Just over a week ago, Microsoft took a huge step in closing the gap between it's own launch outlook and that of the PS4 by announcing it was changing some of it's own DRM-like policies, removing restrictions for used games and the always online requirement.
This reporter believed that they might see the light and offer a non-Kinect version of the XBox One to compete with the $100 cheaper PS4, but instead they doubled down on the Kinect by reporting there would be no headsets included with the XBox One. Not only that, but the console will not be backwards compatible with old headsets, even the fancier 'Turtle Beach' style headsets, though adapters may be offered for some. Their explanation is that the Kinect has a high quality microphone for chat use.
Microsoft may have found another way to close some distance to the PS4, however, by increasing the ESRAM embedded memory on the XBox One. Eurogamer is reporting that the ESRAM levels may be up to 88% higher than expected when the console was in pre-production.
Bandwidth is at a premium in the Xbox One owing to the slower DDR3 memory employed in the console, which does not compare favorably to the 8GB unified pool of GDDR5 in the PlayStation 4. The 32MB of "embedded static RAM" within the Xbox One processor aims to make up the difference, and was previously thought to sustain a peak theoretical throughput of 102GB/s - useful, but still some way behind the 176GB/s found in PlayStation 4's RAM set-up. Now that close-to-final silicon is available, Microsoft has revised its own figures upwards significantly, telling developers that 192GB/s is now theoretically possible.
Initially that won't mean much for launch titles, as developers tend to be more conservative when creating games on a brand new console while dev tools develop. Another difference maker may also come with XBox One's custom audio hardware SHAPE, which frees up a good amount of CPU time on the console.
It may be years before we see games come out that really push the consoles enough to test which one performs better, but Microsoft may have closed the memory gap just a little. Will it be enough to make a difference with fans that have swayed toward the PS4 or will they need more before the consoles launch at the end of the year?