By Heath Aldrich
Well, it happened again. The big three (Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft) have all been hard at work designing their next gen hardware, crafting their messages to entice us gamers to buy their product, and now these new monoliths have all been released to this unsuspecting populous. There is so much excitement with the release of a new console, the new tech high that you get from opening these zero wasted space boxes, and the pride you get being an early adopter of a new system. It is addictive. I used to actually take place in this ritual, every five to eight years, even spending the night outside the Toys 'R Us to get my hands on the Nintendo Game Cube. Now, I wont say that I am a fan boy by any stretch of the imagination, but I understand what games I like, and what games I will be able to come back to over the years and get my replay enjoyment out of. From Nintendo's track record with the types of games that they release, for me, it is always a safe bet that I will be within the first wave of adopters, if not a day one adopter. I have always loved Nintendo games, they have such great playabilty, and longevity, that I know that I will get my moneys worth out of a Nintendo product (sans the Virtual Boy, but that is a completely different story altogether).
Last November, the Nintendo Wii U was released and had solid sales, but not to any record setting clip or standard. Nintendo has always been the company that innovates, and while not always first to the gate, everything they do leaves a lasting impression. With video games becoming a ubiquitous household accessory to the modern family, I figured that Nintendo's newest console, and the first of the Eighth Generation of gaming systems, would be a no brainer to anyone who enjoys playing games. To my surprise, that was not the case. While the Wii U sold at the same rate as the Playstation 3 did, it has struggled to entice the entire gaming community to get behind it. Dan and I picked ours up day one, and have never regretted owning ours. Fast forward one year, and Sony and Microsoft release the Playstation 4 and the Xbox One, to record setting sales. I don't think either company was ready to have either system sell as fast as they have. Not only did these systems sell faster, leaving store shelves bare, but all of their accessories have sold faster than expected, making the temporary resale value on the Playstation 4 Camera almost double it's $59.99 price tag. To give you an idea of how many Xbox Ones and PS4s sold, they each out sold the Wii U's lifetime global sales in under one week. Nintendo could not repeat Xbox 360's luck that they had with their year head start over Wii and PS3.
I have now spent a considerable amount of time with the Playstation 4 I have been borrowing, and the funny thing is, the best feature that it offers is Sony's fantastic brand synergy with Playstation Plus, and the Playstation Vita. It is not one game, or app, or feature that makes the PS4 the console that you need to own right now. If games were the deciding factor, the PS4 doesn't really have anything special on it right now. The Wii U has a years worth of cool exclusive games that you could play, and the XB1 has Dead Rising 3, the only new next gen retail exclusive. I love the new controller, it fits my hands so much better than the Dual Shock 3. The graphics are very nice, but we are too early into the life cycle to see how powerful any of the systems really are. Probably the best feature so far, is one that isn't even unique to the PS4. Off screen play started with the Wii U, where you could play your game on the Game Pad controller. The PS4 uses the vita as the second screen, which sucks to not have the use of the new controller, but the convenience of being able to play games while my wife can watch tv trumps all. I think that, beyond the fact that Playstation always gets the other types of games I like to play, the remote play feature makes this the console that I will purchase once I have to give the one back that I have now.
I have always stated that I don't think that we needed a new generation of game systems, but now that they are here, and I have spent time with two of the three, I am starting to see the reasons to upgrade. The original Wii was in some serious need to get with this generation of graphics and connectivity, so the Wii U made total sense to upgrade, not to mention that it is backwards compatible, so you can play all the old Wii games, giving you a huge gaming catalog from the get go. The PS4 and XB1 are more subtle upgrades, so you have to make your decision with your eyes on the future. Yes, they both are more graphically powerful than the Wii U, and they have a better online infrastructure, but neither of them has much in the ways of new gaming experiences right now. For me, the decision is made pretty easily. 1) I have Playstation Plus. 2) I own a PS Vita. 3) Jrpgs only come out on Nintendo and Sony systems (mainly). I think the Xbox One is a perfectly acceptable choice, and I am actually happy for everyone who buys one, I am sure you will love it. But for me, there really is only room for two home console systems, and even those get neglected. I would encourage you to think about what you actually want to do with these next consoles before you go out an purchase one, and not to take any off the table right now.
I am enjoying my PS4, but that is because I didn't have to buy one. If I were someone looking in at the state of the new consoles, I would easily see the Wii U as the one with the most value at the moment. Even though the industry troll analysts have already written the Wii U off, saying that it is dead in the water, I think the Wii U has a long life ahead of it. Yeah, it may not perform to the level that the PS4 and XB1 has, but that doesn't change the fact that it is the only next gen console that has anything to play on it, so, don't completely write it off. We play video games to have fun, make sure you are gaming on the one that you will actually have fun with.