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When you go out to buy a new piece of technology, most times you're frugal enough with your money to pick up something that meets your needs and offers a nice technological power advantage over the competition. Usually, tech enthusiasts refer to benchmarks before taking the financial plunge. It's imperative to get the most for your hard earned money... right? Right?! Not in the land of the Doritocracy.
Gaming sites have been cropping up apologists articles left and right to dissuade on-the-fence gamers from canceling their Xbox One pre-orders (an attempt to appease the ad overlords, perhaps?), but before getting to that let's first look at how this scenario came about and why.
So rumors had been festering since E3 that the Xbox One had issues... hardware issues. Gaming media and gamers alike wisely ruled in favor to take the rumors with a grain of salt. Exercised throughout the months leading up to November was a ratiocination of cautious deliberation concerning pixel counting and resolution thresholds. It was later made obvious by CBOAT and Peter Dodd (a.k.a., Famousmortimer) that the Xbox One was going to come in behind the technological performance curve of the PS4 and maybe even potentially, the Wii U.
Despite the forewarning, many tried digitally crucifying Peter Dodd for his claims, even though Sony's developer relations specialist Adam Boyes was in his corner. Instead of the media following through with what was right (as mentioned in previous articles) the Doritocracy held tight to their guns and protected Microsoft's secret... that is, until Infinity Ward's executive producer Mark Rubin stepped forward with callous resolve to lay rest the rumors and confirm that the Xbox One, indeed, was running the latest Call of Duty: Ghosts at only half the resolution of the PlayStation 4. It was also confirmed in undeniable benchmarks by multiple sources that Battlefield 4 ran at a significantly lower resolution on the Xbox One than the PS4.
The rumors long held in contempt by the gaming media had been proven true.
What follows is an inexplicably odd (or perhaps normal, if you're used to the Doritocracy) set of behavioral reactions from gaming media. While smaller sites like Gameranx and Videogamer.com make it known that a system costing $100 more and outputting resolutions at half the pixels of the competitor is an absolute deal-breaker, other larger sites – those with significantly greater influence – took a different path from the problem.
Instead of acknowledging to consumers who may want to be informed about what this means for their pre-order (and there are many people who have both systems pre-ordered) following the initial reports on the confirmation of resolution bias, some sites decided to play apologist.
In a sickening twist of fate, instead of following the typical response from benchmarks, making it known that anyone buying the $500 console would be receiving first-generation games at half or two-thirds of the resolution quality of its competitor, which is $100 cheaper, we have unknown sites like Video Games and News as well as ubiquitous sites like Kotaku where lines like “although numbers tend not to lie, they can easily mislead” making a case that 1080p and 60fps don't tell a whole story (and they don't) but drawing a line down the middle as if the discrepancy is insignificant.
The last I checked, if a benchmark for a GPU from Nvidia trumps AMD at stable frames at twice the resolution, it's not even a debate about longevity or efficiency, we simply acknowledge that AMD lost in the benchmarks and it's a weaker card. Period.
I can't even begin to fathom if there were benchmarks for a card that cost $100 more and performed – in some cases – at half the performance level of the competition, what the articles would look like. Heck, there was definitely a lot of hoopla over the 7990 vs the Titan, and most enthusiasts made it known that the price to performance difference was not negligible. I also know that you would never find Extreme Tech saying...
“while console comparisons are as sure to happen as those bile-filled tweets, they’re likely going to showcase two versions of games that are barely distinguishable from one another.”
I didn't know a difference of 518,400 pixels was considered “barely distinguishable” these days.
Worse yet is that Toms Hardware, known for their meticulous take on hardware performance and benchmark tests, even went as far as to write that...
“The PS4 may have a technical lead out the gate, but it's too early to hand it the decisive victory. The PS3 at launch faced a similar deficit against the Xbox 360, but the differences eroded with time.”
I didn't know The Last of Us, Beyond: Two Souls and Gears of War: Judgment had eroded away the lines of visual parity to the point where they looked on par to each other. Obviously the quality in the visuals are the same... no?
Even worse than hardware enthusiast sites making light of the “resolution wars” are the hard hitters like Edge and respected tech site Ars Technica belittling the uproar over the pixel conundrum. Edge's Neil Long nonchalantly throws the discursive ratio debates away as forum fodder, stating...
“Though each little caricature might reflect some truths, they’re essentially nonsense. But these notions carry weight out on forums and social media.”
The Ars article commits the greater sin of creating a diminutive box for this issue, almost as if it's a non-issue, saying...
“The reports certainly sound like a big deal, with Sony's system pushing 50 to 100+ percent more native pixels than Microsoft's on identical launch games. Try as I might, though, I can't get too worked up over what seems like an incredibly minor difference in practical graphical output.”
That above quote is almost as bad as saying that the R9 290X isn't a better deal than the GTX 780, which is almost tech-blasphemy considering that the 4k benchmarks are closer together between those two cards than the resolution difference is between the Xbox One and PS4.
The sad reality is that it looks like – from the gaming media's end – that there's a push to keep people from simply recognizing and acknowledging that the Xbox One is weaker than the PS4. If there's nothing wrong with admitting this indisputable truth, then why not just say it?
It's not like gaming's past has been marred by power discrepancies before. The PS2 was weaker than both the Gamecube and Xbox and it still won its generation. The Wii was far weaker than the Xbox 360 and PS3 and it still won its generation. The PSX was weaker than the N64 but it still won. Why then is it that gaming media feels obliged to pander to the pre-order ritual of keeping things as unfairly balanced as possible?
Spending $500 is no small investment for the average household; with the media downplaying the $100 difference and lower resolution right out of the gate it instantly does a massive disservice for discerning consumers. Hopefully we'll get more honest coverage leading up to the release of both consoles.