While on paper Sony's Playstation 4 next-gen video game console has seemingly more obvious hardware power than Microsoft's upcoming rival console Xbox One, how much that potential power difference has on actual gaming isn't really known at this time to the public.
The only group who have had some experience with the two machines so far are game developers themselves, and now one of them - former People Can Fly creative director Adrian Chmielarz - set off a social media firestorm over the weekend when he tweeted:
"I know that pure hardware specs are not the whole story, but man, all next-gen AAA devs I talk to say it's 50% speed difference... It's PS4 that is more powerful."
He didn't stop there though, clarifying his comments in a statement to NeoGAF. Here's an abbreviated version:
"First, yes, devs I know — and as someone has shown it before in this thread, some other devs already talked about it too — claim that there's 50% speed difference WHEN DEVELOPING in cross-gen/next-gen PS4/XO games. So there we are, I said it and I stand by it. Notice: WHEN DEVELOPING. It'll become clear in a second.
Will this change in the future? Will devs discover some tricks to narrow the gap? Will stuff like XO cloud computing help? Hell if I know. Uhm, maybe? I know that devs — well, most of them — will do whatever they can do get you the best games possible.
Does it mean studios will cripple PS4 versions to match XO ones? Not really, do not underestimate the devs. Even if this happens, you will not know that and that's okay. You've never seen most games in their most powerful form anyway… A great dev will make a great game no matter what's the hardware.
Think about it this way. X360 is faster than PS3. Not just easier to program on, it's faster overall (although PS is faster/better in SOME areas). And yet no exclusive on X360 looks like The Last of Us. Halo 4 looks great. Gears blew my mind in 2006. And still, the best looking AAA game of this generation belongs to the supposedly weaker platform.
So if you think that the war is over because PS4 is 50% faster TODAY, then you're delusional. This is far from over, and will probably never be over, at least not this upcoming gen."
On the same site soon after, Microsoft's Director of Product Planning Albert Penello dismissed the reports in a quite frank posting. Penello says:
"I'm not dismissing raw performance. I'm stating – as I have stated from the beginning – that the performance delta between the two platforms is not as great as the raw numbers lead the average consumer to believe. There are things about our system architecture not fully understood, and there are things about theirs as well, that bring the two systems into balance.
People DO understand that Microsoft has some of the smartest graphics programmers IN THE WORLD. We CREATED DirectX, the standard API's that everyone programs against. So while people laude Sony for their HW skills, do you really think we don't know how to build a system optimized for maximizing graphics for programmers? Seriously?
There is no way we're giving up a 30%+ advantage to Sony. And ANYONE who has seen both systems running could say there are great looking games on both systems. If there was really huge performance difference – it would be obvious.
Microsoft meanwhile has taken a PR blow due to some social media polling that looks to have been hijacked by some of their fans.
Several months ago, back when Xbox One's DRM and always online policies were still in place, a global twitter poll made news for showcasing how the public sentiment had gone the way of PS4.
It was especially interesting for the way it showed how the mood had changed in the one key world market Microsoft definitively dominated this past generation - the United States. At the time, with 7,000 votes counted, Sony was dominating the U.S. vote with 89% in favor of the PS4 (see here).
In the months since though, as the poll itself essentially became archived and forgotten, the numbers changed so that the U.S. is now 60% in favor of the Xbox One with 16,000 votes counted. Here's the vote as it currently stands:
Good news for Microsoft? Not so much. The vote gain was quick and disproportionate enough that several sites like Gamesided did a little digging.
They discovered someone has been using "Twitter bots" (automatically timed tweets) to spam votes for the Xbox over and over on multiple accounts - to the point that up to 9,000 of the new votes for the U.S. and Canada polls are potentially suspect. It has not been confirmed who is behind the onslaught of sudden bot-voting.