Dear Next-Gen, There's a World Outside America

American gamers are enjoying their new next-gen consoles and the benefits they offer, but how is the rest of the world getting on? Not quite so great, as it happens.

Article by Pete Davison, .

Have you got a PlayStation 4 and/or an Xbox One? How are you liking them?

One thing that's abundantly clear when it comes to both systems is that they're both primarily built for an American audience. This is sound business sense, of course, particularly when a significant number of today's big publishers do a hefty proportion of their business in the United States, but there's a point where it becomes less desirable, and that's when gamers in other countries are getting an inferior experience.

We've reached that point already with both Xbox One and PlayStation 4 -- and the latter isn't even out in some territories just yet. There's a world of gamers outside America, next-gen; please don't forget about them.

Xbox One and the Mysterious Case of 50Hz Judder

The Xbox One has resurrected a TV-related issue that most people had thought was long-dead: the difference in TV standards between the United States and Europe.

If you grew up with pre-HD consoles you may well be familiar with this issue already, particularly if you ever tried to import games from Europe: standard definition American TVs effectively run at 480i resolution at a refresh rate of 60Hz; European standard definition TVs, meanwhile, run at 576i at a refresh rate of 50Hz. European console games right up through the PS2 era often got a raw deal, with many games running more slowly and/or with significant black borders at the top and bottom of the screen where the extra pixels of the 576i resolution simply weren't being used. Some developers were better than others at porting to 50Hz territories; others provided a 60Hz option for those with more modern televisions that supported the 60Hz/480i standard. And sometimes no effort was made whatsoever, which is why if you play Final Fantasy X in Europe, Tidus looks like he's running through treacle, and if you play the original Street Fighter II on Super NES, it looks like it's being presented in widescreen.

The rise of the HD age standardized resolutions and refresh rates, however, allowing consoles across the world to achieve performance parity for the first time. It also took some of the strain off localization teams, who no longer had to worry about re-rendering artwork, adjusting performance or stretching the game's display to cater for a display with a different resolution. The problem was, it seems, solved.

Here's what Europeans used to have to deal with. 60Hz NTSC on the left, 50Hz PAL on the right.

Unfortunately, the Xbox One's HDMI input has revealed that the problem hadn't really gone away at all; it had just been lurking, waiting for the right moment to re-emerge.

Here's the issue: the Xbox One runs at 60Hz through the HDMI input. However, European TV signals still come in at 50Hz. Most European TVs can now switch between 60 and 50Hz at will according to whatever is flowing into them, but what happens when the 50Hz signal from a European TV set-top box gets funnelled in to the 60Hz Xbox One?

Short answer: judder. Long answer: the disparity in refresh rates means that one out of every six frames from the 50Hz signal is duplicated when fed into the Xbox One, leading to noticeable judder on screen that is particularly obvious when watching scrolling text or footage that pans around quickly, such as sports coverage.

Digital Foundry's Richard Leadbetter pondered Microsoft's possible solutions for the issue over at our sister site Eurogamer -- the choices essentially boil down to either frame-rate upscaling on the 50Hz signal, which would lead to a compromise in image quality, or allowing the Xbox One to dynamically switch between 50Hz and 60Hz modes depending on what is being fed into it. Unfortunately, most TVs take several seconds of black screen to switch between modes, so this would spoil the "seamless" experience Microsoft is really going for.

Microsoft hasn't yet responded to requests for comment on the issue.

PlayStation 4 and the Curious Case of the Inflated Prices

The digital era is here, supposedly. Physical media is on the way out, and it's all about downloadable titles.

Except it's not quite that simple; with most big-name games on both Xbox One and PlayStation 4 weighing in at between 30 and 50GB, their respective 500GB drives aren't going to last very long before they fill up.

Prospective PlayStation 4 owners in the UK have been hit with an additional consideration: grossly inflated prices on Sony's PlayStation Store for PlayStation 4 games, particularly those from EA.

Would you pay $102 for FIFA? Assuming you liked it, obviously.

A new game on the US PlayStation Store is typically about $60, which is what we've come to expect from new games these days. However, in the UK, a new game for Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 typically costs between £40 and £50 ($65-80), which is already more than gamers in the States are paying. PlayStation 4 is another matter, however, with games costing even more -- Assassin's Creed 4 will set UK gamers back £58 ($93), for example, while EA's games were initially jacked up in price even further to £63 ($102) but have since been dropped to £60 ($97). (It's worth noting that publishers, not Sony, set the prices for games on the PlayStation Store.)

What's particularly dumb about this is that physical copies of these games cost no more that £50 ($80) when purchased from retailers such as popular UK chain Game, and typically even less when purchased from Amazon. If Sony and third-party publishers want to make digitally downloadable versions of games a viable and practical option, they absolutely cannot cost more than copies on a disc -- at the very least, there should be pricing parity, and digital copies should preferably cost less than physical versions due to reduced costs. There should also preferably be pricing parity between equivalent platforms; right now, digital games on Xbox One are, for the most part, around £3-5 cheaper than their PS4 counterparts.

PlayStation 4 is yet to be released in the UK at the time of writing, so it's possible that these prices will change once the console comes out. If they don't, though, I'll be sticking to my guns and remaining a collector of physical media for some time yet, I feel!

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Comments 5

  • Avatar for abuele #1 abuele 4 years ago
    Man, it is amazing the diregard for the latin gamers, with this new generation of consoles.
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  • Avatar for #2 4 years ago
    I don't think it's fair to put Sony in with people like the game publishers and (especially) Microsoft as looking so America focused.
    They've always seemed to either create or support region specific content.
    Other than that, I agree with the points of the article.

    Far as digital in the next gen, the downloads are MUCH faster, for whatever reason. (I'm no tech guy)
    Back on PS3, if I downloaded a 11 or 12 gig game, on average it would take about 2 1/2 hours to download and another 30 to 40 minutes to install.
    I bought Call Of Duty Ghosts digital. It downloaded all...was it 31 or 32 gigs? Can't remember the exact number....of the game, which includes install, in about 90 minutes. Whole thing done.

    Better yet, I know I'm a weirdo here for not choosing multi, but when they gave me the option to download either the story or the multi first, I chose story and it had enough downloaded (and again, this is digital, not unloading off disc) in about ten minutes to start playing.
    After that ten minutes I was killing away and the rest was downloading in the background.
    Only reason I know how long it took to finish is because I was checking out of curiosity. Had I not cared to know the length of time, it would have been completely seamless and unnoticed.

    I also got Assassin's Creed 4, this time a disc version. If memory serves, I think the game is around 28 gigs or so.
    Once again, it had enough downloaded to begin playing within 10 minutes. And the rest was done to the drive in 20-30 minutes.

    But again, the full amount of install didn't matter as much as the length of time till I could start playing, each one being the same amount of time at about ten minutes.
    Sure, no wait would be fantastic, but that's not the world we live in. Games will have many gigs and need a way to load. A 10 minute wait for games of this quality I can live with.

    Far as disc space, I've always owned more games than I can fit at one time on my hard drive on PS3.
    Once again, sure, it'll be great when technology exists where we can have hundreds and thousands of games we own all in one place all ready to go.
    But for now, in (soon) 2014, we need to deal with space issues.

    Here's the thing, how many games do you really need on your drive at one time? Are you playing 20 or 30 games all at once? I have ADHD and even I can't do that.
    Me, I keep whatever the handful of current, most played, multi games are on the drive and in single player stuff I have (on PS3) about 15 games I'm getting to (or plan to re-play).
    Because yes, I replay old games, but I can't play them all at once and usually a great single player I wait at least a year before replaying, giving it some time to not be so fresh in my mind.
    So do I just keep it sitting there for year, or delete and re-download next year?

    Is it that people think not having it on their drive, they're afraid they'll lose it? Because I've been dealing with Sony digitally since they started doing it and have never had a problem with games listed as owned and re-downloading.
    It comes down to being honest with yourself which games you're truly going to play in the next month and deleting the rest till you get to them.
    If you can do that, you'll be fine for space.

    Again, if Call Of Duty is any indication, in this new generation I'd be able to get my game back and be replaying within 10 minutes.
    Technophobes who need to see and feel a physical copy or others who feel the need to display their games on their shelves as though it'll impress anyone other than themselves (to each their own, I simply think needing to display them is....strange) still have the disc option in stores, but I do think this is a generational thing and discs will slowly go away.
    Not in a year or two, but they'll keep shrinking till they eventually go away, or become like the small group of people who still buy LPs.
    Digital is the future and the planet will be better off for it.

    Try not to worry so much. This is the best gaming has ever been, excluding season passes and microtransactions. Everything works itself out.

    Man, I still remember playing Atari 2600 games. I never forget and always appreciate as I play AC4 just how far we're moving along, and at roughly the same prices as 2600 games had cost!
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  • Avatar for MHWilliams #3 MHWilliams 4 years ago
    Hardware vendors to the rest of the world:

    Guys, you get Marvel movies before me now, isn't that enough for you?
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  • Avatar for monty_79 #4 monty_79 4 years ago
    @MHWilliams Afraid not! Ever since I started gaming on my Atari 2600 when I was 8, you in America have got games months, sometimes years before us in England!

    I don't mind you getting everything a couple of weeks in advance though; serves as a nice beta test for us. Battlefield 4 should be fixed just in time for me to play it on release on Friday for PS4. Thanks for that ;)

    Edit - Forgot to say, good article, Pete.Edited November 2013 by monty_79
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  • Avatar for MHWilliams #5 MHWilliams 4 years ago
    @monty_79 My corrupted single player Battlefield 4 save says "hi".
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