The Xbox One and Sony PlayStation 4 are here, and they represent huge leaps forward in gaming technology - but that doesn't mean they completely replace their predecessors. From indie game support to free online multiplayer, there's still lots that only Sony and Microsoft's venerable consoles can do that make the Xbox 360 and PS3 worth your while. Here are the features inconspicuously absent from the next-generation.
Viva free multiplayer! Oh wait, no
Well, on PS3 at least. Xbox Live has always charged a monthly subscription, but with the switch to PS4, Sony is now charging for online multiplayer too: you’ll have to fork out £39.99 per year for a PlayStation Plus subscription and the privilege of pwning strangers, and that’s going to add up. If this generation lasts another eight years, you’re looking at a bill of as much as £320 - almost the price of the PS4 itself. We know, we know, Sony’s got servers to run and mouths to feed, but it’s still hard to justify the high cost of a PS4 when you can play online Call of Duty: Ghosts for free on its predecessor instead.
Multimedia centres no more
The PlayStation 3 was a mighty games machine as well as a media centre that could play audio CDs and MP3 files, stream media from your computer and store plenty of HD video on its hefty hard drive, but this time around, Sony’s lining the PS4 up as a console and a console only. Not only will the PlayStation 4 refuse to open videos from a memory stick or an external hard drive, it won’t even recognise media servers on your home network, so those hoping to use this for multimedia on their laptop hard drive had better forget about it. What makes the decision all the more odd is that Sony was actually the company that established the DLNA standard in the first place, way back in 2003.
Microsoft at least is supporting wireless media streaming by DLNA on Xbox One, and its new console will at play audio CDs, but it too lacks the ability to play videos off a USB stick, something the Xbox 360 has no problem with.
Broken backwards compatibility
If it’s retro games you want, steer clear of next-gen. Neither the PS4 nor the Xbox One can play their predecessors’ games, though both the PS3 and the Xbox 360 originally launched with some form of backwards compatibility themselves. That’s due to the drastically different architecture under the hood of the next-gen consoles - they’re very similar to PCs, which makes them much easier to develop for but breaks support for all your existing games.
All is not lost however: Sony’s Gaikai game streaming technology means that you’ll be able to play all your old games on PS4 via a broadband connection when the technology rolls out sometime next year. Of course, you may have to pay again for the privilege - here’s hoping it won’t be much.
Insert coin again for Xbox Live Arcade games
The brand new Xbox One has plenty of new games on the way, but just like it can’t play classic Xbox 360 titles, all your digital purchases of Xbox Live Arcade games won’t work either. That means your catalogue of downloaded games is now a back catalogue, even as Microsoft’s opening the gates a little wider for indie developers to jump in on. From your casual puzzle titles like Bejeweled, to more in-depth indie titles like Trials, Castle Crashers, BattleBlock Theater, and even beat em’ ups like Marvel vs Capcom 2, you’ll be missing out. Microsoft’s reportedly exploring bringing XBLA support to the One, but just like with Xbox 360 games, don’t hold your breath.
Not so smart TV
Microsoft’s got big plans to take over the living room by bestowing the Xbox One with the power to control all your other set top boxes plugged into it, but we’re still waiting for this clever functionality to arrive in the UK. In the meantime it’s lacking some of the on-demand web TV services we take for granted on Xbox 360, including NOW TV, Sky Go and ITV Player, while 4oD is still on the way. The same is true for Sony’s PlayStation 4, which lacks 4oD and ITV Player apps, even if it already boasts Netflix, Lovefilm and BBC iPlayer support. In other words, it’ll be a while yet before next-gen hits feature parity with its forebears.
Extra storage is a no go
Both next-gen consoles ship with hefty 500GB hard drives but if you run out of space you can’t just pop in a bit more as you could before. Some versions of the Xbox 360 shipped with rather meagre amounts of local storage (4GB, or none at all in the case of the Xbox 360 Arcade) so to help stash your downloaded games and save data, you can plug in a 32GB USB stick - problem solved. The Sony PS3 meanwhile has no qualms accepting external hard drives, but sadly, neither the Xbox One nor the Sony PS4 play nice with them.
What you can still do is swap them out for bigger hard drives. It’s a relatively easy task on the PS4, and is technically possibly on the Xbox One, but you’ll void your warranty in the process. Regardless, neither’s quite as simple as just plugging one into a USB port though, we think you’ll agree.