Opine: Xbox to PlayStation Cross-Platform – Why Did it take so long?

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Today, Microsoft announced that they are finally allowing Xbox to PC cross-play and are open to the idea of allowing Xbox One players to play against gamers from “other consoles” – but while the American software giants are being hailed as forward thinking hero’s, they’re actually the reason why cross-platform play isn’t already a reality.
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PS4 vs. Xbox One Multiplatform Resolution & FPS Revisited – Has the Xbox One caught up?

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It has been 8 months since we first published our PS4 vs. Xbox One Multiplatform game comparison and a lot has changed since then. The Xbox One has divorced the Kinect, freeing up 8-12% (depending on which source you trust) of processing power under the hood and both consoles have had SDK updates making them both more accessible and easier to develop for.

When we published our comparison back in July 2014, the PS4 had a distinct advantage. A third (31%) of all multiplatform games had a higher resolution and frame rate on the PS4 – but have things changed? Has the boost from cutting the Kinect-dedicated memory improved the Xbox One’s visual fidelity?

The short answer is no. Below is the list of every noteworthy retail multiplatform game that has released since our original article and if anything, the Xbox One’s position has worsened.

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Of the 25 games on this list, the Xbox One fails to hit 1080p 12 times (48%). In comparison, the PS4 only fails to hit the native resolution twice – in Assassin’s Creed Unity & Battlefield: Hardline. No Xbox One multiplatform game has managed to achieve a higher resolution than the PS4 version of the same game since both consoles launched. The lowest resolution that the PS4 has achieved in the past 8 months is 900p. On the other hand, the Xbox One has had 3 games (Pre Evolution Soccer 15, Golf Club and Battlefield: Hardline) that have released with a resolution of 720p.

As for Frame Rates, the Xbox One has performed admirably, matching the PS4 across all but one (Warframe) of the 25 games on this list.

As stated in our previous article, this table does not take into consideration other aspects such as texture detail, depth of field, anti-aliasing, dynamic lighting and reflections and other technical wizardry which can make a 900p game look just as impressive as a game in 1080p. Visuals can also be a subjective matter, where a game looks darker or uses a more colourful palette and appears more appealing even though it has a lower resolution. An example of this is with Assassin’s Creed Unity where both consoles rach the same frame rate and resolution but stuttering and a more vivid colour palette mean the Xbox One version looks subjectively better than the PS4 version.

With the possibility that DX12 will reduce the Xbox One’s memory overhead and the estimated 15% ESRAM optimisation thanks to PIX, the Xbox One may be consistently matching the PS4 at 1080p in the near future. Of course, the teams at Sony are not resting on their laurels and the ICE team are already using a system very similar to DX12.

Unfortunately, the resolution woes of the Xbox One continue for the time being. Battlefield: Hardline is the latest game to suffer, releasing at 720p on the Xbox One.

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The Xbox One beat the PS4 in November, but at what cost? We do the math

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The results are in and, as a surprise to absolutely nobody, the Xbox One was the highest selling console in the UK and America during November, beating the PS4 to the top spot. Neither Sony or Microsoft have been forthcoming with their sales numbers for probably the most important shopping month of the year but the values that are widely accepted as “accurate” are ~1,240,000 for the Xbox One an ~840,000 for the PS4. This places the Xbox One ~400k ahead for the month which goes some way to reducing the lead that the PS4 had created during the previous 10 months – but at what cost?

As detailed in a tear down by IHN, the Xbox One costs around $400 to manufacture without the Kinect ($471 with the motion sensor costs included). For comparison, the PS4 costs $381 to make.

Using this $400 as a standard (to make it simple) and multiplying this by the total sales in November, Microsoft sold $496m worth of Xbox One consoles. This does not include any peripherals or additional games as part of a bundle.

Best-Buy-Xbox-One-Deal

During November, the cost to purchase an Xbox One at a store or online fluctuated dramatically depending when you bought the console, where you bought it from and if you bought it as part of a bundle. You could pick up an Xbox One from anywhere between $250 and $500 depending on what bundle you picked out, but the most popular bundles according to Amazon etc were the $349.00 bundles which included a boxed game (Forza Horizon 2, Halo: MCC and Assassin’s Creed Unity).

Considering that the Xbox One console alone costs $400 to manufacture (without including the price of the bundled game or the cost incurred by Microsoft to include it), each one of these bundles cost Microsoft $51 in deficit between manufacturing costs and sale amount. Even without including the overheads and add ons that a brick and mortar store would take off the top, the ~1,240,000 Xbox One sales in America will have cost Microsoft at least $63.24m. An eye watering amount.

So why incur the cost? Why take such a massive hit in the consoles first year by dropping the price, giving away free games with every console purchase and selling each console at a large loss?

Firstly, Microsoft are playing the long game. They know that the Xbox One has had a lacklustre first year of sales – at least in comparison to its nearest competitor – and that they need to build momentum behind the console. Microsoft have the bank balance to take a hit like this in order to put the console in a more favourable position.
Secondly, Microsoft desperately needed to shift stock. It was only a few months ago that Microsoft CFO Amy Hood was calling for a “channel inventory drawdown for Xbox consoles” (when retailers already have surplus of a product, order less as a result and a manufacturer has to reduce or stop production) and Microsoft needed this holiday season to be a success to reinvigorate retailer interest.
Finally, it is the games themselves that make the most profit in the gaming industry and consoles are predominantly loss leaders which gateway later profit through the install base. Screen Shot on 2014-12-11 at 15-34-27For each console that Microsoft loses $51 on, there is the potential for hundreds of dollars worth of profit to be made on the games they develop and produce.

While Xbox One fans are popping champagne corks, hailing November as a success for the console, Microsoft has had a more muted celebration. The company knows that this battle is a small one and that the war is only just beginning. In order for the huge jump in sales that the Xbox One has had in November to count for anything, Microsoft need to sell their games to these new customers in order to recover the deficit. With a relatively bare slate of first party games in the first half of 2015, there is always the chance that these new Xbox One owners will have a different console of choice come November next year.

Opine: The Xbox One will “win” Holiday 2014 but has played its hand too early, PS4 to dominate 2015

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PS4 owners have become accustomed to hearing good news when it comes to console sales. For the past 10 months the NPD figures have shown Sony’s machine to be sitting on top in terms of month and total sales in the US and the same can be said about analysis of the state of play in the EU. Even though the PS4 has been dominant for the majority of the past year, the Xbox One has been seeing a change of fortunes as of late and it is now challenging the Wii U for second place in terms of total sales and the PS4 in the monthly sales arena. Microsoft have been making all the right moves by dropping the Kinect and optimising the UI, trimming the price, throwing in free games and releasing several holiday window exclusives – Sunset Overdrive and Halo: MCC. xbox-one-vs-ps4The Xbox One is finally building up some momentum and depending on how Black Friday pans out, the NPD results for the next few months may show a changing of the guard at the top of the monthly sales chart – but Microsoft have played their hand too soon and unless they get out their cheque book, the Xbox One will be resigned to third place by the end of 2015.

Up until now, this console generation has been dictated by two things – momentum and public perception. While Sony was getting their console into a position that potential customers could get behind by hitting all the right notes, Microsoft blundered their way through the Xbox One announcement, stumbled at the launch and made a general hash of their consoles first 3 months at market. DRM, Kinect requirement, Always Online, the same archaic indie game policies it employed for the Xbox 360. Microsoft and Phil Spencer have crossed these issues off the list, one by one, and the Xbox One is now not that much different from the PS4 (unless you are a fan of grass) and has been that way for months. Unfortunately, for Microsoft at least, the console had very little momentum behind it for the first 6 months of its life span. The “must have” console has been the PS4, not due to its exclusives (although it has had some fantastic exclusives this year), its UI or services, but because of the price, the momentum and that public perception that the PS4 is the “better” games console.

Microsoft have been desperate to change this perception and to put some momentum behind the Xbox One, pushing their exclusives with extensive advertising, making “accidentally on purpose” social media blunders and releasing press releases that the majority of gaming media outlets have dutifully regurgitated (even though a little investigation would prove they were nothing but spin) – and a portion of gamers have been lapping it up. In their desperation, Microsoft have made some moves that probably would not have made otherwise and it is going to cost them in 2015.

 

rise-of-the-tomb-raider-665x385First up, the release calender. The Xbox One is not light on exclusives titles that are slated to land in 2015. Crackdown, Quantum Break, Fable Legends, Halo 5, Psycho-Pass, Sword of Legends, Nero, Cuphead, Screamride, State of Decay and Super Time Force are joined by the timed exclusivity of Rise of the Tomb Raider, Inside, Below, Space Engineers and Superhot. While that list sounds impressive, Sony are lining up a stellar year of console exclusives (which amounted to 44 exclusives when I wrote up a list) – Bloodborne, Tearaway Unfolded, Wander, H-Hour, Uncharted 4, Toren, The Order: 1886, OlliOlli 2, H1Z1, Until Dawn, Let It Die, Alienation, Shadow of The Beast, The Tomorrow Children, Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture, Axiom Verge, VisionEck, Wild, Rime, Hellblade, Magicka 2, SNOW, Not A Hero, Ratchet & Clank, ABZU, Hollow Point, Persona 5, Project Phoenix, Alone With You, Runemaster, Salt & Sanctuary, Moonhunters, Bombshell and more are joined by the timed console exclusivity of No Man’s Sky, Broforce, The Talos Principle, SOMA, DayZ, The Witness, Skara and Titan Souls. One list is obviously more impressive than the other and this doesn’t even take into consider the exclusive console content the PS4 is getting for some of the biggest multiplatform games of next year such as Arkham Knight and Mad Max. The other thing to note is that the PS4’s exclusives are spread out through out the year with some of the titles, such as Bloodborne and The Order: 1886, are releasing almost unopposed. After a lacklustre final quarter of 2014 with only LittleBigPlanet 3 and the troubled Driveclub on offer in terms of notable exclusives, the PS4 is kicking off 2015 with a bang and is not relenting, with exciting exclusives mixed with niche appeal smaller titles releasing every month.

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Of course, there is a possibility that Microsoft have a horde of unannounced titles just waiting in the wings – except Mircosoft have already played their hand. In there desperation to make the Xbox One look like an attractive proposition, they have announced the projects that almost all of their first party studios are working on. Black Tusk are working on the next instalment of Gear of War, 343 are working on Halo 5, Lionhead have Fables, MS Studios are working on Phantom Dust and Crackdown (in collaboration with a third-party). The only first party studios that have projects which are still a mystery are Turn 10 (that are more than likely working on the next Forza), Rare (that we can only hope have been let out of Kinect-hell and are allowed to make the next Banjo Kazooie), Team Dakota (of Project Spark fame) and Mojang. The only way that Microsoft can expand their library of upcoming exclusives is to get out their cheque book and either buy more studios or fund some exclusivity. On the other side of the fence, SCESony have a lot of surprises to unveil. Naughty Dog’s team 2 (The Last of Us), Media Molecule, Guerilla (both Amsterdam and Cambridge), Santa Monica, C.A.M.P., Team Gravity, Bend, Foster City, London and Sucker Punch all have projects under way, at various stages of development, that are unannounced.

Microsoft are likely to “win” the holiday season of 2014. Their recent slew of exclusives, the temporary price drop (that will probably become permanent in January) and plenty of positive press means that the Xbox One is finally looking like a console worth investing in. Unfortunately, unless they have huge secrets up their sleeves (and we are talking Shenmue 3 or Half Life 3 proportions here), 2015 is set to be owned by the PS4. All of that positive momentum will dissipate as the consoles opposition step it up a gear and leaves the Xbox One in their dust.

Op-Ed: The exclusivity of Rise of the Tomb Raider could inadvertently end the Xbox One

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Microsoft announced a bombshell at Gamescom 2014 which took us all by surprise. Rise of the Tomb Raider will release “next holiday exclusively on Xbox” (Phil Spencers exact words). It is a smart move by Phil and the Xbox team. Tomb Raider is a household name. The IP may have been through a recent reboot but Lara Croft is a recognisable face amongst most gamers and the game won’t need much marketing. It is an obvious plan to toe-to-toe with Uncharted 4 which is rumoured to be releasing in the holiday season 2015. Ever since the announcement I have been mulling it over and it is a big coup by Microsoft but (and this is a big BUT) there is a possibility that the timed exclusivity of Rise of the Tomb Raider could backfire and cost Microsoft and the Xbox One big time. I know – bold claims but hear me out before calling me a Sony Pony or a troll in the comments section.

Performance differences leak on-line

tomb_raider_game_informer_cover_art_mediumThe visual fidelity differences between the Xbox One and PS4 are widely publicised and one of the major talking points in the start of 2014 was Tomb Raider: The Definitive edition. The game released for both the PS4 and Xbox One but the gulf in visual differences were massive. While the Xbox One was hitting 30 frames per second at 900p, the PS4 was pushing 1080p at 60 frames per second which helped the game sell twice as much on Sony’s machine as it did on the Xbox One. It is unlikely that the same will happen again with Rise of the Tomb Raider – Crystal Dynamics will have had a year longer with the Xbox One to develop what ever visual trickery they need to to ensure it hits 1080×60 – but what if it does? What if, even with the extra development time, CD are still unable to get the game up to scratch? That news alone would be a hot topic and the subject of another probable flame war, but what if details about the inevitable PS4 version leak and those are better? A total disaster. Microsoft’s big coup turns into a damp squib that people are willing to wait for the superior version of.

The “Timed exclusivity” is too short

The wording around the Rise of the Tomb Raider timed exclusivity is being deliberately ambiguous. “It has a duration” is all that Phil Spencer would add and Square Enix & Crystal Dynamics have not mentioned anything more – wisely so. So what do we know? It will be releasing “next holiday, exclusively on Xbox”. Now “Next Holiday” could mean any time after October 1st to be in time for Christmas. And what of the PS4 and PC version? Well, once January 2016 starts that is “next holiday” over and done with. (I hope) Microsoft were not dumb enough to secure exclusivity for only a few months but no one outside of Microsoft, Square and Crystal know the specifics of their deal. If the timed exclusivity is too short, and these details make their way on-line, this could dampen the sales of the Xbox One during that holiday season. What sounds more appealing? Rise of the Tomb Raider or Uncharted 4 followed by Raise of the Tomb Raider a few months later? I know what would get my vote.

The game is bad

Probably the least likely of the reasons on this list is that Rise of the Tomb Raider is a bad game. Crystal Dynamics have a great track record with the Tomb Raider games and if it is anything like the 2013 reboot, it should be hailed as a success – but what if something goes wrong during development? We see it all the time – projects that start off with great potential but end up finding the middle of the road or try to please everybody and end up pleasing no one. The fact that Microsoft have gone out of their way to secure exclusivity hints that they are concerned that they don’t have another game to push the platform next holiday season and if Rise of the Tomb Raider doesn’t live up to the hype it could result in a bare looking release schedule.

The game bombs

image_40556_fit_940We see it year in, year out. Great games get released and don’t sell anywhere near what they deserve. This unenviable situation is usually reserved for PlayStation exclusives (Tearaway, The Puppeteer, MotorStorm – the list goes on) but what if this happens to Rise of the Tomb Raider? What if it gets swamped by the inevitable multi-platforms and annual instalments that will be hitting the market at the similar time? The impact of this could be far more devastating to the Xbox One in the long run, purely because of the kind of deal that it is. Third party exclusives are rare these days because of the risk involved (even though we have seen a recent resurgence of them with the launch of the now-gen) and if a Tomb Raider game, a series with mass market appeal and an established fan base, fails on the Xbox One, do you think many other developers or publishers will be lining up to talk about exclusivity (timed or otherwise) with Microsoft? No. No matter how many zeros Microsoft write on a cheque, if a game like Tomb Raider bombs, potentially doing irreparable damage to an established franchise, it could put a lot of other companies off working with the American giants and could push them in to the open arms of its competitors. This, in turn, will have an obvious effect on potential future sales.

Of course, the probability is that Rise of the Tomb Raider will be fantastic, the game will sell by the truck load and we PlayStation, PC and Nintendo gamers will have to put up with insufferable trolling from Xbox One owners until it arrives on our platforms – and I don’t blame them. Xbox One owners should be optimistic about Lara Croft’s next outing, but it should be cautious optimism because if Rise of the Tomb Raider fails for any of the above reasons, Microsoft and the Xbox One will be picking up the pieces.

PS4 vs. Xbox One ~ A frame rate and resolution comparison of every single multi-platform game

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The visual disparity of multi-platform games between the Xbox One and PS4, commonly known as Resolutiongate these days, has received a lot of media attention since the consoles launched.

There have been numerous high-profile examples (Tomb Raider: DE and AssCreed IV to name but a few) where the difference in visual fidelity has been widely publicised – but how common is this issue? Is this issue wider than the AAA games that hogged the headlines? Well, to find out, we have pulled together a comparison of the frame rate and resolution of every single multi-platform title that has seen a release on both the PS4 and Xbox One. The results? Well, see for yourself.

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The one thing that is obvious from this table is that the Xbox One has never bested the PS4 on frame rate or resolution. Another interesting aspect is that of the 29 games compared in this list, 9 of them have a higher resolution and/or frame rate on the PS4 than on the Xbox One. This means a third of the multi-platform games that have released since both consoles launched have had better visual performance on the PS4 than the Xbox One. metro-last-lightWe also know that Metro Redux, a remastered edition of the visually impressive Metro games with feature swapping, will release at 1080p60 on PS4 and 900p60 on the Xbox One. We can expect a few more of the games releasing in Q3/4 2014 to show a graphical difference between the 2 platforms.

Another interesting observation is that TT Games have managed to increase the resolution of their latest LEGO games past the 1080p barrier (and the screen is then super-sampled for screen size) where as the Xbox One versions are still locked to 1080p. I can not imagine the LEGO games being very resource hungry and the games still look lovely in 1080p but this may be a sign of things to come for multi-platform games.

Obviously, this table does not take into consideration other aspects such as texture detail, depth of field, anti-aliasing, dynamic lighting and reflections and other technical wizardry which can make a 900p game look just as impressive as a game in 1080p. Visuals can also be a subjective matter, where a game looks darker or uses a more colourful palette and appears more appealing even though it has a lower resolution.

It has yet to be shown whether DX12 or the 8% processing power increase due to Xbox Ones divorce from Kinect will have a noticeable difference in visual fidelity for the Xbox One but when a third of multi-platform games being released are more impressive on a competitors console (namely the PS4) you have to hope that Microsoft are developing as many tips and tricks as they can to give to developers to help build parity.

Of course, it would be foolish to think that Sony are resting on their laurels and the Sony ICE team are already bragging about some iimpressive texture, tiling and rendering tools that they are readying to roll out. The question is, is the increasing Xbox One performance catching the PS4 fast enough to match or surpass the increase in graphical capacity of he PS4? Only time will tell, but for the time being, the PS4 has a healthy lead.

Kinect-less Xbox One still not enough to budge PS4 from the top spot in the US or UK: VGChartz

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The following figures were posted by VGChartz so should be taken with an enormous grain of salt.

The software and hardware sale tracking website has posted the following sales numbers for the week ending June 14th (i.e. the first week that the cheaper Kinect-less Xbox One became available).

U.S.
PS4 39,008
XOne 38,210
3DS 31,370
WiiU 25,585
X360 16,922
PS3 8,877
PSV 3,854
Wii 2,611
PSP 577

U.K.
PS4 9,277
XOne 8,430
WiiU 5,485
3DS 4,391
X360 3,667
PS3 3,204
PSV 933
Wii 191
PSP 68

Of course, VGChartz is not as reliable as NPD when it comes to trust worthy (and accurate) sales figures but if this is any indication of what we can expect when those figures arrive at the end of the month, the Kinect-less Xbox One does not look like it has had the impact that many expected.

Amazingly, 600+ people also bought a PSP!

What are your thoughts? Has the cheaper Kinect-less Xbox One peaked your interest? Could these figures show the trend of things to come?

10 Xbox One exclusives we wish were coming to the PS4

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The PS4 has had an amazing 2014. Playstation gamers have been spoilt for choice since the console launched with a selection of AAA exclusives (Infamous, Killzone), third-party blockbusters (Assassins Creed, Wolfenstein, Watch_Dogs) and smaller/indie titles (Entwined, Octodad, Outlast). It is an embarrassment of riches.

Of course, on the other side of the fence, the Xbox One has been building its own impressive portfolio of exclusive games, slowly building momentum with a glut of great looking games coming in the second half of 2014. For any Playstation exclusive gamer (like myself) I think it is healthy to look over the divide at what other consoles have or will be receiving as an exclusive. It can serve to help you appreciate the games you have or will be playing in the future on your chosen console. It helps keep perspective of the wider gaming world in general. It also gives a glimpse into what may be coming to your console in the future or what developers might be striving to achieve.

With this in mind, we have come up with a list of 10 Xbox One exclusives that we wish were coming to the PS4.

Lovers In A Dangerous Spacetime

Not to be confused with the 1980’s classic Bruce Cockburn song “Lovers in a Dangers Time”, Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime is a frantic neon puzzle game in development at Toronto-based developers Asteroid Base. As you can tell from the trailer, the game looks hell-a-fun with twitchy game play where you try to avoid evil robots and save the captured space bunnies. As the Playstation 4 has become the spiritual home of weird and wonderful indie games, It was a surprise when Lovers In A Dangerous Spacetime was not announced for the PS4 but we can hope that it will eventually arrive on Sony’s now-gen machine.

Inside

Playdead Studios made a name for themselves with their devilishly difficult game Limbo. Continuing in the same beautiful and atmospheric vein, Inside is their next title and it will be making its console debut on the Xbox One. There has been no word on when (or even if) the game will be coming to the PS4 but this is definitely one game to get jealous about.

Cuphead

Just press play on the trailer and be amazed at how good Cuphead looks. Hailing back to the 2D run ‘n’ gun games of old, Cuphead is brining the cartoon style of the 1930’s to life and should be a “must buy” for anyone who owned a Master System back in the day.

Ori and The Blind Forest

Ori and The Blind Forest looks like something straight out of the Ubiart projects – full of feeling and beautiful to boot. This game was a surprise entry into Microsoft’s E3 2014 presentation and even though it was surrounded by AAA shooters and racing games, was one of the most memorable games of the week.

Below

Below was one of the first games to be announced for the Xbox One and is being developed by Capy games – the minds behind Super Time Force and Critter Crunch. A rogue-like adventure and exploration game, it is set to be punishing but satisfying with a difficulty level that will rival Dark Souls. It is apparently a timed-exclusive for the Xbox One so it might eventually arrive on the PS4, but there has been no word on when.

Sunset Overdrive

Personally, I think Sunset Overdrive is trying too hard to be fresh and in-your-face but it is hard to deny that the game looks like it is going to be really fun to play. The game is borrowing aspects from Jet Set Radio and a whole host of third-party shooters, over laying a bright, zany, attitude filled world and then splicing it with Bullestorm to create what could be one of the best games of 2014.

Peggle 2

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The original Peggle was responsible for thousands of hours of enjoyment to those who got addicted to it so it is a shame that the follow up has not yet arrived on the PS4. The thought of getting some friends around, ordering some pizza and spending hours huddled around the TV playing Peggle 2 on the PS4 is a pipe-dream at the moment.

Quantum Break

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Quantum Break was recently delayed until 2015 to make sure the game is as good as it can be but Xbox One owners should not be heavy hearted because when it finally does arrive, it could be amazing. The general premise of time pockets and freezing time is nothing new to the gaming world but Quantum Break looks like it might finally be the first game to use this mechanic to its full potential. Bundle in the fact that there will be a TV show which ties in with the events of the game and Quantum Break is a mouth watering prospect. There is no hope that Quantum Break will ever arrive on the PS4 but we can dream, can’t we?

Fru

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The product of a game jam, Fru is a platform game that uses the Kinect in the most ingenious way possible. The Kinect camera projects an image of your body onto the screen which effects the gaming world around your character. The PS4 Eye is capable of the same technical feats but Fru is currently an Xbox One exclusive. Keep your fingers crossed that this will eventually make it’s way to the PS4.

Titanfall

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We moaned. We bitched. We slated it – but lets be honest. We were jealous. The PS4 has a lot of things going for it right now but there are not a whole lot of AAA shooters in the pipeline to satisfy the dudebro gamers. Titanfall did not set the world (or Xbox One sales) alight as many had expected, party due to its Xbox console exclusivity “for the life of the title”. The WSJ recently reported that Titanfall 2 is in the planning stage and will be coming to the PS4, so we may not have too long to wait until we get to play Respawns mech-shooter series, but it is still a shame that the original did not make the jetpack-fuelled leap on to Sony’s now-gen console.

Are there any other Xbox One now-gen exclusives that you wish were coming to the PS4 – I know Paul will probably unload in the comments any second now. Scroll down and lets have a healthy (not flame bait trolling) discussion about it in the comments section.