Cue the whispering voices and film noir soundtrack. "Developer sources" have told VG24/7 that the next Playstation will be 50% more powerful than the next Xbox. Oh, is that right?
The report goes on to say,
While PS4 will have greater grunt than [Xbox] 720, however, the Microsoft machine has significantly more RAM at 8Gb, we’ve been told. Our source said that 3Gb is reserved for the OS, apps and security, leaving 4-5Gb for games.
Numbers are all well and good. Numbers based on hearsay, spoken behind closed doors, that enliven fans and journalists alike to boast of one company or another's perceived advantage? Such news is ripe for parody, which UK-based site MCV has capably handled. Ben Parfitt writes,
[I]n the full-blooded spirit of unofficial next-gen build up, we have word of a fantastic report [...] – the PS4 is 50 per cent more powerful than the Xbox 720. Or Xbox 720 is 33 per cent worse.
That’s according to VG247 which claims to have been told at CES that the PS4 has a “run-capability” of 1.84TF (that’s teraflops). The Xbox 720, meanwhile, is apparently packing a mere 1.23TF. That’s officially 50 per cent worse.
What a loser.
The rest of the article pairs each additional rumor with a spot of faux-juvenile bravado. Parfitt takes the only sensible approach to an arena often reserved for flame wars and unsubstantiated claims: He takes the bloody piss out of it.
These numbers may be right on, and you might have already read leaked documents heavily suggesting these figures are correct. The information isn't the issue; the reaction is. Too many well-meaning folks have been lambasted for something as slight as a preference or association with one console or the other. Such breathless comparisons only exacerbate the problem. A stately, unbiased report would likely fall on deaf ears, anyway; with the panoply of sources available to us, it's all too easy to seek out whatever version of the truth matches our own.
From a journalistic perspective, one questions the merits of reporting on rumors in the first place. In the age of Twitter, with information spreading like wildfire in a butane-soaked acre of sagebrush, any tidbit of hearsay can quicly coalesce into certainty. When the facts come out, an expectant public may be confused or enraged or both. Perhaps the capital-T truth isn't even a viable target anymore. The recent Manti T'eo girlfriend hoax story reminds us that even "facts" are not always what they seem.
To developers and investors, sure, performance stats have weight, and could help direct their future plans. To anyone else, they're grist for a mill that should have been anachronistic by now. Let's leave the Console Warz back in 1993. Maybe if more enthusiasts had a sense of humor about these machines we play with, the internet (and Xbox Live) would be a cozier, happier place.