an underutilized touch pad on it that likely sucks up power either. I’ve used the touchpad for its actual intended use in a grand total of one game, the excellent Infamous Second Son. Other than that one game, it has only been used as a huge button. Battlefield Hardline uses it as a button to throw a gigantic bullet casing to distract criminals. Metal Gear Solid V uses it to access the Droid menu. It seems like Sony just made the Select button 1000% larger and gave it the ability to be used as a somewhat useful touchpad. Its one potential function is as a mouse in the system’s built in browser, but for some reason it doesn’t work for that.

The rest all simply boils down to preference honestly. I like the asymmetrical layout of the thumbsticks on the Xbox controller, partially because it eliminates the problem of my thumbs bumping into each other. The thumbsticks also have a great design to them. The are tall, with textured grips on the edges and smooth centers, which almost completely removes the chance of my thumbs slipping off of the controller. And Impulse Triggers? C’mon, you have to try them. They’re a godsend in racing games.

I would love to have the R1 and L1 buttons from the DS4 though. Those things are perfect compared to the RB and LB buttons on the XB1 controller, which I am sometimes afraid I will break.

THE INTERFACE

One thing that I definitely like about the Xbox One is the interface. There are a few things that I know have room for improvement, like the store, but overall it’s pretty good. Granted, the PS4 does have a decent setup too. One thing in particular is the XB1’s pin feature since it allows me to put all of the stuff that I want to have regular access to on my front page and my most recent stuff always shows up in a separate area.

The PS4 just jumbles in the apps and games you’ve used with stuff that you likely don’t use, like the Playroom tech demo. Why is it that I can’t take that off of my UI? I don’t even own a PS4 Camera. The PS4’s store is a little more to-the-point, but I have yet to figure out why it is so slow (it isn’t my internet speed) or why I’m constantly being bombarded with advertisements to sign up for PS+ when I already subscribe to it.

The Xbox also separates your installed games from your list of owned games, making it easier to sort through what you actually have installed and not installed. The PS4 doesn’t do this as it shows everything in your library mixed together. Your copy of The Unfinished Swan that you deleted six months ago is always going to be there in your list of games. Your tab for the Destiny beta is stuck there forever.

THE HARDWARE

Now I know that the PS4 is definitely more powerful than the XB1. There’s no argument there. However, there are a few things that set the XB1 ahead in the hardware department.

First, the XB1 is actually quiet. There are times that I completely forget that it is even on. I could be playing a game for hours and it makes almost no noise whatsoever. In contrast, the PS4 seems to have the problem that the 360 did, where at certain moments the fan and/or disk drive kick into high gear. This isn’t by any means a deal breaker but I don’t understand why Sony couldn’t figure out some way to make their system quieter. I will note that the PS4 is slimmer than the Xbox, so the PS4 necessarily needs to run hotter, thereby requiring more airflow.

Second, while the Xbox requires a full installation of an entire game on the system (which increases the installing time) the PS4 apparently only installs the information that is required to be cached on the hard drive. This difference ends up benefitting the gamer in the short term by letting the PS4 user to start playing a game before it is finished installing but once a game is installed on an XB1, the game disk is only required to validate the game as owned. Of course, these issues are negated entirely if you buy digitally. One bonus of the XB1 having the full game installed is that if you install a disk copy of a game on your system, you can later purchase the digital license so you don’t need the disk anymore. I’ll elaborate:

John and Juan have PS4s. Juan bought Bloodborne and loved it, so he recommended that John play it to see if he likes it. John borrows Juan’s disk and installs it on his system, plays it, and discovers that he loves it too. John gushes to Juan about the game and decides that he wants the game as well. He gives the game back to Juan and goes home to buy the digital version because it’s on sale for $30. John soon realizes that in order for him to get the game, he needs to either a) buy the physical copy of the game for $60 from his local Wal-Mart b) buy the game used from his local GameStop for $50 or c) delete the installed copy of his game from the hard drive and install the entire game again from the PlayStation Store.

To compare:

Joe and Jose have Xbox Ones. Joe lets Jose borrow his copy of Forza Horizon 2 and Jose installs it on his hard drive, plays it, and decides that he wants his own copy so they can race each other. Jose gives Joe’s copy back to him and buys the game license off of the Xbox Store since the game is already installed.

Third, all Xbox Ones come standard with the ability to use external hard drives. You can certainly expand the PS4’s measly 500GB of space with a replacement internal drive, but you need to make sure that it is compatible and then replace your old drive. Here are the steps to both so you can compare:

How to replace a PS4 hard drive

  1. Back up your data (because you’re removing it from the system)
  2. Power off the console and unplug it
  3. Remove the faceplate
  4. Remove the hard drive by unscrewing the hard drive from the system
  5. Remove the hard drive from the mounting bracket
  6. Place the new hard drive in the mounting bracket and insert it into the system
  7. Download the newest firmware for the PS4 from Sony’s website
  8. Create specifically named files on the USB drive (otherwise the PS4 won’t recognize the information)
  9. Insert the USB drive and boot the PS4 into Safe Mode by holding the power button for at least seven seconds
  10. Initialize the PS4 to install the firmware
  11. Install backup data
  12. Reinstall your games

How to use an external hard drive for your Xbox One

  1. Plug in a compatible external hard drive
  2. Format the hard drive
Quite a difference.

ONLINE SERVICE

All I will say here is that Xbox Live benefits from not requiring the entire network to be down to perform scheduled maintenance. The reliability of either is up for debate.

THE COMMUNITY

This is by far the biggest difference between the two. I will concede that not only are there nasty people on both platforms (PC takes the cake, but we aren’t discussing that), but the dominance of the PS4 in the console market has resulted in some of the most asinine and childish behavior that I’ve seen in recent years. Sure, the PS3 and the Xbox 360 had fanboys and fangirls (fanpeople?) but not to the extent that we’ve seen with the 8th Gen.

I was very active in online communities like Polygon, GameInformer, and Destructoid for quite some time and I met some truly great people on Polygon in particular. It became readily apparent to me however that I was in the minority. Online, you are lucky if you can state your preference for the Xbox One without being met with some of the nastiest vitriol you can experience outside of religious or political discussions. Even when I was working at GameStop, I would sometimes be openly mocked for liking Xbox, which is pretty weird when you think about it. It got to a point with Destructoid and Polygon that I decided to just remove myself from those communities entirely because I couldn’t even mention my opinion or defend my choice without being shouted down. The best comparison I can draw to those people would probably be the hardcore fans of Macintosh computers. Hardcore PS4 fans are almost the exact same way.

And again, there are good and bad on both platforms, but I can only speak from my own experience. It’s obvious to me that being on the underdog platform means that I’m just a tool, a corporate shill, or an imbecile. Why would I want to associate myself with a platform that caters to people like that?

It isn’t like Sony doesn’t exhibit this behavior themselves either. Their infamous E3 2013 game sharing video was perfect evidence of their pretentious attitude. Sony has even fully embraced anti-consumer practices like timed exclusive DLC for games like Call of Duty and Destiny that Microsoft used to be targeted over. They’ve continued their pursuit of paying publishers to offer exclusive content on the PlayStation platform exclusively for games like Assassin’s Creed and Batman: Arkham Knight as well. In at least one case, they bought out Street Fighter, a previously multiplatform series. Instead of offering a backwards compatible option for their new system, they allow you to rent the rights to stream a game from their PS Now service. They’ve also so graciously provided a short list of PS One and PS2 games that have been upscaled to HD and supplemented with trophy support, for modest prices ranging from $4-$15. Why play the games you already own for free when you can buy them all over again?

CONCLUSION

So if you were wondering, my intrepid readers (all three of them) why I prefer my Xbox, now you know. It isn’t one thing, or two big things, it’s a litany of little things that all add up to why I didn’t jump on the Sony bandwagon. It’s all these little things that kept me from jumping in. These are the reasons why I haven’t become a disciple of Sony’s, ignoring all of the things that they do wrong.

It’s why that while I don’t agree with everything Microsoft does, I still prefer their platform.

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