Since the launch of Xbox One, lots has been made about the resolution that we play games at. Fans of Sony’s latest console, the Playstation 4, have taken great joy pointing out how some games run at a higher resolution on that console than on our beloved Xbox Ones. While I can’t deny that the PS4 more consistently runs games at 1080p, I really don’t think it matters that much. Let me explain.
For years, PC gamers have used screen resolution to prove the power of their machines. This is one of the differences with PC gaming though; you can choose at which resolution you play a game. Because home computers vary so much in their performance, game developers have to offer settings that allow someone with an entry level machine to play the same games as someone with a $10,000 gaming PC. Resolution is just one of the settings that you can change on the PC gaming ecosystem, there’s also texture quality, anti-aliasing level, various physics settings, sound settings, the list goes on. Console gaming is different because a console is a closed system. Game developers know exactly what hardware the consumer has and optimise the game specifically for that amount of power.
So, if the PS4 runs games at a higher resolution than Xbox One, it must be more powerful, right? Well, yeah it is, but it’s very close (Xbox has a faster CPU and more RAM when you include the eSRAM). The truth is though that 99% of people won’t be able to tell the difference anyway. I can already hear some of you going “well I’m obviously part of that 1%, I can always spot how much better games look on PS4”, and my response is simple, how big is your TV? While the ability of being able to see improved resolution is partly down to our eyes, you need a big enough TV in the first place to be able to see the difference. What’s more, the size of TV you need to be able to see the difference is bigger than you think.
At the beginning of 2013, the average size of TV in North America was 37 inches. With that size of TV, it would not be possible to spot the difference between an image at 720p and at 1080p, and the difference in resolution between the Playstation 4 and Xbox One are rarely that big. The fact of the matter is that unless you have a screen that is at least 48 inches big, you’re not going to be able to notice the difference between 720p and 1080p. The size of screen required to see a difference gets even bigger when you take into account that people sit an average of 10 feet from their TV screen. To be able to tell the difference at that distance you need a 60-inch screen! Now that developers have gotten used to the next-gen hardware, if there is a difference in resolution, it’s normally 900p to 1080p. This small difference in resolution would only be visible on a very large screen and only when you’re really close to the screen.
Hopefully, I’ve now persuaded you that differences in resolution have been blown out of proportion. So let me say this, next-gen graphics have very little to do with screen resolution. Ryse: Son of Rome is arguably one of the best-looking games on this new generation of consoles. Whatever you think of the repetitive nature of the gameplay, or the short running-time of the campaign, the game is undeniably gorgeous. This game has a screen resolution of 900p, but that’s not what makes this game look great. What makes Ryse look so good is the lighting, the water & particle effects, the textures, and the design of the game.
One of the best looking multi-platform games is Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. This game runs at 1080p on Playstation 4 and at 900p on Xbox One. Like I said before, this difference in resolution is pretty indistinguishable unless you play on a TV screen resembling an IMAX cinema. The game engine powers the lighting effects, which is the same across the two consoles. The textures and design of the game are the same across the two consoles. The game looks the same across the two consoles. This is similar across all multi-platform games.
Resolution-gate, as it has been monikered, is ridiculous. It is something that has been exaggerated by fanboys and people who like to start arguments. Unless your TV is huge and you sit inches from the screen you’re not going to be able to tell the difference. Multi-platform games, by very definition, are not the reason to get a certain console. If resolution means that much to you, spend a fortune and buy a high-spec PC; it’s the only way your really going to spot the difference. If you’re still going to get a console it should be decided by just two factors, which console exclusives you prefer and which console your friends use. Whichever system you purchase, Playstation or Xbox, just have fun playing games and please don’t criticise someone for making a different choice than you.