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Why Resolution-gate is Ridiculous

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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.

Alienware PC

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.

Screen Resolution

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.

Metal Gear Solid V comparison

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.

Steve Clist
Joint Editor-in-Chief at Xbox Enthusiast as well as a contributor for Nintendo Enthusiast and PlayStation Enthusiast. Steve is a musician and gamer who loves sharing his passion for each. You will normally find him at the front of the grid in racing games or on the other end of the kill cam when you've just been killed in a first-person shooter.

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    10 Comments

    1. Oh posts like this… See, here’s the issue. These days it doesn’t matter how big or small your display is. What matters is the native resolution of said display. Unless you’re running a 720p display any resolution that a game is rendering at under 1080p is going to look worse than you think it should thanks to that one feature in your TV that everyone seems to forget about: upscaling. Yes, viewing a 720p image on a 720p display won’t look too different from a 1080p image. But a 720p image on a 1080p display? Now that’s a different story entirely. You see, the upscalers that are built into TVs and our consoles are…what’s the word? Oh yeah: CRAP. As a result, images that need to undergo any sort of upscaling tend to look noticeably worse than their natively rendered bretheren. There ARE really nice standalone scalers out there but they’re usually quite pricey. So instead of doubling the price of my console purchase I’d rather just go for the system that renders more stuff at the correct resolution.

    2. Ground Zeros runs at 720p on Xbox One and 1080p on PS4 (60 fps on both). I beat GZ on PS4 to 100% completion. When it was free for Xbox One, I played the game to 50% completion. I could not tell the difference. However, the reason I own a PS4 is due to resolutiongate. I always want the option to buy the smoother running game. I did buy the Xbox One version of MGSV TPP because the controller is better, and 900p is negligible (as I learned from Ground Zeros).

    3. But it’s not just “resolution gate”, is it?
      I agree that playing at 900p or 1080p on a console isn’t that big of a difference. But… Framerate differences… You seem to forget about those! The PS4 has a clear lead in many games, and in some it’s huge. Like in Tomb Raider: Definitive edition, where it runs in mostly 60fps on PS4 and at 30fps on XB1, and most often the PS4 has both a resolution lead and a fps lead. Like in BF4 and Star Wars Battlefront for example. And the fps combined with the resolution makes quite the difference. But the fps in particular.

      I own all consoles, feels like a must to me, and I love’em all. I also game on PC, so I see things from that perspective as well. Framerate is king, and resolution comes in second.

      So it’s just not the resolution people are on about. Fps drops and generally lower fps is worse than lower resolution. Sadly it’s often both.

      With that said, i still choose many multiplatform games to play on my XB1, for various reasons.

      1. There have been over 50 multi-platform games so far this console cycle, only two have different frame-rates across the consoles (Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition and Warfare), that’s less than 4%. That amount of difference is negligible, particularly when you take into account that most people will make their choice of console based on what exclusives each system has.
        While you are also correct that the Battlefield games (I include Star Wars Battlefront with these) run smoother on PS4, the Call of Duty games are smoother on Xbox One.
        The consoles are really close in terms of performance and as people get used to programming with the eSRAM and DirectX 12, they’ll become even closer.

        1. You have games like Transformer devastation that runs at a lock 60fps on Ps4 while the Xone version runs it 45-60 and the Ps4 version has better AA and shadows. If the game uses a forward render more than likely the Xone version will run at the same resolution but the performance can still be behind the Ps4 version.

    4. This is just a horrible article. And a desperate attempt to downplay the differences. But then again…this is xboxenthusiast.com

      There is no difference… http://i.imgur.com/1QKOi8i.jpg yeah right. Oh and if you are watching this on a PC monitor or a phone/tablet. You shouldn’t be able to see the difference. The screen is to small…lol.

    5. Meh. I own both. The detail my ps4 comes up with on COD dwarfs what I’m seeing with halo. Maybe thatss the game dif but don’t know. same deal with tomb raider. I would expect better from xbox one.

    6. Oh please, if the Xbox One was technically better, and the leading console, the headline would be “Why Resolution-gate Matters”. Also a difference of 150mhz and 32MB eSRAM, seriously. Why is it that even thought most X1 games running at a RES lower than PS4, still can’t have a better fps. That makes no sense. I do agree playing games is about having fun and each is their own choice.

    7. PS4 notably runs games better as well as looking cleaner on a native 1080p display. Indeed superior framerates are also an extra reason to play games on PS4. Only recently Just Cause 3 not only looks cleaner on PS4 it runs better and this greatly improves the gaming experience. This is a scenario seen many times over. Resolution is only half the story. It can be played down all you want but when PS4 delivers a double technical whammy on so many titles it’s obvious why people would much prefer that system for most games.

    8. O boy, do you really mean that?

      I remember that it really was important by the Xbox 360 and the PS3. Every third party game looked a little bit better on the Xbox 360, and all xboxfans where screaming outlout.

      Now that the resolution is better on the PS4 the most of the third party games than the Xbone it dont matter anymore?.

      Right…your so wrong, so wrong, but this is a xbonefan site, so..LOL

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