PlayStation 4 vs. Xbox One: What you'll really spend

LOS ANGELES—The battle between consoles has shifted to a skirmish over pricing. With Sony’s PlayStation 4 undercutting Microsoft’s Xbox One by a cool $100, gamers face a tricky choice when it comes to choosing beween the next-generation gaming consoles hitting retail shelves later this year.

Both Sony and Microsoft offer all-in-one media hubs with similar specs and a wide variety of exclusive blockbuster titles, but what really differentiates the two companies’ offerings are the extras you’ll have to pay for. After all, what good is a console without the games and accessories necessary to play on it?

So let’s break things down to what you’d have to pay at launch to get the most out of your new console. We’ll take into account the price of games, controllers, subscription services, and any extra accessories you may want to have around. Who knows? It may turn out that console that costs the least upfront actually ends up being the more expensive option over the long haul.

Hardware

Your first big expense come launch day is going to be the console itself. If all you’re doing is picking up a system, then Sony is the clear winner here: The PlayStation 4 retails for $400 versus the Xbox One’s $500 price tag. Both the One and the PS4 sport similar processors, Blu-ray disk drives, and 500GB hard drives, so you’re not really missing out on much, hardware-wise, in choosing one over the other.

Sony’s PlayStation 4.

Once you move on to picking up accessories for your new console, however, the price gap begins to narrow down some. The Xbox One comes with its fancy new Kinect 2 camera, while the PlayStation Eye accessory for the PS4 costs $60. Sony’s console ships with a headset for voice chat, but the One’s Kinect 2 camera fills that role for Microsoft’s console.

The Kinect 2 camera

Though Microsoft has yet to reveal pricing for additional controllers, we do know that picking up an additional DualShock 4 will set you back another $60—tacking on an extra $120 to your $400 investment. Assuming the Xbox One controller will cost the same as controllers for the Xbox 360, then an extra controller will set you back around $50.

  • Sony: $520
  • Microsoft: $550

Games

What good is a new console without something to play on it? Your current games won’t work on either of the new systems, so you’ll need to pony up some cash to play something on either console. Game listings on both GameStop and Amazon seem to confirm that next-generation titles will be priced the same as their current-gen counterparts, so picking up two games at launch will only set you back around $120, regardless of whether you opt for a PlayStation 4 or an Xbox One.

  • Sony: $640
  • Microsoft: $670

Subscriptions

Sony has PlayStation Plus; Microsoft has Xbox Live Gold. If you want to access the multiplayer aspects of your games you’ll need to subscribe to one of these services. A year’s worth of Xbox Live Gold costs $60, but you can normally find it for less if you scour sites like Amazon. Sony mentioned in its keynote that you can buy a month of PlayStation Plus for $5, but you get a $10 discount if you opt for a year’s worth of the service, priced at $50. Subscribing to PlayStation Plus gives you access to discounts and free games, though Microsoft mentioned that it would begin offering select free games to Gold subscribers starting in July.

Xbox One

Another upside of PlayStation Plus: The service works across Sony’s line of consoles and handhelds, making it much more valuable if you own a PlayStation 4 as well as a PlayStation Vita. Microsoft only requires one Gold account per console in order to get all the benefits that come along with it, which could be useful if you have multiple gamers in a household.

  • Sony: $690
  • Microsoft: $730

So, even though the PlayStation 4 will retail for $100 less than the Xbox One, there’s really only a $40 difference when you take into consideration all the extras you’ll want or need to fully enjoy your console. Of course, most of these are one-time fees and you don’t need to buy extra accessories or subscriptions right away. If you’re still put off by the price, though, I hear Nintendo has a console that, if it's not exactly as next-generation as Sony's and Microsoft's, will still only set you back $350.

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