Feature

The Next-Gen Launch Lineups: Strengths And Weaknesses

by Jeff Marchiafava on Nov 11, 2013 at 12:41 PM

The PlayStation 4 and Xbox One are nearly here, and their respective software launch lineups are finalized. Do both systems offer something for everyone? We break down the software lineups by genre to see how the early offerings compare.

First-Person Shooters
First-person shooters are immensely popular amongst console gamers, and both next-gen launches are debuting with the latest installments of Battlefield and Call of Duty. While Infinity Ward confirmed that Call of Duty: Ghosts is running at 720p on Xbox One versus 1080p on PS4, Xbox One users are getting first crack at the game's DLC, along with early access to Battlefield 4's Second Assault map pack. On the other hand, PlayStation 4 has the only major platform-exclusive shooter at launch: Guerilla Games' Killzone: Shadow Fall (along with the lesser-known free-to-play shooter Blacklight: Retribution). Microsoft will likely get the last laugh with next year's launch of (the forever exclusive) Titanfall, but as far as launches are concerned, we're giving a slight advantage to Sony.
Advantage: PlayStation 4

Racing Games
No system launch is complete without the release of the latest and greatest racing title – but don't tell Sony that. The company's flagship racing sim has always been Gran Turismo, but when GT 6 launches on December 5, it will be available only on PS3. Sony was prepping DriveClub as a next-gen replacement, but its recent delay leaves the company without a first-party racer. PS4 owners will at least have the action-oriented Need For Speed: Rivals, but so do Xbox One owners - along with the first next-gen entry in Microsoft's lauded Forza Motorsport series.
Advantage: Xbox One

Fighting Games
Another longtime staple of system launches, the fighting game genre has become increasingly niche over the years. Xbox One offers fans the only new fighting game available at launch (aside from Ubisoft's Kinect-oriented Fighter Within), with the download-only revival of Killer Instinct. The game features just six fighters at launch (with more planned as DLC), which can be bought piecemeal or altogether. All is not lost for PS4 owners, however; the system will launch with Injustice: Gods Among Us Ultimate Edition, which includes all of the previously released DLC characters for NetherRealm's acclaimed superhero-focused fighter. Whether Killer Instinct can live up to Injustice remains to be seen, but seeing as how most gamers buy a next-gen console for new experiences, we're giving the advantage to Microsoft.
Advantage: Xbox One

Sports Games
While not a huge factor in most system launches, many sports game franchises enjoy large and dedicated fan bases. That said, both Sony and Microsoft are leaving the genre up to the third-party publishers. Both systems will have next-gen versions of FIFA 14, Madden NFL 25, and NBA 2K14 available at launch. While not strictly a launch title, NBA Live 14 will release a few days after the PS4 launch on November 19, and will also be available for Xbox One on day one. The only difference between the sports lineups of the two systems is Xbox One's cartoony budget title Powerstar Golf; while the title might not appeal to all sports fans, it's still one more option than PlayStation 4 owners have, giving Microsoft a slight advantage.
Advantage: Xbox One

Coming Up Next: Some modern genres to consider...

Indie Games
Sony has been aggressive in its pursuit of indie titles, and although only a handful of titles will be available at launch, it's still more than Microsoft has lined up. Two of PlayStation 4's indie titles – Resogun and Contrast – will be free to PlayStation Plus subscribers in November, with others like Super Motherload and Trine 2: The Complete Story, available for purchase on day one. While Microsoft announced its ID@Xbox self-publishing program back in August, the company currently has no indie titles slated for Xbox One's launch (the closest is Twisted Pixel's LocoCycle, which is owned and published by Microsoft).
Advantage: PlayStation 4

Family Games
Many gamers don't just buy a console for themselves, and both Xbox One and PlayStation 4 have solid lineups that are appropriate for the whole family. Both systems will have Lego Marvel Super Heroes, Skylanders: Swap Force, and Just Dance 2014 available at launch, along with Activision's casual hit, Angry Birds: Star Wars. While only Xbox One owners can pick up Zumba Fitness: World Party on launch day, Sony fans have the better exclusive in the form of Sony Japan Studio's Knack.
Advantage: PlayStation 4 

Open-World Games
Console gamers have become increasingly enamored with open-world titles, and the added power of next-gen systems offers tantalizing potential. Xbox One's Dead Rising 3 looks like another promising installment in Capcom's zombie-slaying series, and one of the early standard-bearers for next-gen's potential. With Infamous: Second Son not landing on PS4 until February and Watch Dogs being delayed for both systems until next spring, Sony only has Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag to appeal to open-world fans. While the PS4 version of AC IV does come with some timed exclusive content, Dead Rising 3 gives Microsoft a clear launch advantage in this increasingly important category of games.
Advantage: Xbox One

Free-To-Play Games
More and more developers are exploring alternative business models for games, and both the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 aim to accommodate them. The PlayStation 4 is launching with three free-to-play games: Sony Online's superhero MMO, DC Universe Online; Digital Extremes' co-op focused action game, Warframe; and Zombie Studios' futuristic FPS, Blacklight: Retribution. In contrast, Microsoft is taking a free-to-play approach with Killer Instinct, allowing fighting fans to download the game and play as one character (Jago) for free.
Advantage: PlayStation 4

The Verdict?
If you were hoping for a definitive conclusion about which launch lineup is better, brace yourself for disappointment. The truth is this next-gen showdown all comes down to which types of games are more important to you. Rather than try to render a one-size-fits-all verdict, we'd rather hear which launch lineup you're more excited for and why. Are you a shooter fan who's swayed by Killzone: Shadow Fall (or Xbox One's timed DLC for COD and Battlefield)? Or a gearhead who can't wait for Forza Motorsport 5? Are indie and free-to-play titles more important to you than triple-A games? Or are you excited for games that didn't fit neatly into any of the above genres, like Crimson Dragon or Ryse: Son of Rome? Share your thoughts (respectfully) in the comments below.